Saturday, 28 April 2012

Portfolio Visit - Aurea Carpenter at Short Books

My second portfolio visit in London was with Aurea Carpenter, co-founder of Short Books, a book publishing company. Prior to the trip I'd scoured the internet for possible visits and Short Books caught my eye firstly because of its lovely website! I then noticed that in the contact section there was a small note saying illustrators were welcome to send their work in. This was an encouraging sign that they might be willing to see me so I went ahead and emailed them. I requested a visit for myself, Becca and Chloe and sent them a links to all our websites. A lovely lady called Clemmy got back to me and said her colleague Aurea would be happy to see us!
As it happens, our hotel was within walking distance of the Short Books office. It was a lovely day and it was nice to walk rather than get the tube and have a look at the area. The actual building was just off a cute little square with lots of shops and cafes - we all agreed that we preferred this quieter area to the busy centre of London!
Short Books is located in a shared building so we had to walk up to the right floor - we were all quite hot at this point, a mixture of nerves and heat I think! Once we had found the right place we were shown through to where Aurea was. If I'm not mistaken, Short Books are in a partnership with another publisher called Profile Books. I think it was these offices that we had to walk through before reaching Short Books. Anyway, all the offices were lovely - it had a mixture of old and modern, with creaky floorboards and glass rooms. There were books everywhere (as you would expect) which made it feel quite homely and cosy. When we reached the Short Books 'section', we were met by Aurea and led through to a glass walled meeting room. We all sat down and as Becca was closest, Aurea began with her. I wasn't too bad when we arrived but as Becca was going through her portfolio I was getting more and more nervous! When it was my turn I could feel myself shaking, but I tried to keep my cool! It perhaps helped that the first piece in my portfolio was a book cover (James and the Giant Peach) so she was immediately interested. She liked the concept and the colours a lot, saying it was very eye-catching - which is what a book needs to be when it is on a busy book shelf. She also liked how it was inspired by the 1960's and was very different to Quentin Blake's work.
Next up was 8x8 and Aurea was really interested to hear about the collaboration between us and Manchester Metropolitan Literature students. She was also shocked when we told her that our writer didn't really seem to like my work even though I got picked to illustrate her story! Again Aurea liked the colours in this piece and how the individual elements were linked so closely to the story.
When I showed her my Japanese book covers I was a bit nervous in case she didn't like them, but I needn't have worried as she said I coped very well with the characters. She also liked the muted colour palette and said it was appropriate to the subject matter.
In the rest of the portfolio, the other pieces she particularly liked where the Russian page from the Zine book and Wellspring building. She also said I had a strong style that carried through the portfolio and everything was nicely presented.
Aurea took her time looking at all our portfolios which was really nice. I thought as it was a group visit, she might not spend as much time with each of us - but she did! She then took us all through to the main office and showed us a book cover that she is commissioning at the moment. Several drafts had been sent in by the illustrator and she was in the middle of putting the cover together. It was really interesting to hear the process that goes into making a book cover and we were amazed when she started asking our opinions on the piece. It was great that she was treating us 'equals' and valued what we thought.
Overall it was a great portfolio visit which we all really enjoyed. I think we were all pretty jealous of Aurea's life  - working in those lovely offices, in a lovely part of London! Thanks Aurea for a great visit!

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