This year Hay Festival Wales welcomes Kamila Slocinska from Aarhus, Denmark, as British Council Illustrator in Residence. Kamila will work on the festival site creating work inspired by events, people and conversations, and you can visit her from 25 May- 31 May at the Illustration Hot Desk in the Make and Take Tent in the HAYDAYS courtyard. Her new work, created at Hay Festival, will be shown at the International Children’s Hay Festival in Aarhus, Denmark from 26–29 October 2017.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
If I should describe myself in a few words I would say I am a storyteller, I am Polish-Danish and I don’t like rules. I am not very short spoken though, so here it comes: I was born in Warsaw in Poland but have been living in Denmark since I was a little girl, that fact probably shines through in my expression as an illustrator, which is quite simplistic and almost graphic on one hand, but also carefree and playful on the other.
Most of the time I work with picturebooks, but I tell stories in all of my drawings, no matter if it is a book, a telephone scribble, a drawing for an exhibition or a logo for a café. I would like to think that there are stories and unanswered question in most of my drawings and that they hopefully give their viewers something to think about, make them wonder and make them create behind the scenes stories of their own.
I really appreciate my freedom as an artist and believe that the result gets much better and more sincere if there are no, or at least not to many, restrictions or rules. Simply because I find it important to keep expanding ones horizons to grow creatively and make new and interesting work.
What do you expect from Hay and your time as Illustrator in Residence at Hay Festival?
I am really looking forward to explore some new surroundings, meeting new people, discovering new books, learning new words, exploring new ideas and of course drawing new faces, places and atmospheres.
Tell us about your books
Since I started making picturebooks I have been so fortunate to work with many different talented people and on very different projects.
I have illustrated a book about a undertaker that has the ability to talk to dead people and by talking to them, finds out that the real paradise is on earth itself. A book about a mistreated boy that buys a mongrel because he is lonely and gets his new friend to eat his no good parents. And also a book about a dog that can’t look up but learns to fly, and a story about a boy that tries to find a new job for his parents because the laughter factory they have been working in have been closed, due to laughter shortage. And many more!
There is something magical about illustrating other people's words, and in a way give them a second dimension.
But from time to time I also enjoy writing and illustrating my own stories. For instance a little story about my little son's fascination with cars that he actually helped me illustrate and the story about Klotilde that receives a strange package filled with small thingies that turns her entire world up and down, and changes her perspective.
Can you tell us about the literary scene in Aarhus?
It seems to me that the literary scene in Aarhus is alive and well, thanks to a lot of fiery souls and passionate individuals. Readings and small literature festivals are quite common, and it seems like a lot of people invest their time and energy in writing, reading and spreading the word about literature in different ways.
I am also lucky to be a part of probably the only illustrator studio collective in Aarhus. A year ago we we were told that we would have to move out of our old studiospace because it was being sold, and we worried that we wouldn't be able to find a new place large enough for all of us. But then the mother of one of the people in the collective simply decided to tear down a couple of old garages in her backyard and build a fantastic new studiospace for us, so we could stay together. I admire and feel inspired by her attitude. If you need something just do it yourself. We call it the Garage by the way.
What is notable about contemporary Danish children’s literature?
The most notable thing about the Danish children's literature is probably that in many ways there is a lot freedom when it comes to the themes and content in books for children. There are basically no taboos and you can find books about death, divorce, sickness and mental issues even for quite small kids. Also cussing is quite a thing, and the kids find it terribly funny when grown ups read out loud for them, and have to cuss during the process, because the book says so.
The last couple of years there have actually been an discussion about the serious themes in Nordic children's books and whether there is too much gloominess sometimes.
Personally I really appreciate the openness and believe that children should be seen as small human beings that understand much more than we sometimes want them to. If you tell a serious story in a right manner it can be an eyeopening or important experience for even a small person.
What is the children’s book that has most inspired your work?
Even though so many books have inspired me, both old and new, I must mention Lubomir Feldeks The Blue Book of Tales as a book that has made the biggest impact on me. It is a book of weird modern fairytales and a book that I keep coming back to all the time, maybe because it is illustrated brilliantly by Albin Brunovsky. Since I was a little kid I have been spellbound by the grotesque, beautiful and strange illustrations in this book. So simple and yet powerful.
To find out more about Kamila's work see here website here. Read our Count Down To Hay blog here. Kamila is one of the Aarhus39 - celebrating 39 young writers for children and teenagers from across Europe. The International Children’s Festival takes place in Aarhus, Denmark in October and you can see Kamila's illustration in the Aarhuus 39 anthologies below.