Sarah Mazzetti

Winner of the International Award for Illustration Bologna Children’s Book Fair-Fundación SM 2019 

This exhibition showcases illustrations created by Sarah Mazzetti – the 2019 Italian winner of the 10th International Bologna Children’s Book Fair-Fundación SM Award for Illustration – for her picturebook Lucilla. The book was commissioned as part of the prize, established to discover talented under-35 illustrators featured in the Illustrators Exhibition, along with €15,000 in financial support via a cheque from the Fundación SM. 

The winner is asked to create a picturebook based on a classical tale or legend from his/her own country for publication by SM. That book is launched the following year at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair; the original illustrations are shown in a solo exhibition dedicated to the illustrator.

A preview of Lucilla is being unveiled at the special exhibition devoted to the first ten brilliant prize-winners on BCBF Galleries. 

“Sarah Mazzetti offers a strong and very personal version of an Italian fairytale, based on an adaptation of Pulcino (Pollicino) from the Italian tradition compiled by Italo Calvino – basically the Italian version of Thumbelina, the origins of which Calvino attributed to the Puglia region.

Working on the book, Sarah realized that many traditional stories feature levels of poverty that brutalize people, prompting them to entertain evil thoughts and do evil things. The poverty is never explored; it is merely something that must be overcome, by any means, to restore peace among the characters. So, Sarah decided to write about a Pollicino-like girl (Lucilla) who lives in what could be the impoverished suburbs of any western city. In Sarah’s story, poverty is not merely presented as a simple condition, it is a veritable character in the tale, imagined and narrated by the local inhabitants without ever being expunged or minimized. Overcoming poverty is associated with choosing to leave behind an arid context that disfigures human relationships, choosing to embrace rebirth and a new, welcoming and conducive environment.

What remains of the original tale is the core of the first part of the plot: a poor family abandons its child (in this version, just one girl) in the woods. Because the girl is smart, she finds her way back; the second time round, however, this trick doesn’t work. 

The second part of Sarah’s story is very different from Calvino’s: the wood becomes a living presence that pulls Lucilla into a beautiful and surreal universe where crazy, highly imaginative things happen. The girl becomes enthralled with the secret life of the woods; she’d love to stay, but she also wants to live with her parents. After talking it over, the woodland creatures decide that both Lucilla and her parents can stay, using magic to turn the parents into two big trees, and Lucilla into a hundred tiny insects that live in those trees.

This powerful and highly-personal reworking of a traditional tale unfolds in a visually intense universe that leads the reader into a fantastical world, revealing that, left untouched by humans, nature is still magical and welcoming.” (Teresa Tellechea, Fundación SM).

Sarah Mazzetti (Bologna, 1985) is a visual artist, author and illustrator of picturebooks, comics, newspapers and magazines. Based in Milan, after graduating in Communication Sciences, she decided to study illustration at the IED (Istituto Europeo di Design). While still a student, she received a commission from the Art Director of The New York Times. She has never stopped working since, with a client roster that includes The New Yorker, The New York Times, MIT Technology, Die Zeit, Feltrinelli, Vice US, Rivista Studio, IL magazine, YCN Studio, La Vita Nòva, Il Sole 24 Ore, PLANSPONSOR, aiCIO magazine, The Fader, Eni, Alice nella Città/Festival Internazionale del Film di Roma, Anorak Magazine, Link magazine, Biancoenero Edizioni, and Mondadori. Her awards include the Golden Pen of Belgrade in 2015, the YCN Award in 2014, and the Society of Illustrators Golden Medal for American Illustration 33 for Ten Steps in the City; she was Speaker at OFFSET festival in 2014, and featured in the Computer Arts Illustration Annual 2014. Her work was selected by Illustrative 2013, It’s Nice That Annual 2012, and 3X3 magazine.
In 2019, she was awarded the Bologna Children’s Book Fair-Fundación SM International Award for Illustration.