The Moody world of ‘Tom Moody’

”Our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

After spending the last few weeks guiltily searching for jobs while my other half leaves for work every morning, this film was a relevant reminder of  the internal dialogue that goes on within us all, and it was quite a poignant one (or at least one that was fresh in my mind).
As someone who spends a long time trying to appease my inner child and apologise to my outer adult, this animation was absolutely perfect, not just in its themes. I love the unashamed ruggedness of the animation- it was so charming! The hair twitching about and the jumper blowing in non-existent wind, but It was the EYES that captured my heart and kept it hostage- they were just so expressive, even without much gusto in the voice that narrates throughout.
Since my own inner narratives often looks something like this short, I found it was like watching a small piece of myself.

What is perhaps most relateable was the idea that we all hold inside ourselves. That nobody wants to see what it is we have to offer- childhood anxieties and insecurities hold us back, and there are some memories that will never let us go…
My Blog life, although short has been full of inner doubt, hence the lack of examples of my own work. There is always the inner fear that nobody will want to see it, or value it in any way, as Tom himself says..

”I don’t want to sing, people will think we’re stupid and boring”

It is a beautiful comment on the doubt that all of us feel about ourselves, but that with a little confidence, we can overcome.
The full film can be seen below- Please do watch it! ❤

http://www.shortoftheweek.com/2014/02/17/i-am-tom-moody/

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May we still reminisce?

Well, here’s a little something I’m quite happy about.
For my university dissertation I studied and wrote about the changing relationship between stop-motion and CGI, their continuous confrontations and the divide between the two. During the three months of trials and tribulations, and 12,000 words later, I came away with a deeper and new found respect for the world of computer graphics (but still firmly on the side of stop-motion!).
I couldn’t, and still cannot help but feel that the world of CGI has encroached too far.

Far too far.

It has stolen ‘Fireman Sam’, ‘Noddy’, ‘Thomas the Tank engine’, ‘The Magic Roundabout’, ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’, ‘Guess with Jess’, and now even talk of ‘The Wombles’ being reduced to the usually inexpensive, and equally unimpressive standards of children’s CGI shows. Why??
Don’t get me wrong, I am impressed by CGI, and have a great respect for it. I don’t think artists or fans should stand entirely on one side of the technique ‘war’, nor do I think the two worlds should be entirely separate while we figure out which is best. I like them both, and think they both have amazing attributes that the other doesn’t. My issue is, like with any art form, there’s good, and there’s bad.
There’s good and bad CGI, and the graphics that seem to be given to children’s programmes, is lifeless and creepy. Soulless.

They seem so static and insubstantial. The whole point of Noddy, as far as I remember it was that he was a living TOY made of WOOD- the CGI children’s version does not seem to lend to the same ideals as the book, or even the old version of the programme at all! How is the above, better than this…?

Personally, I don’t see it! It’s not that I have a grudge against CGI, but I wish that the effort made with these new programmes matched the heartfelt honesty seen in the old ones. Children loved these characters because they were REAL- LIVING toys. How is this an attitude to be carried on now? What magic will these computer generated characters have? What are we taking from children by denying them this little belief in magic? Maybe I’m just thinking too much about all of this, and worrying that the kids of today are growing up way too fast, but I am sad at the loss of these beloved protagonists, and don’t want them to rot in the corner of an old museum, representations of a bygone age of television.

All of this, is why today, I was happy to see this little article.
Daniel Postgate, son of the great creator Oliver Postgate, has ousted a plan by the media company ‘Coolabi’ to reboot the beloved 1970’s children’s ‘Bagpuss’. At this, I could not contain my own private glee- I don’t want Bagpuss to go down the same road that ‘Noddy’ did, or ‘Fireman Sam’, or my favourite ‘Postman Pat’.

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1222986/Bagpuss-avoids-CGI-makeover-creators-son-vetoes-plans-new-series.html

Although it means there will probably not be a re-boot for quite some time, I think that for the diminishing quality of children’s TV, this is a sacrifice I am willing to make.
Here’s a little Bagpuss for your reminiscent enjoyment.

Christmas Puppet gift

I recently had the good fortune to watch the beautiful ‘But Milk Is Important’ stop-motion short by the lovely Eirik Gronmo Bjornsen, and Anna Mantzaris. They were kind enough to let me watch the full animation and I have to say that it deserved every award and acclaim it got. It was a lovely comment on social anxieties and the limits of the self. Many people have felt horribly nervous in social situations or handicapped by this nervousness and can relate to how crippling it can be, it would be nice to have a fuzzy friend to give you that push, just to help you through..
In my case, I found this through the unending support of a good and close friend, (only nearly as fuzzy!) and I got through my anxiety and depression eventually. I owe it all to him as he stood by me through all sorts of difficulties. In the case of the little guy in this film, a strange fuzzy creature appears and moves in with him, annoying him and generally being a little too close for comfort, eventually giving him the shove he needs in the right direction. You could say he is the furry little embodiment of confidence, a representation of our anxieties and how, with courage, we can overcome them.
The animation is sketchy, but beautiful and the sculpting, quaint and etsy-ish. I loved it through and through.

an awkwardly small sofa

An awkwardly small sofa..

One of the things that interested me, was the design of the fuzzy friend. He’s ADORABLE, and I think, made out of needle felted wool, something I recently became interested in. It allows for a lightweight and pretty detailed puppet or whatever little thing you feel like making. It’s a time consuming process, but easier than I thought to get the hang of- felted over a wire armature it’d be a flexible, repairable, fuzzy little puppet.
After a few months of practice, and some thoroughly lumpy first attempts, I decided to use needle felt myself, and turn it to puppet making.
Offhand a sweet friend of mine asked me if she could use my work as an example in her school project, and it naturally seemed about time that I made something for her. Going along the same lines as the first stop-motion puppet I made, I sculpted the head, neck joint (a single joint this time) and then felted the bulk of the body over the wire armature, then..
I had a mishap with the baking of the clay. I made the neck, head, and a little horned hat, put them in the oven and wandered away to wait. They were all in there for the usual 30 minutes, but came out black and.. burned. They weren’t crispy or cracked, just black, and I was quite upset to see that the temperature had been 100 degrees over what it should have been for normal clay baking. Hmmph.

I stared for a few minutes, frown in place, and in the end it wasn’t so bad- the black colour was quite shiny and hadn’t warped the shape of the clay. It matched the horns and the yellow eyes I had painted and set into the head, so not entirely a total loss. It added to the demon theme, and I’m sure it’s a theme the person I made it for will appreciate that.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Burned, but more Demony for it.

Burned- but more ‘Demony’ for it.

It looks a little furry, but is easily manoeuvred, the improved neck joint works well, allowing for a good range of movement and the weight of the head doesn’t make it difficult to balance the weight of the rest of the puppet. Despite the burning incident, I don’t think (s)he turned out so badly..
It was much easier to move than the first puppet I made so I’ll probably go on to make more of them like this..
Let me know what you all think : )
(There’s extra clothing and a fiery red wig in the little suitcase- I like to feel like my puppets have little lives of their own, they feel much more real/ alive that way!)

The cat with (beautiful) hands

My first encounter with the endlessly wonderful Robert Morgan, ‘The Cat with Hands’ was probably the best introduction I could have had. A creepy cat person anyway, a Victorian and weird-thing enthusiast, this little animated (and live action) short had everything I could ever want- odd songs, a dark and misty forest, creepy tales, a quiet and pale little boy, in traditional dress of course, murder and the devouring of that pretty little character and last but certainly not least, a sinister cat with the most beautiful animated hands I’ve ever seen!

cat with hands

The shading, the nails, the movement and joints, oh! So beautiful! ❤

The fingernails, the colour, the movement.. everything was just PERFECT! As a self confessed obsessive detail and realism freak, I wanted to cry upon seeing the little plasticine (?) fingers twiddling about on the rim of that well.

I don’t know how big the puppets were made, to enable such exquisite detail, but Mr Morgan, I take my hat off, bow, and kiss your toes, (or even hands!) after those- as the focus for a stop motion short, they were just mind-blowingly gorgeous.
I have to admit that the admirer in me preferred the pilot version, where I could gawp at the full blown beauty of the cat puppet- not as honed or polished as in the final version, but lovely none-the-less.

Rabbit and Deer, an up and coming animation

Very tired of talking about my own work so I decided to wander elsewhere, and while trawling through ‘Pinterest’ a new most favourite haunt, I found this up and coming little gem!
‘Rabbit and Deer’ is a mix of 2D animation and our beloved stop-motion, about two friends separated by an argument that tests the very foundations of their friendship. Based on the feeling of social and personal inferiority it seems to be a little something (I assume) that most of us can relate to- Of course, I know no more than this, having not yet seen the full animation, and am left with just an overall feeling of excitement and amazement over the small amount I have already seen- if there’s ever a home-made Christmas decoration to be made from two corks, it’s that sweet little deer!
Peter Vacz, take it away- amaze me!

Puppet process, my first born- part 2.

Hello again : )
I left off last time babbling on about the making of my first stop motion puppet, such an arduous process that it took over 700 words to get from the head to the neck!
You interest means a heck of a lot to me, and sharing is something I overly love to do, so here goes with the next instalment- hopefully shorter than the first one!
I got up to the ball joints I used for the neck- from here I wound a wire armature that was proportional to the body and glued it into the hollow metal rod at the base of the sculpted shoulders, this formed the flexible ‘skeleton’ for my puppet and would allow it to move freely. The armature wire I used had excellent tensile strength, so upon moving the wire there was no wobbling or wiggling about, it kept its position, quite important for accurate stop motion.
After an extra wrapping of thin craft wire around the armature, I wrapped it in fabric tape to hold it all together properly and prevent any little wire fly-aways. I then measured and wrapped each section of the armature in quilt wadding to make up the bulk of the body, sewing it all into position- wrapping the wadding as tightly as possible prevents too much movement when covered by the clothes.
KODAK Digital Still Camera

I had already made a tiny set of pyjamas for the puppet based on the measurements from the plasticine proto-type I had made for casting. It was so exciting squeezing him into his little P.J’s, even though he had no hands yet, or even finished legs, but he had all of his little buttons sewn on, and the button holes done, so he seemed a bit more ‘alive’ at this stage.
KODAK Digital Still Camera KODAK Digital Still Camera

The wire attaching his hands was made mostly in the same way his neck attachments- hollow wire to strengthen the joint, and join it to the thicker main wire- five smaller wires are bound and glued into the join, these are then cut shorter so the puppet lost his ‘Edward Scissorhands’ look, and bound the fingers in medical tape to prevent wire poking through the clay set to cover the hands.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

As seen in the image above, when I added the sculpey clay to the hands, they looked much too Goliath to go with the fragile, timid little boy I was trying to portray- I removed the clay and left the bandages, painting over them in flesh colour later. I was disappointed, but a tutor of mine assured me that the bandaged look only added to a feeling of neglect.
The feet were less of an issue and i wrapped them with tape until they were wide enough, and then made tiny socks.

One thing that has always amazed me, is the variety of things that can be purchased from the internet- in my past doll making escapades i bought a job lot of doll wigs, some of which were made from actual human hair!

wig3

Glue and persistence, along with the aid of wig pattern reference made the bowl hair cut I have such a love of, and after much fume inhalation, his little wig cap was finished- I had to make it removable because of my replacement head technique. Every time the head and expression is changed, the wig cap had to come off, only to be ‘plonked’ onto the next head 🙂

KODAK Digital Still Camera KODAK Digital Still Camera

Pheww. Here he is, standing proudly in his glass dome at my graduation show.
I didn’t want to stay for the degree show and hear what people had to say about my work, I was much too nervous for that, and after working all day, every day for months, I was just too exhausted to accompany the end result.
It was a long road to the finished design, and one that took at least four months. I know the puppet I came out with is far from perfect, with so many design flaws and impractical pieces, but as my very first, I guess it’s not so bad ^__^ just the first in many improvements and the long road ahead.
I hope you all like him x

Puppet process, my first born.

Quite an important tenth post for me here-
I always loved seeing how people make the beautiful pieces they produce, and so, it’s about time it was my turn to join the line, inexperienced but optimistic!
My making process for my first ever puppet was clumsy and a real walk in the dark, but I was very proud of my end design, especially as it was my very first stop motion puppet. It took hours of work- weeks even! I already had my character design, a typically complicated one, all ready to confuse and none-plus me in the building journey ahead..
KODAK Digital Still Camera
As you can probably see, my inspiration came from a lifelong love- Christopher Robin Milne and ‘Winnie the Pooh’- for some reason, he has always been my archetype for childlike innocence and imagination, and I was ready for a full on homage. Other inspiring little dearies included Danny Lloyd, the star of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ – a psychic with the tiny man in his finger, Tom Hill, the maudlin young ghost from ‘The Awakening’, and even the beautiful art of Norman Rockwell. (The Discovery)
the-discovery norman rockwell

The first plasticine draft took over a week to sculpt into a character I was content with, I made one that was perfect at first, and the average desired 30cm for an easily manoeuvred puppet, but upon placing it in the already measured, 60cm walls of my sets, he turned out to be just too big, and I (distraught and disheartened) had to start over. This time, I was thankfully more successful and produced a little guy of about 20- 25cm, one of a good size that could easily be cast in Plaster of Paris, and start making his many varied faces.

I had already decided that the face would not be a mailable, soft sculpt- after all, my first stop motion venture needed to stay as simple as possible, without me panicking about the different stages of a facial expression or dusty and dirty clay.
Each head would be solid, but with moveable eyes, I would simply use a different expression for each different scene- every head matched with a different letter, for each section of my storyboard.
KODAK Digital Still Camera

In the end, I sculpted around 10 individual faces and expressions for my puppet, a different form of face (head) replacement used widely in stop-motion companies worldwide- although comparatively simpler- ten heads, as oppose to the hundreds of thousands of facial and mouth expressions used in, for example, ‘Coraline’. I don’t think I’d have gone that far..

Along with my choice of solid heads came another decision to be made.. the movement of the neck. *sigh*
I know some people make the decision to bake only part of the head solid, and leave the eyelids, a gap for the mouth and the neck free, where they instead place unbaked clay, blending it in as best they can and moving it when they animate. I always thought this made the puppets look a little patchy and blotchy, not to mention that this was not something I wanted to do just yet- I just wasn’t ready for it. I wanted something easier, so pulled in another passion of mine.
Ball jointed dolls! ❤
I have been fascinated with the mechanics of ball joints for a long long time- they make a puppet or doll move gorgeously, and with a massive range of movement, perfect for stop motion! As well as stop-motion, It would also be the first time I had ever looked into ball joints, so all of this was another first for me.
The neck joint was actually easier to come to terms with than initially thought, I shaped a small dome crater into the head where the ball would fit, and then rolled the ball joint to fit into this shape.
KODAK Digital Still Camera

I kept the ball in the middle loose, thinking that it would mean more movement for the head because of the gap between the chin and the neck rim, but later puppets I made disproved this. I wasn’t to know : )
The gold piece of metal protruding from the shoulders on the left of the image above, is actually a hollow piece of thick wire. Into this, I will place the wrapped wire for the rest of the armature- the clay I chose to sculpt with has a tendency to chip, so this will strengthen and ensure the clay stays un-crumbled!
I’m sorry this post is such a long one, I will continue the design process on another post- Thank you!