Thursday, October 22, 2009

Things are happening at the Walter Gloom blog...

Puppet building has started for Walter Gloom, and there are photos up on the Walter Gloom blog. Go on, have a look, you know you want to!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New studio!

Sorry about my long absence from blogging folks - it has been due in part to the mammoth task of moving house. Daz and I have one Hell of a lot of stuff (mainly comics, books, DVDs and art equipment) which all had to be moved the 100 yards to the new house by hand, mainly by myself as Daz has been working down south for the last few months. I now have a new studio (yes, another spare bedroom) which is not only much bigger than my old studio, but also has the advantage that it doesn't double as Daz's junk room like my old studio did.

Here are a few photos of my new studio space:

'Monday to Friday' has been put on hold for the moment, and I have started work on the puppets for the Walter Gloom film that I am working on with writer/director James Geard. I will be posting images of the process I have used to make the puppet heads for the film over at the Walter Gloom blog in the next few days. Now I have to be off again, the heads need another coat of latex...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Two woolly monsters emigrate to Hawaii...

Here are some photos of the two woolly monster puppets I made to send to John Hankins (castlegardener) as part of the international animation co-op. They are provisionally called 'Dad' and 'Toddler'. I'm afraid the lighting and focus in the photos is not great - I took them in a hurry under yellowish a light with no flash.

The Dad is a little smaller than my usual puppets, and is about 10 inches tall, the Toddler is tiny, just over 4 inches tall, and had to be made using miniature crochet with a 1mm hook.

Both puppets have aluminium armature wire and epoxy putty armatures which I wrapped with polyfibre wadding stuck in place with Copydex latex glue (one of the most versatile mediums in the world). The skins are made of hand crocheted yarn, acrylic and wool/acrylic blend in the case of the Dad puppet, and very fine angora/lambswool blend for the Toddler. The armature for the father had to be completed in stages after certain parts of the woolly skin had been sewn into place, otherwise the hands would have been too big to pass through the 'sleeves' of the skin.

The mouths are felt replacements, and other details are made using buttons and fluffy pom-poms. As usual I used french knitting (done on a circular four-pin bobbin) for Dad's fingers, which are threaded over latex and wool wrapped wire fingers.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The wonders of London

I am temporarily back from London after a longer than planned stay, but I'm going back on Monday for a few more days. Daz's company is re-tiling a pool down there, so he's renting a very nice 3-bedroom flat for him and the other guys down in Kilburn, a few miles from the city centre, which I get to stay in for free - woohoo! Usually I can only afford to stay in the cheapest 'hotel' in London, a very grim place in Earls Court which became the inspiration for my 'Grey Heights Guesthouse' animation. It's unlikely that I'll be able to afford to spend so much time in London again, so I'm making the most of it whilst I can.

I travelled out to Woking on Thursday to meet up with director James Geard and talk about our collaboration, Walter Gloom. He had some fantastic sketches and ideas and has put together a great storyboard for me to work from. To see some of his drawings and follow his pre-production work, check out the Walter Gloom blog.

The rest of this post is mainly going to be me enthusing about London, no stop motion I'm afraid...

I love living in the North-West, but I have to admit that every time I go down to London I fall in love with the place a little more. I have no interest in the nightlife or shopping - I avoid both of these things like the plague, unless it's shopping for books or comics of course! The main things I love about London are the excellent art galleries and museums, the architecture and the public transport system (yup, I'm a real geek). London now comes a very close second to Vienna, Austria which is my favourite city in the world (for very similar reasons).

Visiting the British Museum is my version of a religious pilgrimage. My entire purpose in life is Art, and the British Museum is a cathedral to the entire history of human cultural expression throughout the world (the V&A is similar, only with more emphasis on the history of design rather than history in general, and mainly focusing on the last 1000 years or so). I spent two full days in the British Museum, and now I have finally, after 5 visits in 3 years, managed to see everything in the permanent displays (yes it really is that big).

My favourite bits of the British Museum are Mexico, the Asia section (China, India, Japan etc.), Africa and the Lewis Chessmen. I'm also a sucker for anything featuring ancient methods of writing. I could quite happily pitch a tent in the central court of the British Museum and live there permanently!

As for the V&A, my favourite bits are the Islamic Middle East and South Asia, among many others.
The other great thing about both museums is the amazing bookshops.

And then of course there is also the National Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, The Wellcome Collection, The Saatchi Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum, and many many other galleries and museums to be inspired by.

Along with my passion for looking at pretty much anything that's in a glass case, on a plinth or hanging on wall with a little information tag beside it, I also love the London Underground. There are several reasons for this. The tube map is a work of design genius and all those interconnected coloured lines and dots fuel my autistic side (I like trying to work out the most efficient route between two stations by time, distance, number of connections and which route is most aesthetically pleasing on the map... ). I also like the efficiency and convenience of it all (anyone reading this in London is shaking their head now). Even with the staff strikes, signal failures, people jumping under trains and security alerts, it is still much quicker and easier to get around than in the Bolton/Salford/Manchester area, where nothing interconnects properly, you have to wait ages between each bus/train and everything is run by different companies that require separate day tickets so it ends up costing a fortune.

Despite the wonders of London, there is no way I could survive living there. Apart from the fact that even renting a tiny bedsit costs more than twice as much as renting a good sized two bedroom house in Bolton, I'd probably die of over-stimulation (if such a thing is possible). London has the same effect on me as large quantities of sugar and brightly coloured cartoons have on small children (or the effect that the London Forbidden Planet megastore and Orbital Comics shop have on Daz). Most importantly though, the tap-water down there is horrible lime-scaley stuff that forms a skin on top of your tea and makes it taste funny, and I could never live in a city where you can't make a good cup of tea...

Anyway, enough of my London related ramblings, by next weekend I should have two new woolly monster puppets to post about. Whilst in London I've also been doing some drawings for a little comic/artist-book type thing I want to put together and print a short run of, but I'll post more about that if and when I eventually finish it, so I can try to sell you all a copy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

More random props...

Just some more assorted props I've made for the international stop-motion co-op project. The measurements on the set-square are in inches.

Here is some tiny crocheted stuff. The blanket, pillow and cushion were made with a 1mm hook, the doily in the second photo was made with a 0.6mm hook. They took nearly as long to make as they would have done if they were full size because they contain almost the same number of stitches!

Here are a couple of rather contemporary looking stools I made. The seat cushions are hand crocheted and the bases are just frosted glass jars turned upside down:

Here is a tea-set. It's a bit too small for the scale of the rest of the set, so maybe it's an espresso set. I just used a 'Disney fairies' doll's china tea-set from the pound-shop, peeled off the fairy stickers and drew flowers on with Sharpie markers. I sealed the surface using an acrylic based varnish:

I also made a bowl of 'monster fruits' using a little glass sauce-dish and an assortment of glass and wooden beads with green neoprene stalks:

I'm off to London on Wednesday for 6 days, for a marathon of museum and art gallery visiting, and also to meet up with James Geard, director of 'Walter Gloom', to talk about film stuff.
I won't have any internet access, so I apologise in advance for not replying to any emails for a while.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Ok, so this isn't in any way stop-motion related, but it is linked to costume-making of the full-scale variety.... sort of.

On Saturday night Daz and I went to a 'Masquerade Ball' for our friend Caroline's 20th birthday party at the Dog and Partridge, our favourite pub and the main hangout for Bolton's alternative musicians and arty types. It was a thoroughly fun night, with great live bands and a DJ outdoors. It was all a bit surreal, seeing the usually scruffy clientelle dressed up in suits, ball gowns and elaborate masks, and far too much alcohol was consumed by all (although that's nothing unusual on a Saturday night in Bolton).

Anyway, I got a bit carried away making my mask over the last few weeks. Whereas most people are happy with sequins and feathers, I decided I wanted to be a robot with working LEDs and circuits...

I put together one shop-bought blank moulded mask, the lenses from my old pair of prescription glasses, some epoxy putty, lots of PVA glue, acrylic based metallic model paints (Games Workshop), one 9V battery, two ultra-bright blue LEDs, red and black 7 strand equipment wire, one and a half packs of 5 minute epoxy resin, a few metres of silver plated copper jewellery wire, blue glass beads, aluminium wire, heat shrink tubing, lead free solder, brass rings, some small springs, a selection of sizes and types of copper, brass and stainless washers, assorted types of resistor, some solenoids taken from the inside of an old Xbox 360 console, nuts, bolts, heavy duty elastic, copydex, cushion foam, grey satin ribbon and some other bits and bobs, and made this:

It has prescription lenses so that, in theory, I'd be able to see (they actually kept fogging up, and the peripheral vision was terrible). I even wore some very geeky earrings that I made out of electronics components a while ago, to complete the look.

This is me and Daz (my fiance and muse - the original inspiration for all the woolly monsters) at the party. As you can see, looking smart is not in our nature - I personally think that wearing a military trenchcoat over a ball gown is a good look! Daz made his mask with prescription lenses too, and a spiral of tiny brass watch cogs round one eye and some swirly black iridescent fibres on the other side. Apparently it was inspired by the nature of time and entropy... I think. Here's photo of Daz looking like a very camp evil hypnotist, which gives a better view of his mask.

This photo was taken pretty late, when we were all pretty sloshed. I'm on the far left, with Daz clinging to me (probably for stability). Caz, the birthday girl and Wolve (her partner and one of our closest friends) are at the back in the middle, stood on the stage:

So, ummmm, yeah, sorry, not in any way stop-motion related...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Props, cheap LEDs and fuzzy boobs!

I just thought I'd post some photos of various props I've made over the last few weeks. Most of them are for the international animation co-operative set up by John Hankins (castlegardener).

The first few are some wooden toys made from wooden bits and bobs I had in my hoard of useful junk:

And this is my idea of what a Bubo (Clash of the Titans) bean-bag toy would look like. He's made of painted polymer clay:

And here's another silly stop-motion reference. Two plates with sheep on (ok, so I didn't 'make' them, I just drew on two plain doll's plates with Sharpie markers, then varnished them):

The other things I've been working on are some working table-lamps. I got an bargain on some ultra-bright LEDs in a variety of colours from a website called who even sell blue and white LEDs for less than 14p each! That's ridiculously cheap, especially for those colours... I remember back when I was doing AS-level electronics in the late 90s, blue LEDs cost about £3 each and white LEDs hadn't even been invented... ahhhh, so long ago...

The website also sells great value resistors, which you need to prevent the LEDs being destroyed by the 9V circuits I wire them into. Great service too - if you need LEDs, I highly recommend them (they ship internationally too). The LEDs are really powerful (especially the white ones) and give a narrow 20 degree beam of light. They are so bright that I think I could probably use them as small spot-lights for lighting areas of my sets, which is great because they run for ages on a 9V circuit, they come in loads of colours, they don't flicker and they don't heat up!

Anyway, I used yellow LEDs in these two table lamps, to be placed in a sunny yellow coloured set. The lamps are made from glass beads and hollow wooden bases all glued together with epoxy. I soldered a 3mm yellow LED with a resistor into a circuit with a PP3 clip for a 9V battery, then covered all the exposed wires with heat-shrink tubing, with more heat-shrink over the top of that to turn the two seperate wires into one cable going from the lamp (the batteries will be hidden, obviously). I glued the LED into the bottom of the hole through the centre of the lamp, and put a 'plug' of tin foil fixed with epoxy into the hole at the top of the lamp to act as a reflector bouncing light back into the lamp.

I also made this lamp, to go in a set with a blue colour scheme, using a 3mm white LED. Most white LEDs give off a blue tinged light, and this one looks extra blue because of the blue glass in the lamp. It gives out about 3 times as much light as the yellow lamps, so I hope it won't be too overpowering!

Oh, and one last completely unrelated picture:

Yup, that's what woolly alien glamour model looks like, just in case you ever wondered...
It's for the cover of a magazine prop in 'Monday to Friday'.
If it arouses you (and you aren't a woolly alien yourself) you should probably be concerned!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My other project - Walter Gloom

I've just started a new shared blog with writer/director/art director James Geard, which will document the production of a short film we are working on together - working title 'Walter Gloom'. At the moment James is working on the storyboards and designs, and I'll be starting work on the final sets and puppets in June when I've finished 'Monday to Friday'.

This project is completely different to my usual animations, and will give me a great opportunity to work with human puppets and also give me the experience of making someone elses ideas and designs come to life. To give you a taster, here is one of James' original character designs for Walter, the main character in the film:

And here is a photo of a prototype head I made for the puppet, to experiment with building up an old wrinkly face using liquid latex over a Fimo polymer clay head. I am currently experimenting with making replacement mouths and eyebrows for the puppet using Sculpey Bake & Bend clay, but to see more about that and more designs you'll have to follow the Walter Gloom blog!
Daz and I have just come back from London where I met up with James to discuss the film. We also visited as many museums and galleries as was humanly possible in the time we had, so we are now feeling exhausted but very content. I think if I lived closer to London I'd spend practically every day in the British Museum....

Unfortunately we ran out of time before we got to the Natural History Museum, so next time we go down I've promised Daz that the dinosaurs will take priority!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Finally, some alien industral set photos!

At last, here they are, some photos of my woolly monsters in their finished alien technology set, ready to animate! The photos were taken using my new FZ50 and you can click on them to see the BIG versions on flickr:

wide shot

monsters 1

monsters 3

green monster

jungle monsters

It's probably best not to ask what the heck is going on in the last photo!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A year of stop-motion and a new camera to celebrate!

I have been adventuring in the art form that is stop-motion animation for about a year now, so I've just treated myself to a factory refurbished Panasonic Lumix FZ50! Oooooh, shiny....
I can't shoot any animation with it at the moment because I'm waiting for an AV capture card for my laptop to turn up, but I am going to use it to take some photos of my industrial set and puppets later on. I'm also waiting for a full set of lens filters to turn up for it, so I can have some fun experimenting with those.

Twelve months ago, I'd been obsessively researching stop-motion 12 hours a day for a couple of weeks. I'd signed up to SMA, I'd ordered a webcam, but I hadn't yet pushed a puppet (that happened for the first time on the 17th March).

Anyway, I don't think it is an understatement to say that stop-motion has changed my life (sounds rather melodramatic, but it's true).
If you'd have told me 2 years ago that in 2009 I'd be alive, happy and relatively stable, I would never have believed you. I wouldn't have been able to even imagine that I could make a stop-motion animation. The idea of me actually thinking about a 'career' of any kind would have been laughable.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say, in a long-winded and inept way is thankyou to everyone who has encouraged me, given me advice and helped me build my confidence over the last year:

Everyone on SMA and everyone who has commented on my blog or my youtube channel - thankyou so much. Seriously, without all of you I'd have never even got started, let alone had the confidence and motivation to keep on animating.

Thanks to my partner Daz and my parents who have encouraged me and supported me completely during my stop-motion adventure.

Thanks also to Dr. Pradip Patel for teaching me that the only way I was going to learn to cope with the world was to accept my difficulties and focus on my strengths, and also for telling me that my brain isn't broken, it's unique.

When I started this adventure, I set myself a target of being able to produce professional standard stop-motion animation within a year. I never expected to reach the target, it was just something to aim for and keep me focused. 'Professional' does cover a wide spectrum, and I still have many years of work before I reach the standards of Nick Hilligoss and Ron Cole, but if we define 'professional' as whether people are willing to pay me to animate, then I have succeeded in my mission!

Thanks again everyone :)

EDIT: Thankyou also to my late grandmother Edna who left me the money with which I bought my new camera. She never got to see any of my animations, but I think she would approve. Thanks Grandma!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I have recently accumulated some interesting bits of 'treasure' (please note that my idea of treasure differs greatly from most people's).

First up - things I have been given. Daz, my main contributor of unusual junk has excelled himself recently. My favourite objects are the transparent electronic switch thingies (at least I think that's what they are - they came from an old 'plant room control board' apparently...) at the top left - perfect for monster technology! He has also brought home some little lightbulbs, the insides of an Xbox 360 (not pictured) and some kind of dial and switch arrangement (from the same plant room I think). I can't imagine many women get so excited by being given salvaged building site junk!
I also just rediscovered a jug full of crystal dangly things (removed from a hideous lamp) which my Mum kindly brought me from my late grandparents' house a few months ago, along with some vintage buttons.
I have also had a number of great pound shop finds recently. I'd been looking for something that I could turn into speakers for the alarm system in my technological set for ages, when I came across some fridge magnets with a black wire mesh front. I think the square ones or the round ones will work great with the stylized retro-industrial feel of the set.
I also managed to pick up a huge haul of iridescent semi-transparent glass beads from the pound shop, which I'm sure will come in useful for something. The necklaces are about 4ft long, so that's a heck of a lot of beads! There are so many that I can't get the lid onto the big plastic tub I put them in.

I also made another trip to Fairfield Yarns and got some wool/angora blend 2ply yarn for miniature crocheting in lilac, a burgundy purple colour and dark turquoise. I also got some lovely speckled pure wool DK yarn in blue and dark navy.

Getting the new yarns allowed me to finish off my mini-blanket too. I think I will give it to the samurai puppet that John Hankins made me when I finally get round to doing the animation with it that I've been planning for ages.

Coming soon: The long delayed photos of my completed alien technology set and lots and lots of house-plant props...