countdown to the exhibition: five days to go

Over the Bank Holiday weekend Peter and I set up camera and tripod in the dining-room at Ty Isaf, improvising an animation stand at first on the grey-painted floorboards, and afterwards… when my knees were feeling somewhat overworked from many hours on them… on the old table-top. We shot three passages of animation, each with a different maquette: the dragon, a naked man/horse figure made as a model when I was illustrating Equus, and an earlier clothed man/horse that I never used for the project. The first sequence was done in daylight, and in it the shadows strobe and creep across the floor and the sun comes in and out, effects I rather like. Our filming is a little ramshackle. My hands occasionally  appear in single shots and the cable control of the shutter switch snakes in for a few frames, un-noticed by us at the time. But despite these glitches… or perhaps because of them… the sequences have raw energy, which is exactly what I wanted them to convey. Not sleek and elegant animation but a sense of the maquettes in daily use tacked to the walls of my studio or scattered on the floor around the easel.

On Bank Holiday Monday Peter and I took Marly to visit film-maker Pete Telfer at his home at Ceinws, not far from Machynlleth. While Peter went for a walk down by the river with our dog Jack, Pete’s partner Swsi and the couple’s daughter Alis… who was very nearly born in Ty Isaf, but that’s another story… Pete recorded Marly reading segments of Kathe Koja’s text for the Maquettes chapter of the monograph, to use on the soundtrack of the film. Marly did this beautifully… she’s pretty much a ‘one-take’ voiceover artist… and the cadences of her American accent entirely fit Kathe’s poetic evocations. (I’d asked Kathe to record the text for me in America, but she lacked a programme on her laptop to do so.) Pete edited the film yesterday, and by tea-time he was able to show us a finished cut. It’s perfect, and at around about five or six minutes long is exactly what I envisaged to show in the gallery. We used about 2 – 300 frames per animation sequence, which when run sequentially make concise little films that Pete has surrounded with live footage at Ty Isaf of me preparing the maquettes for their film debuts. The soundtrack of the filmed sections features the rookery just beyond our bedroom window, where all is restless energy as the adult birds care for their young. It’s a sound I associate with Ty Isaf, and one I love.

Click HERE to see the animation.

(You will have to register on Culture Colony, but the viewing of this film is free.)

My thanks to all concerned with this project. To Peter who came up with the idea and was the patient stills cameraman while I animated. To the wonderful Pete who advised us soundly, encouraged us enthusiastically and calmly fitted the film-making into his already over-crowded diary. To Kathe who wrote the evocative words and to Marly who read them beautifully, between them conjuring the perfect tone for the film. The short couldn’t have been made without the unceasing support these good friends of ours have loaned to the project.

12 thoughts on “countdown to the exhibition: five days to go

  1. Waving to Kathe: so glad you were happy with the reading! I had not read your work out loud before, and you have distinctive pauses and rhythms, so it was a fun challenge to be handed some marked passages and sit down with Pete and Clive to read. Clive’s directorial look: flopped at full length on the bed with sunglasses on.

    Everybody: thanks for liking and saying so! xo

  2. Clive, Marly, Peter – absolutely fascinating! Don’t worry a moment over the rough edges, they’re totally unimportant, it’s the feeling of the whole that comes across, and it’s magical to see your hands bringing the maquettes to life. Well done, and I’m sure it will be a fabulous addition to the exhibition. Waving hello to all of you, a bit wistfully, but with great excitement! (And yes, Marly’s voice is perfect!)

    • Dear Beth

      As you can imagine, with all these writers and poets around our table, Ty Isaf is quite lively at the moment! Last night we had supper in our dining room, and it was a great pleasure to see everyone getting to know each other, laughing and sharing anecdotes over the wine glasses and candles. Jack is having a ball and barely knows who to pester next to throw his frisbee. He sprawled in my lap over coffee, flat on his back and completely relaxed while Dave and Andrea took pics. Jack can be very cute when sleepy.

      Your name is frequently on everyone’s lips. You may not be here in person but your presence is conjured by those who admire your achievements. I’m glad you like the film. It was a last minute addition, but the spirit moved it and the endeavour romped along. Couldn’t have been done without Pete Telfer, who filmed the live action so beautifully and then stitched our photographs into animation sequences, nor without my Peter, who was patient stills cameraman while I moved the puppets. I think I’d like to do a longer project with stop motion. I had a blast!

      • Thanks for this report, Clive – I’m glad to know Dave got there and that Jack has a surfeit of attention – for once! Hope you all have a fabulous time.

        I did some animation drawings once-upon-a-time, and it was very hard work! The stop action method would be easier but no less painstaking, but the results are so terrific. Your constant creativity is inspiring, as usual, Clive! I hope you will also post some pictures of the goings-on at Ty Isaf for the rest of us to enjoy vicariously.

        My very best wishes for a wonderful and memorable vernissage, as we say up here in Quebec! Felicitations!

  3. Clive, many thanks for those details. I had thought of brass paper fasteners but imagined they’d be too visible. Your glue and cardboard collar are excellent solutions.

    Looking forward to full reports on the exhibition and some photos, hopefully.

    • Natalie, good luck with the puppet joints. I greatly look forward to seeing what you might make. Do let me know, and also ask if there’s anything I can help you with.

      Yes, the caravan is well and truly rumbling along now. Poetry book launch tonight and the exhibition opening tomorrow. Note to self: get more sleep!

  4. It’s a different kind of pleasure to hear my words read in another’s voice: and Marly’s is a real pleasure in itself. We made a performance together, the three of us, didn’t we? I love this kind of creative play, that makes nothing of distance, and is brought to life endlessly, whenever people watch!

    • Kathe, I’m so pleased that you’re happy with the result. Your text greatly added to the mood of the piece. I felt that Pete Telfer was a little hesitant about the idea when I first suggested it, but as soon as he’d heard the recording he’d made of Marly in a bedroom of his house, he said that he felt that the tone of the piece was in the bag.

      My friend, thank you for playing with us! Let’s do it again some time.

  5. that video is wonderful! i love the style of motion, it’s perfect for the maquettes; and i love the background of birds and marly’s lovely voice. congratulations, the video is a joy to watch.

    • Zoe, I too love the sound of the rooks. Their voices are a persistent soundtrack to Ty Isaf at this time of the year as they fuss over their young. Even at night the rookery can be quite lively, with those wonderful cries cracking out so resonantly in the clear air. They locate Pete’s filming firmly in Spring, as does the vibrant green of the orchard through the open aperture of the window behind the maquettes.

  6. Clive, I’ve just watched the video and am enchanted. It’s perfect, rough edges and all, and will certainly add even more life to your exhibition. The animated sections together with live action create an atmosphere that is both tranquil and buzzing with creativity and Marly’s voice-over complements it beautifully. Congratulations to all concerned.

    I love your maquettes and want to ask you a technical question,if I may: how are the moving parts attached to the bodies? When I’ve made some rough puppets to use in videos or for drawing, I used bits of thread to attach the joints but that isn’t really satisfactory,too loose and wobbly. Yours seem perfectly balanced.

    • Thank you Natalie. I’m greatly touched by your enthusiasm for this little project.

      Re. the maquettes. I use old fashioned brass paper-fasteners for the joints. I don’t really like to see them on the surface of the puppets, and so I usually attach them to the undersides of the card. In order to do this I make a little square of card and put a small hole in the middle of it. Then I push through the paper fastener so that the brass head is one side, and the ‘arms’ are on the far side. I smear glue onto the side of the card where the head rests, and press the head and card square against the underside of the maquette where I want the joint. When the glue dries the square forms a little collar holding the paper fastener in place. I usually use wood glue, which makes a secure bind.

      The fasteners are often too long for what I need, in which case I just trim their length with a scissors.

      Hope this is all clear. If it isn’t then let me know and I’ll post some images showing the construction. I think that thread would hold the puppets a little flimsily. Paper fasteners give far more resistance to the animation. (The great Lotte Reiniger used to use wire loops to hold her puppets together.)

      I passed your compliment on to Marly, who beamed with pleasure!

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