Harlequinade Animations

The past months have seen me pleasurably employed in a second collaboration with Sussex Lustreware designing imagery for their forthcoming range, Harlequinade. This has been a bit of a dream project for me, and one which I suggested to Gloria on the coat-tails of our collaboration earlier this year, when illustrations I’d made as the chapter headings for Marly Youman’s 2020 novel, Charis in the World of Wonders, were re-purposed as lustre-embellished decorations on the Sussex Lustreware World of Wonders range. Gloria and I got used to working around each other on World of Wonders, and on Harlequinade her glorious freehand lustre embellishments suggesting the swags of theatre curtains and the flashes and arabesques that conjure the glitter and tinsel of the stage, are perfect companions.

For the yet to be released Harlequinade range of plates, bowls, trinket-boxes, mugs, jugs and a teapot, I used my life-long love of Victorian Toy Theatre as inspiration, turning to my collection of toy theatre ephemera for inspiration.


All design from historic sources requires adaptation, and in order to make images that fit the various available spaces on the china, and to ensure that the designs have consistency across the range, I’ve reworked – and occasionally reinvented – material from many diverse sources. Toy theatres were produced by a host of print publishers over hundreds of years, who all had their favourite artists. Although overall the toy theatre ‘style’ had something of a consistency, close examination shows many different hands at work, and those wrinkles needed to be ironed out for the purposes of re-presenting the characters here, for a new generation to appreciate. Here you will find the stock characters that were originally lifted from the Italian Commedia dell’arté, Harlequin, Columbine, Pantaloon and Clown, together with a handful of interlopers such as the god Neptune, in his shell chariot drawn by mer-horses – because Harlequinades loved to have a good spattering of the mythic/fantastic – and the fairies so essential to Victorian (and contemporary) pantomime.

There are the tradespeople who had their goods filched by Clown, and the performing dogs and circus horses so appreciated by 19th century theatre-goers. (In the age before motor cars, trained horses were so popular that specialised indoor arenas were devoted to equestrian spectacles, and to this day some theatres bear witness to their previous lives in the name, Hippodrome.)

Equestrian Harlequinade
Entrance of the Bower Fairy

My collaborator David W. Slack and I have been busy together making some animations to promote Harlequinade in the run-up to its launch. I draw and David animates, though we could as easily reverse that as David is a wonderful artist as well as an animator, and I too am an artist who also animates. It makes the collaboration particularly pleasurable, as we always understand what the other is doing, and the challenges of the work. Watch this space. There are more on the way.

9 thoughts on “Harlequinade Animations

  1. These all feel like future classic designs, and heirlooms.
    Wish we had a table that wasn’t covered with a self replicating mound of crap on it, no matter how often I tidy it, the ‘stuff’ is always back the next day. It would be so nice to set a table and use lovely items like this on it!

    • I’m lucky enough to have a full set of the ‘World of Wonders’ range at Sussex Lustreware, the drawings for which I’d made originally as the chapter-headings of Marly Youmans’ novel ‘Charis in the World of Wonders’. We have a huge teapot and enough mugs and plates for six whenever there’s the opportunity for a proper tea. It does make a lovely sight when all laid out.

      • I would be tempted to wear my top hat with rabbit ears attached to it (that I made and wore to our wedding) for an occasion like that Clive! 🙂

    • I use the agency Audio Network where I research and then purchase licences for music produced by composers specifically for the purposes of editing to accompany film. All the material comes in recordings of various lengths, and as our animations are always either of 30 second or 1 min duration there is always a cut to fit our needs so that no music editing is required. (In other words, each track I select has a ‘composed’ beginning and end rather than a fade-in/fade-out.)

      The tracks I purchase are licensed for unlimited use on social media sites, with the provision that they cannot not be sponsored/monetised. One purchase = my use of it for one film. I can’t use the track again for a different film. The process of putting music and visuals together is that my animator David and I look at his first rough cut of the film, at which point we can see the character of it emerging. I then research and make a choice of music that fits with the emerging character, and David continues animating with the soundtrack in place as he fills in missing parts of the narrative, polishing and refining and aligning visuals with music so the animation hits all the beats like a dancer.

      It isn’t a requirement to credit the composers, and because these little films are essentially ‘promotions’ with a message to get strongly across, we concentrate on that goal. If I were making longer pieces that were not promotions but created solely for the purposes of entertainment, I would by choice credit the composers because of the enormous contribution their music makes to the animations. But I am happy to reveal here who I used if you tell me which film. (There are several composers I’m using on this series.) I should add that David is very skilled at adjusting the animation work once the selected music is in place, which is in great part what makes the ‘fit’ so good on these films, giving the illusion that the music has been composed for the visuals.

  2. I have watched the animations, especially the Neptune, many times in a row. I love the big fish getting nearer and nearer amid the waves, and how it swallows the ship. And the tail, and the splash after it dives, and the music… I need that jug. And the plates with the horses, and the Fairy…
    And even when my cooking doesn’t past muster, each plate shall have it’s story to tell, so it shall not matter.
    I can’t wait to be able to buy. Hope they send to Madrid.
    ¡ Un fuerte abrazo virtual para los dos !

    • Maria, I’m so pleased you’re enjoying what we’re making. My friend Gloria – who is the person behind Sussex Lustreware – and David and I are greatly enjoying producing the designs, the ceramics and the animated films that announce and promote them. When I was a boy my parents got me to eat things that I would have preferred not to (particularly porridge, which I hated), encouraging me with promises that if I cleared my bowl I’d see the willow-pattern on it, with its story of the lovers turned into birds. it was an excellent ploy, and it got me every time. I’d eat most things back then if the reward was a good story. I like to think that maybe the images on the Harlequinade plates and bowls will make lovely stories for all good boys and girls who eat their greens and finish off their porridge! (-:

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