Just when we thought this curly form couldn’t get any better, an edible shortbread ampersand turned up at our door courtesy of Maid of Gingerbread.
Fred & Eric’s pet biscuit takes a dunk in our finest crockery.
The next in our installments of interviews comes from a long-standing Fred & Eric friend and collaborator, Lee Cooper. Lee specialises in character illustration and animation, and loves to inject his work with quirky humour.
Kicking off interview season is designer, director and animator Laura Hulme. A long-time friend and collaborator of Fred & Eric, her leafy ampersand (pictured) has already gone down a storm on our blog. Laura also worked on the animation and live-action elements for our GAVI campaign film for Save the Children.
Was there a defining moment in your life which made you choose animation as a career?
It was whilst at University where we had a visiting professional give a talk about VFX and motion graphics. He played a showreel and I was totally hooked - it was like a switch had just been turned on in my head. I then had the difficult task of working out how to become a designer and animator having just completed a 3 year television and film production course! In the end, I charmed my way into a few graduate design jobs and then learned everything on the job.
How do you come up with new and original ideas when working to a client brief?
I try to take influences from sources away from our industry including film, fashion, photography and literature. I am also a huge fan of brainstorming and discussing ideas in groups. Something I have noticed in many studios is that no time is given over to the discussion of ideas, and many people are expected to generate ideas in an isolated way. I enjoy collaborating with others, and I feel that this often results in stronger, more considered solutions.
What inspires your personal work?
Both the natural world and my love of music provide huge inspiration to me.
What design and animation programs do you work in and is there a particular one you’d like to learn?
I use all the Adobe Creative Cloud programs, and Cinema 4D. As much as I would love to cram another piece of software into my brain, I prefer to try and develop less software-centric skills, encouraging creative thinking and idea generation. You can’t beat a good doodling session!
You recently returned to the world of freelancing after a full-time stint. What would you say are the pros and cons of freelance vs full-time?
Full time jobs give you a chance to become a trusted and established member of a team, and often you are able to experiment with ideas in a supportive environment. Downsides include having no control of the types of jobs you are asked to do and not fully being in control of your career path. This is why I left my full time job to set up my company - it is a riskier option, but I really enjoy the level of personal responsibility that comes with working for yourself.
When self-employed, at worst you are just another hired pair of hands without much regard for your creative input. At best, it can be the most fantastic collaboration of minds and ideas which is very rewarding!
You are capable of producing many different styles, has there been a natural progression or do you like to pick and choose as you go?
I started my career in a live television environment where content differed on every job and this is how I developed a skill for versatility. I unashamedly like using bright colours and strong graphical compositions. I think these traits are present in a lot of my work, but of course I have to adapt it on a per-job basis and be sympathetic to the clients needs.
What’s it like operating as a female animator in a predominantly male-dominated industry?
Generally, it is not a problem and I have found that my male colleagues welcome the presence of female designers and animators
in the studio. However, I think there is a major lack of women in senior creative roles. Is it important that there is more of a balance in gender? I passionately believe that it is - and that female designers and animators can often look at a communication problem in a different way to men. The best way to solve this is for women to be more enterprising, create our own opportunities, and support other female designers and animators coming through the ranks.
What would be your dream project?
I would love to design the opening titles to a feature film or a heavyweight TV-drama.
Do you have any advice for new, aspiring animators?
Of course it goes without saying that you should strive to excel in your chosen craft. However, being nice, well-mannered, and honest are some of the most commercially viable qualities you can have as an animator. Leave your ego at the door, embrace criticism, and be a team player.
How do you think the animation industry will change and progress in the coming years?
Currently I am seeing a move away from traditional delivery formats (like television) and the opportunities to create content for a wide range of surfaces are increasing rapidly. I have just finished a project creating content for a stadium tour delivering content forhuge (and irregular sized) LED screens. Projects such as live events, theatre productions, and digital delivery formats are all presenting new and exciting challenges for animators. With such saturation and demand for content, budgets will be stretched to breaking point- our challenge is to continue producing high-end quality content in the most efficient way possible to make those budgets still count!
Laura’s website: www.laurahulme.com