Breaking the mould has been Aardman’s speciality since its humble beginnings in 1972. From bringing us Wallace & Gromit to Shaun the Sheep, the studio has been a creative pioneer in analogue and digital storytelling.
There’s a whimsical charm and undeniable energy to stop-motion animation. The allure lies within the texture of the medium’s hand-craftsmanship where hundreds of creatives across many disciplines tirelessly work to produce the vision.
Giving us a taste of the creative process, Aardman will be at the MAKEMORE festival with a series of workshops like character model making led by Helen Javes and storyboarding creation led by Sylvia Bull.
We sat down with Helen Javes to delve into her journey and learn more about the hands-on experience she’ll be offering during the festival.
“When you put a lump of clay in front of anybody, it’s almost instinctive behaviour to pick it up and manipulate it,” says Helen Javes, an Aardman set dresser and prop maker.
Witnessing this connection with clay-making has been Helen’s experience among kids and adults whilst running workshops for Aardman over the last eight years. And for Helen, it was that same visceral inception which ended up altering her entire career path.
Whilst studying for an interior design degree, it was a tutorial of the model-making studio at university that changed everything. “On my first day we did the tutorial, and I just went, ‘I made a terrible, terrible mistake. THIS is what I should be doing!’”
It was the spark of a career-long passion that never left as she immediately “badgered” companies to give her a job after graduation. She was fortunate to start off with Bumper Films working on Starhill Ponies. After her contract ended, she skipped up the road to Aardman. “It is persistence and being at the right place at the right time,” she says.
From pressing wings of the puppets in PG Tips commercials to set dressing Shaun the Sheep, Helen has vast experience in Aardman’s art department bringing their fantastic productions to life.
“There’s still a charm to 3D stop frame and there’s a passion for it,” Helen says. “Certainly when I do workshops, I see that children are still very much enamoured by it, and they’ll make their own little animations and they can bring things to life from their own hands creatively.”
Helen will be leading clay-making workshops at the festival where you’ll be able to create your own Shaun the Sheep and other beloved characters, which of course, can go home with you afterwards.