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One day at a time …

March 17, 2022

Into my second week at The Jelly Reading, it has been good to look back at my back catalogue and remake a ‘loop’ or two.  So far, I have filled my time happily but occasionally I am frustrated with the technical ‘complications.’ Gradually I am finding a path between the required professional ‘finish’ and wayward yearning to childhood delight. 

I am not anxious to be part of the traditional movement or the established gallery system, being able to create work that can be shared outside in the public domain and venture into social media is paramount.

I am enjoying being able to be creative with fabric, texture, colour, and 3-dimensional form but I must also be technically fluid. One day at a time.

Please follow @nelabligh instagram to see the films

On Thursdays … there is light and community

March 11, 2022

Thursday is going to be my day at The Jelly Reading. I have been allowed a little bit of storage space for my workmate stage, sandbags, tripod, and other accessories so that each week I can take a no. 17 bus to Broad Street Mall AKA the Butts Centre with my dolls, backdrop, and camera to make films.  This is a perfect solution for me. I have adequate studio space at home albeit a little cluttered to create and dress the dolls, stitch the backdrops, and undertake all my printing needs.  Sadly, it is not spacious and lacks a reliable light source, my house is a Victorian terrace among hundreds of others where the sun barely gets a look in, also I work alone.  So, while both issues are surmountable from day to day, there come a time when I crave a constant light supply and company.

To find a supportive and welcoming art space has been appreciated and I am looking forward to the next few months when I can learn new skills and improve some others and forming some creative relationships.

This week I took these three coat hanger dolls and a random backdrop to make some moves.  Thinking carefully about the use of my camera focusing, in more ways than one, on ratio, aspect, ISO, shutter speed etc. Then making films that comply to the sharing on Instagram. It seems the different platforms use different techniques that baffle me a lot! So, until I perfect this method, I cannot seriously consider YouTube or ‘real’ films until then I will enjoy making playful loops. 

That can be seen on my Instagram @nelabligh

Magic in the Charity Shop …

March 10, 2022

So, while I can only practice my stop motion animation techniques in ‘my’ studio down the road a bus ride away! I plan to look closely at my ‘story’ and the Charity Shop (s) where unwanted items, clothes, household goods, books and records are deposited by the local community and sold on to the local community.

The shop and its voluntary workers become a microcosm of the locality. 

People for many reasons bring unwanted items to the Charity Shop, such as moving to a smaller house, decluttering, redecoration or just fatigue or boredom.

The gifts or donations are as wide ranging as the neighbourhood itself.  Furniture and electrical goods must be in good repair, but they are often outdated, and miss matched beside things like pictures, books, records, tasteless ornaments, and vases.

All clothing is accepted and useful even it is well worn and has holes. Anything that is not sold will be used in the textile recycling industry and remains vital in charitable concerns. 

I fully understand how charity shops, as if by magic give used items a second life and prevent thousands of tonnes of stuff ending up in landfill.

Furthermore, charity shops give us all in the community a tiny social place where we can update our wardrobes, enjoy vintage, retro and possibly an antique item to decorate our homes, add to our libraries and record collections at a fair price and feel that we are contributing to a charity and helping others beyond our immediate world.

For my part I wish to celebrate the service of the Charity Shop and allow my dolls to explore and enjoy the atmosphere of mismatch, ordinary, outdated, shabby, unfashionable, and relic etc.  

Bringing value to the unworthy.

Looking at the Heros !

March 9, 2022

During my time as a resident artist at The Jelly Reading, I learned much and got lots of positive feedback both directly and indirectly which I enjoyed.  However, while my work and practice is pleasing, I want to learn and develop my portfolio for the future and more important my next exhibition. Even though, kind comments are welcome, positive criticism was also required, fortunately that also was forth coming. 

I am very aware of my short comings as regards technical expertise, photography and staging etc.  but at a loss as to how I can balance the learning with my practice.  It seems there are many other principles that need to be addressed before even taking a shot.  I was delighted to get advice and basic hints and tips from a supportive local artist who has set me on course following the principles of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston who were stop motion animators and two of Disney’s Nine Old Men. They were recognised by the Walt Disney Company with the Disney Legend Award in 1989 and awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2005. Their principles are directed to those who animate 2d cartoon characters, I hope can observe and apply them to my 3d dolls. 

1 Squash and stretch to exaggerate the pose

2 Anticipation to communicate action to the audience

3 Staging, clear action, timing, rule of 3rds etc.

4 Straight ahead and pose to pose, I can observe straight ahead by animating as I go but pose to pose is for 2d drawings.

5 Follow through, extending the pose beyond the action to add drama

6 Slow in, slow out, lots of small moves in the beginning and end, longer steps in the middle a particular action.

7 Arcs, using slow in and out in a spacious curving movement

8 Secondary action, gestures that support the main action to give more dimension and interest

9 Timing using spaces between moves to speed up or slow down

10 Exaggeration taking every action to the next level … be more convincing

11 Solid space, giving a character weight and positive space, this applies more to 2d animation but weight balance and twinning is relevant to 3d

12 Appeal, pleasing to look at, interesting and characterful.

So before I add more dolls to my collection I am going to relook and previous films and applied gradually all of the above principles

A new beginning …

March 6, 2022

Today is my last day at The Jelly Reading. It has been a wonderful experience and I have learned so much.  My coat hanger dolls have been well behaved and much admired.  I had lots of visitors and feed back so far has been positive.  I will be sad to pack up but am looking forward to beginning a new story. However, I was getting a bit anxious and unable to see a way forward.  I have decided to explore the art of stop motion animation further. I am self-taught and my work is rather lackadaisical, I enjoy this style and it is fun, but needs a touch of consistency and professionalism.   So, my plan is to work with a ‘teacher’ and look at a previous story and remake the films made at the time.  I hope to document my journey in my posts and think about an illustrated book. There I said it …

So beginning with

‘The Charity Shop

Along with its distinctive old, used and dusty smell with overfilled racks and shelves this charity shop was no different to the others in the street, between the vape shops, coffee shops and nail bars that had gradually and seemingly unnoticed encroached on the town centre.  Here, at the end of a busy day young mums browsed the racks while children played beneath bemused by the outmoded and broken toys.  Old mums ponder on the coming spring and their meagre wardrobe.   Students selected a random collection of pots and pans for their bedsit kitchens. A man having reached for a suitable pair of shoes, idly flipped through and mused upon the records and their bartered sleeves stacked beside the DVDs and CDs, and the bookcase crammed with well-thumbed novels and picture books. 

A volunteer in a bid to rearrange a jumbled corner selected some framed prints and posters encouraged that the students were interested in decorating the walls of their shabby accommodation. 

However, a handful of prints, faded, and way passed their former glory were put aside in case the frames had any value.  Picasso from his acclaimed blue period along with Matisse, Kandinsky and Degas; once would have hung over the mantlepiece, along a dark passage or strategically placed over an unsightly stain. 

It was the day before lockdown; no longer fit for purpose the prints removed from their frames.   Released, from suspended animation they could join hands and dance to the sounds of the old guitarist. The waiting ballerina distanced from her tutor, pirouetted across the shabby lino floor and the blue boy and the girl waltzed below the shelf of miss matched crockery the two girls rearranged the chair to win favourable glances’

I will research the history of charity shops and the culture that has evolved

Day two at The Jelly

March 1, 2022

Today is day 2 as the artist in residence at The Jelly in Reading, and pleased with the progress so far.  Yesterday I was busy with the setting up my exhibition and workspace. Today I was able to make a stopmotion film.   

Feeling at home …

February 28, 2022

Well, I arrived safe and sound. It was a little difficult to get everything into the car.  There were at least 5 boxes of dolls, and various other bags and containers, a work mate, tripod and stands. It wasn’t a long journey into the centre of town and the parking was easy.  I am happy to be here and making the coat hanger dolls at home for the week.  I have already decided that while I enjoy making the dolls and dressing them and are very well behaved, they do take up a lot of space so I will be curtailing my doll making for a while and developing my film making. I am looking forward to that.

Nearly there …

February 27, 2022

I am very excited about my next step along the path as a profession textile artist and stop motion film maker.  My studio space at The Jelly will only accommodate my dolls and film making equipment, and that will be impossible to take on my bike or bus. So, this morning I have spent imagining what I will be doing and what I need to take … fortunately I will not need the kitchen sink and will ft in the back of my old hatch back!

My studio space is a disused shop in a busy shopping mall in Reading. It is a light, airy welcoming space where I will attract a little attention from passers-by and visitors will pop in … I hope!


February 25, 2022

Since graduating and during the pandemic with its restrictions and various lockdowns I have floundered creatively. The shortened dark days thwarted my plans to make films and I didn’t have the urgency to make costumes for the dolls.  Without purpose I seemingly lost my direction somewhat. 

Fortunately, I have been able to take daily walks, when we first went into lock down, I was reluctant to go far but gradually worked up to 10k in a circular route around my neighbourhood and the university campus nearby.  When the restrictions lifted a little, I built up to 17k and I now do a loop that takes in the Thames and Palmer Park. I leave home before the sun rises in darkness and reach the Thames as it begins to get light, and I am back home for breakfast.  During this couple or so hours, I can keep fit, think, and enjoy nature and more able to work for a few hours before lunch after which I read, research, listen to music and explore coming events. 

Nonetheless those dark days and pointless nature of my practice made me feel lost and alone.

Until that is February dawned! The days began to lengthen and with tiny green shoots in the garden and along the foot path, spring seemed not so far away.  As February draws to a close and we are enjoying two more hours of light a day, there is hope.  Especially as we are told this week that the legal requirements for the prevention of COVID and its spread have been lifted.  While, I’m not sure this a good idea I will not rush to remove my mask and stop COVID prevention practices while in public spaces. however, I am looking forward to a bit more freedom.

So, now my diary is beginning to be dotted with some exhibitions and other interesting opportunities.

Beginning this Monday when I will be an artist in residence at The Jelly in Reading for one week.  The Jelly is a charity championing the creative arts in Reading.  It offers artists’ studios, exhibitions, events, workshops, talks and collaborative projects. As I am a recently appointed associate artist, I have been offered this opportunity for one week only.  As a ‘resident’ I will be able to use studio space to exhibit the Coat Hanger Dolls, make films and do other creative projects and with luck meet people from the community.

Needless this is a very welcome opportunity and will report daily with new vigour. 

Small fish in a big pool …

February 9, 2022

I am no sure where my Coat Hanger Dolls stand in the world of puppets and puppetry. I am a beginner in an indutstry that has its roots in the second and first millennia when early peoples crafted beings and gave them ‘life’. So, the craft developed and became increasingly sophisticated and now has an organised support structure.  Since the early 20th century there has been an International Puppet Union holding international traditional and experimental festivals and producing puppet related books and journals.  Furthermore, puppetry was introduced to Further Education in colleges and universities for those wishing to perform on television, theatres, and festivals professionally.

Me and my dolls are small fry in comparison we cannot hold a candle to the magnificence that goes before and continues …

Nonetheless I will not give up upholding their splendour …