Melbourne-based all-round incredible creative Kate Isobel Scott, best known for her animations and illustrations, loves the simplicity of making things.
Reappropriating the word 'craft', which is often wrongly dismissed as something lesser than art and illustration, Kate instead thrives within it – getting her hands messy and creating the most incredible work in the process.
We spoke to Kate about her practice, the beauty behind the 'crudeness' of her work and the importance of playfulness.
Hey, Kate! Your practice is truly unequalled, to say the least! How would you define it?
I really like craft and the simplicity of making things. Lockdown, on some levels, has been ideal for me as I love just putting on an audiobook and getting crafty (my 20-year-old self would roll her eyes at this)! I find that I have a very short attention span when it comes to sitting down and working in front of a screen, but give me a ball of plasticine, and I can sit down for hours!
I love working with plasticine as it is so simple and raw. I like the roughness of the material that it's not delicate or fragile. There is no right (or wrong) way of using it, plus, like paint, it mixes in any colour. I recently watched some children's TV, and I couldn't get my head around how everything was so digital, so clean and perfect. I was brought up watching things like 'Pingu', 'Don't you Open That Trap Door' and 'Postman Pat' where the characters looked and felt more alive. I really appreciated this style of animation as a child and now feel that their handmade aesthetic made them more engaging.
The shows that I grew up watching have had a huge influence on what I make now. I am definitely clinging on to those nostalgic memories and celebrating their wonky imperfections rather than being pulled into a more digital world! Having said that, I do also love working in photoshop, and after effects, one of my latest animations was animated entirely digitally (but still with handmade elements - I'll never give up on that)!
There is somewhat of a beautiful crudeness within the physicality and texture of your work; is this a conscious thing?
I really enjoy a more naive aesthetic. I like to think this makes you look at an image or film longer, whilst trying to figure out how it was made, what it was made from and noticing things (that at first glance) you may have missed.
It is lucky that I have embraced this crude and unconventional style as there is nothing about me that is neat and perfect; I mean, it is even evident in my hair; it is out of control! I used to struggle a lot when assisting set designers and working in art departments. I would try so hard to make things look perfect and mirror the example given to me, but my quirkiness would always find a way to escape, not ideal in that situation. I would fight back and deny it, but now I have come to terms with it and embraced and celebrated it. I know I can't cut or draw a straight line, and I have finally come to appreciate rather than fight this and make it central to my work.
I am lucky to work closely with my agent Helen and producer Verity at Everyone Agency; they are a good buffer before my work hits the client. For example, I recently made a character that had a big fat thumbprint squished into its head. I didn't notice it, but luckily their sharp eyes politely inquired if it was Intentional!
What I find ever-present to your work is this sense of unbridled fun; it's contagious; we can't help but wonder and smile at what you make. How important is playfulness in your process?
I would say this is a key aspect of my work. I share a studio with my boyfriend, Jordy Van Den Nieuwendijk, who is a painter and illustrator. Spending all our time together is like a beautiful nightmare. Beautiful, in that, Jordy is great at encouraging me to play with ideas. He has a playful brain and makes me think more outside the box. He also laughs at most of my jokes, all of which fill me with confidence. The more nightmarish side of things is that Jordy has a dutch directness which forces me to take a step back and be critical and to justify the reasons why I have made things in a particular way. He is also an art teacher, so he is really good at feedback, but it really can rub me up the wrong way if it's not what I want to hear. In hindsight, this is all stuff that I need to hear, but it turns out I find criticism difficult, haha. I think it is important to play and have fun with your work but also understand why you have made it the way you have.
There is something very distinctly you about the work you create; what would you say your signature language is?
I would say that I have quite a strong visual language. However, I like to work in different media, from plasticine to painting and embroidery. I have also recently got into wood carving. I would say what links it all together is the acceptance that what I make is going to be purposefully imperfect, not exact and polished, but at least always a total one-off! Every set, prop or character that I make will be totally unique. I never recycle ideas or designs. I never really thought I had a signature style to my work, but now, looking back or scrolling through my Instagram, I can see there is a recognisable craft in what I create personified by the shapes, colour and overall treatment of my work.
I do appreciate perfection in other people's work. However, I try not to get caught up in this too much or put unnecessary pressure on myself, which might add stress to my practice.
I shoot mostly in stop motion, and if I was to constantly stress about a hair out of place or a small stray crumb of clay in shot, I would probably never get to the end of a shoot! Now I realise that I don't need to worry, that I can enjoy these little imperfections and now know that most unseen 'disasters' can be remedied by me in post- rather than with a re-shoot! I've learnt to not get caught up in perfection and enjoy the process. If I enjoy making it, it will always show in the final result.
Whenever something feels like a real slog, I tend to take the dog for a walk and come back with a clear mind to get back to it! I am actually, believe it or not, a perfectionist, which for someone who is good and making things look imperfect is a beautiful irony!
The work you create is obviously very time consuming but must be really rewarding at the same time – what've you been up to recently?
I have just finished an animation for the launch of the Andre Walker x Off-White capsule clothing collaboration (part of Virgil Abloh's "Foundations" program for the brand), which launched in February this year.
The outline brief was for a 30" animation showing the main character cruising the streets of NYC wearing clothes from the collection. I usually create and shoot all my moving image work in stop-frame animation, but for this project, I decided to create all the elements by hand (as I usually do) but then shoot them as stills and animate the film digitally.
This helped with the time constraints but meant I felt (initially) a little out of my comfort zone. But with the help of my agent and producer at Everyone Agency and the pro skills of master compositor Stephen McNally, I navigated my way through the digital animation approach and ended up really loving the end result. I honestly feel the film looks exactly how it would have had I shot it for real in stop motion, proving teamwork makes the dream work!
I have also recently made a short stop motion animation (alongside a host of other incredibly talented female animators) that will form part of a minute-long commercial for Gym Shark that launched on International Women's Day this year. This was a fun contrast against Off White as it was a whole diffract approach to making something. Again, I worked closely with my agent, producer and a great compositor (Bethany Levy). Both projects highlight how great it is to work in a team, something I had really missed from my past art department days. I really enjoy being able to discuss ideas and get different points of view, as well as having other pairs of eyes double-checking for quality control!
What questions do you wish people asked?
Hmmm, maybe something along the lines of…What do you do with the characters after you have finished with the project?
My answer would be: I pull all the plasticine off the characters, squash and roll them into a ball and start all over again - my favourite process of the whole thing!!
Finally, what have you got coming up?
I am very excited to see the Gym Shark animation come out as my work will be rubbing shoulders next to some animators that I have been a huge fan of for such a long time! I have to pinch myself a bit that I was included in the selection.