Claymation, frustration and creation

I have found few things as rewarding, exasperating, creative, tedious, and rage-inducing than learning claymation. And this includes learning how to roll a perm in under half an hour in cosmetology school nearly two decades ago, where I saw no less than a dozen stylists lob their mannequin heads across the room in a fit of frustration.

Take yesterday, for instance, I had a plan, I finally had the material to make the plan happen, I was going to record a short little scene of a flower growing. Simple enough, yeah? In theory. But there were a lot of moving parts to the plan, and all in close vicinity to a five-year-old.

First, I had to set the scene, which was originally going to be on a picture frame, standing on a bookshelf. It became clear, immediately that none of that was going to work, between the reflection, glare on the glass, and, well, gravity. I was still pretty set on having the whole thing in a frame, so I had to get creative. I pulled everything out of the frame and taped it to a piece of wood.

I got the scene lit, the tripod set up and promptly broke the plastic grip that holds my phone above the scene, so I had to track down something else that would work, ending up taking apart a selfie-stick and attaching it to my tripod.

By the time I got to the point where I was actually touching clay, I was already irritated. I set the kiddo up next to me and gave him some of my clay to play with so I could sculpt my flower. This part I really enjoyed, creating all the little pieces, feeling the nice cool smoosh in my fingers.


I did a couple of trial runs to see if what I had in my head was even possible and I was pretty excited to get it going.

On my 102nd frame, I shifted to avoid the toddler, who was now next to me, already bored with his part of the clay and bumped the table. I tried to reset it, but it was too late, the damage had been done. Everything had rolled around and there was no getting it back to where it started.

I wanted to cry. Three hours of work for eight seconds of a clip. EIGHT SECONDS.

I stepped away and ate lunch before I even looked at what I’d manage to capture. But when I did, I had to admit it was adorable, and a great proof of concept for the actual video I wanted to make.

At the end of the day, I ended up with eight seconds of something I was proud of and I’d learned a lot. The next time should go smoother, and then smoother the time after that. Assuming I manage not to break anything else.


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  • Nikki

    Nikki is a photographer, writer, artist, and advocate of radical self-love. She writes about mental health, gaming, sex, and inclusivity.

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