Spotlight: Andrea Love, Wool Animator

Tulip Production in Progress

Spotlight: Andrea Love, Wool Animator

Andrea Love takes you into a miniature fiber fantasy world with her art, brought to life with stop-motion animation. With the eye of a filmmaker, she brings tiny wooly beings to life, telling stories at 12 frames per second.

Andrea and frog during production of Tulip
Andrea & Frog during production of Tulip

What are your earliest memories involving your own creative expression?

I realized that I enjoyed making art at a very young age. One of my earliest artistic memories involved drawing portraits of my twin brother’s Beanie Babies and then selling them to him for 5 cents. Who knows, those drawings might have accrued some value over the years. 

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Which came first? Film or fiber?

Film was my first love. I am a visual learner and thinker, so movies and TV have always been my preferred form of entertainment.   

One of my childhood dreams was to work at the local movie store, which I did throughout high school. Unlimited free rentals exposed me to a wide world of film and animation, and inspired me to start experimenting on my own.  

I didn’t start needle felting until after college, a couple years into my animation journey. Incorporating fiber into my animation work is my biggest passion, as it never ceases to amaze me how well the two mediums work together.

Andrea on set during production of The Messy Adventures of Mud
Andrea on set during production of The Messy Adventures of Mud

After studying film in college, did you know that you wanted to specialize in stop motion animation?

Stop motion was definitely my specialty when I graduated from college, but it was not something I considered pursuing as a career. I didn’t want to move to a big city, which mostly eliminated the possibility of working at an established studio. And I didn’t want to go back to school, which would have helped me get my animation skills to a more marketable level. I wrote it off as a hobby, and moved to the west coast for an internship at an organic farm. A couple years later, I started dipping my toes into some freelance work for local businesses and things took off from there. 

How does stop motion animation work? Can you give us a sense of the process? For example, how many frames do you shoot to produce one minute of film? How many days does it take to produce that minute?

Stop motion refers to animation that is photographed one frame at a time, using physical puppets and sets.  

The animator manipulates the puppet, ever so slightly, between each frame. Typically there are either 24 frames per second or 12 frames per second. I shoot 12 FPS, as it allows for a faster workflow.   

I can animate anywhere between 5 and 20 seconds a day, depending on how complicated the animation is – whether it is 2D or 3D, whether the puppet is walking around or just talking, whether there’s secondary animation like water or fire that has to be done simultaneously, etc. 

Tulip Production in Progress
Tulip Production in Progress

How do you create a concept for a film? Do you work alone or have collaborators?

My long form films (ranging from 2 minutes to 8 minutes) always involve collaborators.  

Sometimes a business or individual will commission a film from me. Or, as is the case right now, I will independently produce a film with collaborators.  

Either way, I like working with writers or receiving a brief that gives me a basic concept and framework. Then I can let my mind run wild to figure out how to visually represent the story in my own style. 

Depending on the budget, I will hire contractors to do things like make miniature puppet costumes or various set pieces. After the animation is complete, I collaborate with composers, sound designers, and post-production folks whose skills don’t overlap with my own. 

I realized a long time ago that my work will always be elevated by collaborating with people with complementary skills.  

Cooking with wool by Andrea Love

How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?

It’s really hard to stay organized. By nature, my creative process can be pretty chaotic. But the more people I involve in the filmmaking process, the more organized I need to be.  

The best way to stay organized is to start with an animatic, which breaks a film down into all the individual shots. This is an invaluable tool that gives me a guide for what puppets to build, what angles of the sets to build, and how the puppets should interact with the sets (what scale they should be, what special rigging they need for certain moves, how long the shots need to be).  

The animatic also helps my collaborators understand the bigger vision and how their part fits into it. When more people are involved, the pre-production process is more important than ever. 

What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?

The thing that makes my stop motion work recognizable is my use of fiber. When possible, I will go so far as to make everything out of wool, either through needle felting or fabric felt.  

By applying such a rigid constraint, I’m creating a cohesive world where everything can blend together in fuzzy harmony. I think that this type of stop motion has a lot of potential and I see it growing in popularity as people discover it online. I hope that someday it will be an animation technique as well-known as Claymation, and that it might inspire a young generation of fiber artists.

Andrea's studio

Describe your creative space.

I have a great basement studio that has two different rooms.  

One space is designated for fabrication work – everything that goes into building puppets and set pieces. This is where I’ll be sculpting, felting, painting, and generally making a mess.  

Then I have a black box room that is devoid of any natural light. This is where the animation happens. I have a large animation stage (basically a table constructed with 2x4s and plywood), surrounded by small studio lights, tripods and various rigging equipment.  

I love working from home and being nimble. But someday I would like to work with a larger team of people in a bigger space. However for now, during this pandemic, having a fully functional home studio is a great asset. 

Andrea and her miniature kitchen made from wool

What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?

The four essential materials in my studio are wool, rigid foam, felting needles and wire.  

I have an extensive wool collection which includes fiber of all different colors and textures. Much of the fiber I use can be reused if it hasn’t been felted into a puppet or detailed set piece.  

All of my wool sets are felted onto rigid foam bases which have been sculpted into rough shapes. This allows me to make large 3D sets without using too much wool. And having the wool adhered to a hard interior makes it less likely I will bump the set and send the wool flying.

I buy felting needles in bulk, both for felting and for securing my props onto my foam sets.  

And lastly, aluminum wire is the base for my puppets. I make my puppets with replaceable limbs, as wire is guaranteed to break with repeated use. It is much easier to replace one limb of a puppet rather than having to scrap the whole thing. 

Wire is also a very useful rigging tool. When a puppet or prop needs to float in the air, something has to hold it up. Once the animation is complete, a post-production artist can go in and remove the wire from each frame.   

Painting a landscape with wool

What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?

 The unsung hero of my operation is the rigid foam.  

I buy large sheets of insulation foam from the building supply store and repurpose it for my sets. It can be messy and annoying to work with, but this type of fiber animation really wouldn’t be possible without it. It comes in varying thicknesses, and can be reused up to a certain point. It’s the perfect texture for needle felting, and it’s super light-weight, which is very helpful when constructing sets. As unglamorous as it is, it has been instrumental in developing my techniques.

Andrea Love Quote

What’s next for you?

I am in the home stretch co-directing and animating an 8-minute short film adaptation of Thumbelina called Tulip.  I have been working on this film for almost a year, and it will soon be in post-production and hopefully on its way to film festivals around the world.  

In the meantime, I am embarking on a completely unknown journey of becoming a mother. I will be taking some time off this summer to enjoy new parenthood, and hope to ease back into work later in the fall. I’m not sure what awaits me when I return to the studio, but I’m looking forward to continuing my stop motion and fiber journey.   

Interview with Andrea Love posted July 2020

Browse through more inspiring felting projects on Create Whimsy. Want more animation with miniatures?

Check out our interview with Sally Mavor who creates miniatures for book illustrations.

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