Programme: Animation - BA; Music - BMus

Year: 2012; 2004

Since graduating in 2012, animation alumnus Ainslie Henderson has won numerous awards including a BAFTA in 2013 for co-writing and animating the film 'The Making of the Longbird' with fellow animation graduate Will Anderson. Here he talks about his time at ECA and his collaboration with 2004 Music graduate Poppy Ackroyd on an animation 'Stems'.

Could you tell us a little bit about your time at ECA?

My time at ECA was a joy. At 30 I was a little older than most when I went to art school, so I really appreciated it, I worked hard and made the most of it. Maybe I worked a little too hard. On reflection, maybe I didn't make the most of it. Maybe I should have spent more time partying, getting drunk, talking with sculpture students about postmodernism, sleeping in, and missing lectures. Maybe that's making the most of it. What does making the most of it even mean? The animation department was fantastic though, I can't fault them, it was a hive of work and ideas, and the tutors were fantastic. It was a precious time.

Could you tell us about your creative practice – what you do and why you do it?

We're stuck on a rock in space with absolutely no idea what we should be doing, besides surviving. Surviving is what everything other than art is. Without getting overly sincere on you, I think the only answer to this perplexing and bizarre fix we find ourselves in is to keep increasing our capacity for love and understanding, and I think making art is a good way to do that. A practice is something I'm constantly trying to find, 'practice' makes me imagine this nourishing rhythm of creating that is enjoyable and fruitful, which mine rarely is; it's sporadic, and frustrating. I suppose it usually features me exploring something earnest and human alongside some surreal stop motion animation.

Stems trailer

""It made me more interested in the process than the outcome. It made me think about the why of making things, which is something I'm asking myself more and more.""

Ainslie Henderson, 2012 Animation graduate

How did your time at ECA inform your creative practice?

It made me more interested in the process than the outcome. It made me think about the why of making things, which is something I'm asking myself more and more. It helped me see that making things can be an exploration of why I'm making them. It also highlighted the importance of being around other creative people.

How did you make “Stems”?

It was the most improvised film I've made. I had no script or plan. Poppy (Ackroyd, who made the sound and music) would send me some noises, and I would make instruments or characters who looked like they might have made those sounds, then I would send her pictures and she would send more noises back. I didn't have a clue what I was doing for quite some time, and I let myself be lost, which was ultimately really valuable.

What is “Stems” about?

I suppose its about that lostness in creating, the not knowing where you're going, and finding interesting accidents, and following them spontaneously. It's also about the process of stop motion and and how the aliveness of puppets comes and goes.

Ainslie Henderson
Image courtesy of Ainslie
Ainslie Henderson
Poppy Ackroyd
Image courtesy of Poppy
Poppy Ackroyd

What are you working on next?

I'm making a feature documentary/drama hybrid with my regular collaborator, Will Anderson, called Dom. Its a funny film about cancer, and explores how the threat of a terminal illness can shake our relationships, and how we can hide from reality in making art. I'm also working on a stage show for Manipulate Festival using projected, live stop motion.

Poppy Ackroyd also talked about their collaboration.

I met Ainslie when I auditioned to play keyboards and violin in his band almost 10 years ago. We played music together for several years, a lot of which was just the two of us performing his music acoustically. Since Ainslie started working with animation, and I started releasing my own music, we have talked about creating something, and when he pitched 'Stems' to me it seemed like the perfect project. Much of my music is about exploring interesting sounds and layers and the little characters in 'Stems', each performing a different element of the music, really bring it to life.
In both mine and Ainslie's work there is often an apparent naivety coupled with a narrative that has a deeper, and quite often honest and raw, emotional quality. 'Stems' is a good example of this.

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