The expert sculptor has worked on Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep. Now he’s sharing his skills on creative away days around Bristol...

Profile picture of Aardman model maker Jim Parkyn holding Shaun the Sheep

Image - Jim Parkyn  

Looking for an away day that will really inspire your staff? Jim Parkyn, Senior Model Maker at Aardman, tells us all about the Oscar-winning animation studio’s creative workshops where attendees make their own characters out of clay - including the one and only Morph!

First off, tell us something people might not know about you:

Interesting fact: I used to be a cheese maker.

So what does a typical Aardman Away Day involve?

The workshops often involve some travel, so I’ll either be driving or catching the train to a venue, and from then on it’s an action-packed day of talking to people, sharing my love of modelling clay and teaching people all about animation.

Unpacking the clay and setting out all of the kits is the big first thing to do on arrival. Once that’s done, I can relax and have a chat with the organisers / teams who work at the venues. They are always excited for us to be there and are very keen to get started so I encourage them to join and have a go with the rest of the attendees.

What do attendees tend to find most surprising about model making?

People tend to comment on the smell of the clay. For many, this is very evocative of childhood and school days. When they start the workshop, the attendees are often surprised by how much work goes into making Morph and our other characters - although they may look simple, they are actually quite tricky to get right. By the end though, they are really pleased at having created something that looks like the character we set out to make, and they can use to make an animation. It’s amazing what you can achieve in such a short time!

Do you have a favourite Aardman character?

Creature Comforts is still my very favourite project to watch and be involved in, even though it doesn't typically have many running characters. In my travels I have met several people who have been the voices of fleas or slugs etc. and it is always so lovely to hear the pleasure that it gives them.

What do you do during a typical day at work?  

It can be incredibly varied! We always start with a cup of tea and a catch-up with the rest of the team, and then on to something simple like mixing modelling clay colour recipes for sculpting, or remoulding cast elements from the day before. Then later we’ll move on to armature making (the metal framework that goes inside the puppets), or mould making.

I try to do the more mentally taxing things in the morning as that’s when I’m at my sharpest. Afternoons are good for the more physical sides of model making like mixing big batches of clay, pouring moulds and cutting armature elements ready for soldering together. Usually I end with drafting a to-do list for the next day and ordering materials if needed.

What would your ideal creative day out in Bristol be?

There is so much to draw upon creatively in Bristol. If I am seeking inspiration I will often have a day of visiting my favourite spots. A wander around Bristol Museum and then on to the RWA gallery usually does the trick, or else going to Arnolfini and the M Shed. Sometimes a day spent sketching at the zoo is just the ticket. These trips are usually punctuated by good coffee and cake.

Any other tips for visitors to the city?

M Shed is great for potted history of all things Bristol and there are loads of good places to eat and drink along the Harbourside. 

Find out more about Aardman Away Day experiences, and how they can be tailored to suit your team, here

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