Nancy Jones Senior Model Maker Aardman

Studio Spotlight: Nancy Jones + 5 tips for costume making

This week, we’re shining the spotlight on Senior Model Maker and Aardman Academy tutor, Nancy Jones. Read on to find out how Nancy turned her passion for making and sewing into a career, followed by the costume making tips she swears by.

How did you start out in the industry and what is your role at Aardman?

My first job working for an animation studio was sanding giant Smarties.

I finished my Fine Art Sculpture degree in Coventry and moved to Bristol. Not knowing quite what direction to take, I took my brother up on an offer of work at The Arnolfini cafe bar. Here I met lots of interesting people and met friends in the animation industry who, knowing I wanted to get creative again, soon encouraged me to ask for work.

To date, what has been your biggest professional achievement?

Working for Aardman over the years has been very rewarding. I’ve loved working as part of a big creative team on some very exciting projects.

One of the highlights for me was making Pete Lord’s pirate captain fancy dress outfit, complete with Polly, for the wrap party for The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! I knew this was going to be my last feature for a while and I put my whole heart into creating every detail of it.

Name three people who inspire you:

My parents have always inspired, supported, and encouraged me. I’m very lucky.

Two people whose work very much inspires me are Vivienne Westwood the late Alexander McQueen.

Tell us what a typical day at the studio is like for you?

These days I tend to work from home on Aardman’s commercial projects where costumes are required.

I also have become involved with the Aardman Academy where I have taken a costume tutor role, which is great fun – so much talent and enthusiasm.

DFS was a great campaign that spanned several years. When I got a call saying the next commercial was going ahead, I’d visit Chris Entwhistle, Head of Model Making, and check out the storyboards and costume designs. Then I’d have a quick chat with the director and head off on my first mission: sourcing fabrics. Due to the wonderful colours, patterns and textures required for these puppets the charity shops called and I was in my element!

A puppet from the DFS ‘Welcome in Spring’ campaign, dressed by Nancy

Back to the studio for fabric approval then usually I’d slip away with a couple of puppet bodies and some fabric and return a week or so later with them dressed ready for approval and head and hand attachment.

What do you like most about working at Aardman?

I have met some wonderful people over the last 20 years made some friends for life, had some extreme laughs and been part of some fabulous creative projects.

What’s your desk/work area like – messy or tidy?

My desk is controlled chaos!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Making, especially sewing, is my passion and makes me very happy. I am very grateful I’ve been able to make a career out of it.

A lot of my work ends up in most rooms of our house, or the evidence of it – fluff, pins, thread. Thankfully I have a very supportive, enthusiastic husband and son who don’t seem to mind too much and have become pin ninjas too.

What’s your all-time favourite project that you’ve been involved with and why?

Got to be Chicken Run, the first Aardman film I worked on. I was young, foot loose etc., I was making money doing what I loved, working and partying with fab people.

What’s your best advice for people wanting to get into the industry?

Believe in yourself. Be determined and unforgettable… in a good way! Look for opportunities and make the most of them. Work hard and laugh hard.

Who is your favourite Aardman character and why?

Morph and Gromit are two of my favourite characters as they’re both a bit cheeky without using words. Then, due to my own personal love of dressing up, I love Lady Tottington and all her wonderful outfits.

Nancy’s 5 tips for costume making

1. Invest in a pair of sharp, small, scissors with good points.

2. Choose the right fabric for the costume. Think about what the puppet needs to do. You don’t want the costume to restrict the puppet’s movement. Also think about the aesthetic of the costume, and find a fabric which will achieve both these of things.

3. Less is more! Consider the scale of the puppet. Sometimes suggestions of zips or over-stitching can be simplified to give a better overall effect.

4. Once you’ve cut pattern pieces, seal edges so you don’t end up with a fraying frenzy! I use a fray checks called ‘Prym’ and ‘Gold-Zack’.

5. Combine stitching with gluing in the construction of costumes. My favourite glue to use is Uhu.

Nancy’s Aardman Academy Shirt Tales: Costume Making course takes place between 7-8th October 2020 via Zoom. Register your interest here.

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