We’ve just unveiled a brand spanking new exhibit in our California garden in the Med Biome. Amidst the chaparral and wildflowers you’ll find a sweet little round hut, thatched with bulrushes.
It’s our interpretation of the traditional American Indian tule huts made by native American Indians across California.
Just like theirs, our hut is made of a spherical wooden frame – a bit like a bender – and covered in bulrushes (‘tule’ in Spanish). But while the native tribes used willow and sycamore to erect a framed hemisphere, we’ve sourced wood from trees a bit closer to home, substituting the sycamore with poplar and hazel.
Our rushes (the English freshwater bulrush, Schoeneplectus lacustris) were harvested by hand from the River Great Ouse in Bedfordshire – from punts! We sourced them from Rush Matters, where Felicity Irons and her team dry them in the wind and sun, in a British tradition which goes back centuries.
American Indian tule huts
Tule was central to the life of American Indian tribes, particularly the Chumash tribe, who once numbered 15,000 – 30,000 people.
In Chumash villages across California whole families would live in tule huts measuring between four and twelve metres across. Because they were easy to repair – using readily available materials – the structures would last a lifetime.
Rushes were used to make a whole range of things, such as mats and clothing, nappies and menstrual padding, and even large, round, flat shoes for walking on mud. Of course the Chumash ate tule as well, grinding seeds into flour, cooking roots, and eating raw shoots in the spring.
By regularly cutting and burning the rushes – which cleared out old, dying stems and stimulated new growth – the Chumash helped keep the marshes productive, offering a great habitat for wildlife too.
Medicine wheels and vernal pools
You’ll spot a circle of stones outside our tule hut. We’ve echoed the Native American Indian medicine wheel here, featuring Mother Earth, Father Sky, Spirit Tree and the points of the compass. Tribes would use sacred spaces like these to communicate with the spiritual and natural world – knowing that, as hunter-gatherers, they were very dependent on nature.
Next year we’re also creating a vernal pool, one of the natural rainwater basins that were once typical of the Californian landscape. Around it you’ll see a whole variety of Californian plants growing up around the hut. The seeds are on their way over from Santa Barbara Botanic Garden as we write…
Come and visit the hut when you’re next at Eden!
With thanks to Rush Matters for their great photos.
At this year’s Freaky Nature event you’ll have the chance to think up a design for your own strange plant using parts of other real plants. Here’s what you’ll have to do:
- explore how some plants have evolved to taste nice or nasty by following the trail around our Biomes (see below for a preview of the plants you’ll meet)
- look at the ‘Freaky Plants’ scores of each plant to find out their best skills
- make a model of your freaky plant in our Stage area, and add it to the growing forest of freakiness!
Choose your plant parts
Here’s a sneaky peek at some of the plants you’ll meet along the trail through our Biomes. When you find them at Eden, you’ll find out their Freaky Plant scores to help you design a truly strange creation!
This tree grows shiny, yellow fruits full of slimy, brown bean seeds which get turned into yummy chocolate. Humans took some plants from their home in South America and bred and planted them in West Africa and other parts of the tropics. Animals only like the slimy white goo, which surrounds the seed. The goo is sweet, tasty and looks a little like nose ooze – yeuk! The animals don’t like the bitter brown bean seeds so spit them out and then they grow.
Humans love this plant: its seeds are roasted and drunk all over the world! So we plant it all over the world (originally it came from Ethiopia). Animals like it too! They eat the shiny red berries that surround the seeds. The seeds are not digested and come out in the animal’s poo – their own little packet of fertilizer. Some coffee beans are improved by an animal’s gut. The coffee from the civet cat’s poo is some of the most expensive and tasty in the world!
Cashew nuts are tricky to harvest as the shells contain a poison that burns the skin. A single cashew nut grows under a large fruit (that looks a bit like a red pepper). This ‘cashew apple’ is edible, full of good vitamins and sometimes made into a juice. Bats, birds and other animals eat the fruit but throw away the nut because of its poisonous shell. This helps the cashew nut tree spread as the nut grows into new tree. Roasting the nuts destroys the poison but has to be done outside as the smoke is poisonous too.
This strange-looking fruit has its flowers on the inside – this doesn’t stop it getting pollinated though! It gives off a special chemical when it is ready to be pollinated which attracts a special wasp, which gets inside the fig, lays its eggs and pollinates the fig. The wasp’s head and legs are a particular shape that allow it to get through a tiny little hole at the bottom of the fig fruit. Humans like eating figs too so plant them on farms and in gardens. The fig tree is a vigorous grower and survives in poor soils.
Grapes from vines are used to make wine, which has lead to them becoming the most widely grown fruit in the world. Humans feed and water the vines and protect them from pests and diseases. Animals also like the fruits and poo out the seeds (in their own packet of fertilizer) to grow in other places. Vines look dead in winter and send out new green shoots each spring when the weather warms up.
This big, succulent plant has fleshy leaves and really nasty spikes to keep off would-be munchers. It is used for its fibres to make rope, cloth and embroidery thread for leather – it has to be harvested very carefully. People have also worked out how to make alcoholic drinks from the sugary sap and a tasty sugary syrup from the nectar.
Find out more on our agave americana plant profile page.
We’ve joined forces with Anglia Ruskin University and Change Agents UK to launch a new Masters course that will provide graduates with the knowledge and skills to act as catalysts for sustainability.
Entitled ‘MSc Sustainability: Working for Positive Change’, the Masters course is accredited by Anglia Ruskin University, with several modules being taught here at the Eden Project.
The course incorporates a number of residential weeklong workshops – both here and at Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute, in Cambridge – an online learning component, and a work placement giving students the chance to apply their skills in a real-life setting.
Anglia Ruskin is providing the academic content of the course and, through its Global Sustainability Institute, access to state-of-the-art research and expertise. Students will contribute to a wide range of research projects being undertaken including the impact of resource constraints, the communication of climate science, and issues surrounding climate finance.
Here at Eden graduates will be able to experience at first hand a living example of a social enterprise, focussing on themes such as governance and behavioural change, community engagement, and good business practice.
Dr Tony Kendle, our Creative Director says: ‘The qualification will cover a wide range of subjects that will become increasingly important as we continue to adapt to our changing world. We hope that students will be inspired by the course and that they will use this inspiration to create the transformational projects of the future.’
The MSc in Sustainability, which begins in September, is open to students from any discipline wanting to become sustainability professionals or to influence change within their existing profession. Students can study full-time (one year) or part-time (two years) from anywhere in the country.
Apply for a place on the Masters course via the MSc Sustainability website.
Reigning champion Billy Deakin was the big winner in the second annual World Pasty Championships, held at the Eden Project in Cornwall today.
Billy, from Mount Hawke, Cornwall regained the champion spot in the Cornish Pasty Amateur category of the prestigious awards. Last year he missed the prize-giving ceremony because he had to get home to walk his dog Zero.
Henry Cornish, 14, son of last year’s Cornish Pasty and Open Savoury Professional winner Graham Cornish, won the Open Savoury Junior category while his brother Simon came second in the Cornish Pasty Junior category.
More than 125 professional and amateur bakers descended on Eden and winners across eight categories were announced at a ceremony dubbed the Oggy Oscars in Eden’s Visitor Centre.
Billy Deakin said: ‘It feels great to win, last year it was a bit of a surprise but this year I really wanted to win. I made the same pasty I always make at home and the judges obviously liked it as much as I do. I put a lot of effort and time into it yesterday – I wanted to make sure it was as good as it could be. I’m over the moon, it’s been a really good day, loads of great entertainment and it tops it off to actually win again.’
Henry Cornish said: ‘I’m a bit surprised to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting it because I entered just for fun but I’m really happy. My dad winning last year opened up my eyes so I thought that I would have a go this year. I did a pizza pasty because I absolutely love pizza so I thought why don’t I try and make it into a pasty.’
Also recognised on the day was Cornwall-born Mike Amery, who is the co-winner of the special Pasty Ambassador award with his friend Louisa Haggerty. Mike is so passionate about the pasty he has flown with Louisa from his home in New Hope, Pennsylvania, USA, to source ingredients fresh from a farm before preparing what hoped will be the perfect pasty.
Mike baked two different entries, a traditional Cornish pasty that adheres strictly to the European rules and in the non-Cornish category, one of his personal favourites, a lamb pasty with mint and a blending of traditional vegetables, all fresh and locally sourced.
Mike said: ‘We’re very grateful for the award and hope we can live up to the title, we’ll now have to spread the word across the whole US! I definitely have some ideas to develop my pasties so we shall see what next year brings.’
Louisa said: ‘This is wonderful, it’s very nice to be recognised for having come so far and we’ll be back next year!’
Also known as the Olympics of the Oggy, the intense day-long competition in front of thousands of avid pasty fans celebrates Cornwall’s most famous food export in advance of St Piran’s Day on 5 March. The competition is supported by the Cornish Pasty Association.
Graham Cornish, who won both the Cornish Pasty Professional and Open Savoury Professional categories last year, also attended the event. Rather than competing, Graham gave visitors the opportunity to sample his prize-winning pasties.
Alongside the competition, the event was crammed full of home-grown entertainment and activities for visitors to get involved with, from live music and comedy and pasty workshops, to beer tasting at the Sharp’s real ale bar and speed-crimping competitions.
Cornish Pasty Amateur
Winner – Billy Deakin from Mount Hawke, Cornwall
Second – Jonathan Lovejoy from Plymstock, Plymouth
Third – Vanessa Farr from Bristol
Cornish Pasty Professional
Winner – Andy Heath from Bodmin, Cornwall
Second – Ryan Smedley from Padstow, Cornwall
Third – Tom Smith from Padstow, Cornwall
Cornish Pasty Company
Winner – Pasty Presto
Second – Warrens Bakery
Third – Brian Etherington Meat Company
Cornish Pasty Junior
Winner – Tabitha Delbridge, aged 6 from Helston, Cornwall
Second – Simon Cornish, aged 11, from Launceston, Cornwall
Third – Jessica Piotrowicz, aged 11, from Redruth, Cornwall
Open Savoury Amateur
Winner – Terry O’Connor from Watford.
Second – Mary Jane Burrage from Bristol
Third – Laura-Jayne Atkinson from Feock, Cornwall
Open Savoury Professional
Winner – Luisa Ead from Padstow, Cornwall
Second – Jason Jobling from Penzance, Cornwall
Third – Dave Plechowicz from St Stephen, Cornwall
Open Savoury Company
Winner – Chough Bakery
Second – The Royal Marine
Third – Pasty Presto
Open Savoury Junior
Winner – Henry Cornish, aged 14, from Launceston
Second – Christie Underwood
Third – Liam Cudlipp, aged 4, from Bodmin, Cornwall
5.35pm Here are the Champions (we’ll publish full results in a bit):
- Open Savoury Junior: Henry Cornish
- Cornish Pasty Junior: Tabitha Delbridge
- Open Savoury Company: Chough Bakery
- Cornish Pasty Company: Pasty Presto
- Open Savoury Professional: Luisa Ead
- Cornish Pasty Professional: Andy Heath
- Open Savoury Amateur: Terry O’Connor
- Cornish Pasty Amateur: Billy Deakin
- Special Ambassador Award goes to Mike Amery and Louisa Haggerty
5.07pm We’re almost there – the Oggy Oscars Ceremony is beginning!
3.36pm The judging is complete – we’ll be announcing the World Pasty Champions at around 5.15pm!
3.00pm Some stonking pasty facts and figures coming out of the Pasty Forum from Ruth Huxley, director of Cornwall Food and Drink.
- Cornwall produces around 170 million pasties per year, 120 million of these are the traditional variety
- Over 2,000 people are directly employed in pasty production in Cornwall. If you take the whole supply chain into account this rises to 13,000 people
- Cornwall’s pasty producing businesses turnover nearly £300 million per year
- At least £15 million is paid to Cornish farmers for the locally-sourced pasty ingredients
- Pasty producers re-invest an estimated £70 million back into the local economy
2.43pm Luis Torres won our Pasty Roulette competition! Eight volunteers were each given a pasty to try. Only one of the pasties contained an EXTREMELY HOT Apache chilli, which we grew in our Mediterranean Biome, and Luis was the (un)lucky winner. Don’t worry! We gave him some lovely Sharp’s ale to wash away the taste.
2.30pm Our daffodil-filled pasty vases are getting a lot of admiring glances in the bakery.
2.10pm Top chef, and Coup de Monde de la Patisserie finalist 2012, Martin Chiffers is on stage sharing the inspiration behind his sweet pasty. Inspired by his travels and work in Vietnam, Korea and Japan, he’s created a wonderful sweet potato, red bean paste and ginger pasty with a superb short, sweet pastry. They are delicious!
1.32pm ‘What is a Cousin Jack?’ – just one of the questions being asked by the Kernow King in his quiz now on stage in the Mediterranean Biome.
1.21pm Here’s an incredible recipe for an azuki bean and sweet potato pasty from Martin Chiffers, ex-head pastry chef at the Savoy Hotel, who’ll be giving a demonstration here this afternoon.
12.40pm The Hornets Cornish Street Band are drawing in the crowds with their brilliant line-up and fine Cornish music.
12.21pm A lovely drop of Sharp’s Oggy Ale to wash down all the pasties…the Sharp’s real ale bar will be open all afternoon! And you can enjoy a beer at the Oggy Oscars after party in our Gallery at 6-11pm this evening.
12.14pm Here’s a little looping Vine video of the array of pasties entered in our Championships.
11.56am Judge Luke Williams says: ‘Looks aren’t everything! I’ve just had one that looked amazing but wasn’t as tasty as it looked – then the next one looked terrible but tasted amazing.’
11.40am Just chatted to Caron Walwyn from Cornwall College, who’s here today to demonstrate how to make a Caribbean pasty. Ingredients include butternut squash, carrot, spring onions, coriander and a red cheese like Double Gloucester. The pastry is a lovely, short buttery pastry seasoned with turmeric, which gives it a distinctive colour.
11.30am The traditional pasty workshop has just finished with plenty of top tips including hands-on advice on crimping, seasoning and getting a good gravy. A light flouring of the ingredients once they’re all in place makes sure that the juices form the perfect gravy.
11.21am The judging is under way, and our man on the inside, judge Luke Williams is “looking forward to tasting some weird and wonderful flavours this year”. The hardest part of judging at last year’s event for Luke was trying a cheese, bacon and banana flavoured pasty!
10.56am Top tips from the Women’s Institute
We just caught up with the judges representing the Women’s Institute Home Economics and Craft Sub-committee, include Alison Gribble, Rosemary Slee and Wendy Trevennor provide some insight into what they’ll be looking for in the pasties today.
For Alison: ‘It’s all about the flavour. That’s certainly the biggest thing.’ However, Wendy says, ‘I’m looking for good texture in the pastry. It needs to be solid pasty pastry and the most important thing for me is a competent crimp.’
A top tip from Wendy Trevennor: ‘Use strong flour. Your pasty needs to be able to drop it down a mine shaft!’
10.45am Judges briefing begins
A great line-up of judges from across the county has assembled, including top chefs, restaurateurs, foodies, hoteliers, the Women’s Institute and life-long pasty enthusiasts including Luke Williams, who’ll be giving us a judge’s eye view throughout the day.
10.30am Here’s a full programme for the day:
Bakery (Rainforest side)
- 9am: Pasty registration
- 10-3pm: Competition judging
Bakery (Mediterranean side)
- 10-4pm: Selection of pasty stories and debates; make-your own pasty workshops with the Chough Bakery, Padstow (featured on BBC2’s ‘The Fixer’) (£3); pasty demonstration by Martin Chiffers, ex-head pastry chef at the Savoy Hotel; and ‘Fastest Crimper in the West’ crimping competitions.
See boards in the Bakery for details.
- Traditional music and song
Bam Bam’s Shelter in Rainforest Biome
- 12pm and 2pm: Storytelling- Cornish tales
Mediterranean Biome Deck
- 10am-4pm: Sharp’s Real Ale Bar with special guest ‘Oggy Ale 2013’
- 10am-4pm: Kids’ activities
Mediterranean Biome Citrus Grove Stage
A full programme of live music, comedy, tomfoolery and competitions
- 10am: Saskia Maxwell
- 10.30am: Charlie Wingfield
- 11.15am: Gareth Lee
- 11.45am: Flats and Sharps
- 12.15pm: Pasty Poetry with Rob Barratt
- 12.30pm: The Oggymen
- 12.45pm: Kernow King Pasty Quiz
- 1.30pm: Butter Thieves
- 2pm: Pasty Roulette – which pasty contains the super-hot chilli?
- 2.30pm: The Cornish Wurzells
- 3.30pm: Hedluv and Passman
- 5pm: Oggy Oscars awards ceremony
- 6-11pm: Oggy Oscars Evening Event (free), featuring Skin Tight funk band and DJ
10.23am Good morning pasty fans. It’s that time of year again for pasty makers from around the world to go head to head in contest for ultimate pasty supremacy!
We’d like to wish everyone the best of luck, and we hope everyone here at Eden today, whether competing or not, has a great time – we’ve got a proper ‘ansome entertainment line-up of live comedy and music.
This vegetable curry recipe, with its gentle spices and hint of coconut, is inspired by traditional Goan cuisine. Come and taste it in Eden’s Bakery, where it’s freshly prepared by our chefs.
Ingredients (serves four)
- 100g onion
- 100g carrot
- 100g potato
- 100g butternut squash
- 50g courgette
- 50g fennel
- 50g aubergine
- 50g mixed peppers
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 150g tinned, chopped tomatoes
- 200ml coconut milk
- tbsp vegetable oil
- tsp salt
- pinch pepper
For the curry paste:
- Half a fresh chilli
- A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
- 1 clove garlic
- A handful of fresh coriander
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- Dice the onions and vegetables, and finely chop the fresh chilli, coriander, ginger and garlic.
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions, sweating them gently.
- Meanwhile, make the curry paste by blending all the paste ingredients together.
- When the onions are translucent add the paste and cook it until aromatic.
- Next, add the vegetables and cook until tender, adding a little water if needed.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, coconut milk and vegetable stock and simmer for five minutes.
- 7. Season with salt and pepper and serve with rice or Indian flatbreads such as naans or chapattis.
Ahead of our wildlife gardening course, the Eden Gardening Team shares five tips on how to attract wildlife to your garden – from cuddly-looking hedgehogs and brightly coloured birds right down to the less glamorous, yet just as important, insects and worms.
Why bother with wildlife gardening?
Because Britain’s gardens provide a safe haven for wildlife across the country.
- There are 2.5 million trees in London’s gardens. That’s the equivalent of 30% of all National Trust owned woodland in the country.
- Populations of birds such as blackbirds, dunnocks and thrushes are higher in people’s gardens than in the surrounding British countryside.
How to attract wildlife to your garden
- Create wildlife corridors
Fences and walls can be a real barrier to wildlife coming to your garden. Small mammals like hedgehogs, voles, mice and shrews need a way in and through your garden, because they naturally range widely in search of food. Try leaving a gap underneath your fence, which a hedgehog could squeeze through, or talk to your neighbour about removing a few bricks from a shared garden wall.
- Feed the birds all year round
Most of us tend to feed birds during the winter only, but birds often become reliant on birdfeeders as a source of food throughout the year. So make sure you stock up the birdfeeder during the warmer months too.
- Choose plants that will feed the birds
When choosing new shrubs and flowers, think about varieties that will offer food to the birds. For example, some flowers form seed heads that can be left on the stem throughout autumn, such as teasels, sunflowers and thistle-type flowers. Berries are a good bet, too.
- Plant flowers that attract insects
Choose new plants which attract birds, butterflies and the like. Remember, these aren’t just spectacularly beautiful flowering plants, but even more common bushes such as buddleia. If you search around you can find all sorts of different buddleia varieties which come in colours ranging from white to blue to pink. An easy way to get the right plants is to choose a packet of mixed seeds designed to attract butterflies. Get more tips on attracting butterflies to your garden.
- Leave some mess
Insects and small mammals like to make their home in piles of wood or long patches of grass, so don’t be too keen to tidy everything up in the garden. Or you could create an insect home out of junk. Remember, if you want cute little mammals and birds in the garden, they rely on a thriving insect population for food, so make sure you don’t forget the bugs!
Learn more about wildlife gardening on a practical half-day course with the Eden Gardening Team on Thursday 7 March 2013. You’ll learn about the wildlife-friendly techniques we use to manage the Eden plot, get a tour of our insect homes, and find out about the right plants and cultivation techniques to attract wildlife to your own garden. Book a place on the course.
With thanks to Steve Burrell.
Photo: Chris Chappell
Ahead of our second annual World Pasty Championships at Eden on Saturday 2 March 2013, we’ve updated our Google Map (see below) of handheld, filled snacks from around the world. We’ve added tasty pastries from Scotland, Iran and Afghanistan.
View Cornish pasties and their relations in a larger map
Some of these snacks are directly related to the Cornish pasty, while others are similar just because they are handheld, filled pastries. Click on the pasties on the map to read more about the snacks and see pictures. If you know some more handheld snacks that should be added to the map, let us know below this blog, or post some pictures on our Facebook Wall, or via Twitter.
Many thanks to Keith Ryan, whose Cornish Pasties website provided inspiration for this map.
If your mum’s a real garden-lover, take a look at this selection of 10 Mother’s Day gifts for the green-fingered. There’s everything from a grow-your-own truffle tree to a ‘seed bomb’ to help her transform her garden into a sea of forget-me-nots.
1. Gardening gift bag, £22.50
A lovely gift for green-fingered mums, this gift bag comes complete with floral gardening gloves, a restorative hand scrub, our best-selling seed bomb kit, a geranium hand cream and handmade Cornish chocolate.
2. Seed bomb, £5
This makes an ideal present for a garden lover with a sense of attitude. The kit will get your mum throwing ‘seed bombs’ to transform wasteland into patches of blue forget-me-nots.
3. Butterfly Collection Flower Seeds, £3
How about the gift of a butterfly-filled garden? These flower seeds include species that butterflies love, including scabious, cornflower, ox-eye daisy and mallow. They won’t only look beautiful, the butterflies will help pollinate plants in the garden.
4. Allotment kit, £12.25
An adorable little box of useful things for a smart vegetable plot. This beautifully packaged kit contains all those grow-your-own essentials, such as gloves, aluminium labels, twine, and a wooden dibber.
5. Bird ball suet feeder, £21
A must for wildlife-lovers, this bird ball will look great in your mother’s garden. It’s designed to attract small birds such as tits, sparrows, nuthatches and finches – and is easy to refill with fat balls.
6. Gardening gloves, £5.75
These pretty ladies gardening gloves will help protect your mum’s hands from thorny bushes and roses. They come in a pack of three and feature a special Eden floral design.
7. Olive tree in a pot, £22.50
Give her a slice of Eden with this olive tree in a terracotta pot. This classic Mediterranean plant comes beautifully presented inside a pot with a choice of three subtle colours.
8. Tin watering can, £19.50
These colourful watering cans make a lovely addition to any garden, as well as helping your mum get around a summer hosepipe ban.
9. Truffle tree, £24.50 How cool is this? A grow-your-own truffle tree! This little hazel sapling, inoculated with truffle spores, will allow your mum to harvest her own truffle crop in a matter of years.
10. Mediterranean hand scrub, £7.50
A nice little pot of scrub to help green-fingered mums remove dirt after a busy day in the garden. It has a gorgeous smell of fresh grapefruits, magnolias and figs.
Learn how to make your own stop-motion animation with these tips from the Aardman team, those clever people behind the likes of Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit.
Follow these simple steps, add a good dose of imagination and patience, and you can create a short model animation in which your characters give the impression of really moving.
1. Characters and props
Decide what or who it is you’d like to star in your animation. This could be anything from plasticine models in the style of Shaun the Sheep to toys, food, cutlery and clothes to real people. All you need to do is adjust their position throughout the filming to create the illusion that they’re moving. A quick tip for creating plasticine characters is to keep them simple – you don’t want pieces falling off as you’re adjusting their limbs.
Before you start any animation, come up with a story that you want to bring to life. This could be as simple as a character or two coming on to the set and doing something very visual – like falling over – which will make people laugh! The more characters you have, the more time-consuming it is to animate them all, so use no more than three characters to begin with.
3. Sounds and voices
Lots of classic animation characters have memorable voices, such as Lancashire lad Wallace. Others do their thing with just a couple of interesting sounds, like Gromit and Morph. If you do introduce speech into your animation, you can be really sophisticated and get your characters’ mouth movements to synchronise with what they say by recording the sound first and then animating the mouth afterwards. Or simply dub your or your friend’s voice on the animation afterwards. Try playing with sound effects, too.
Create a backdrop for your animation, a stage on which your characters will perform. This could be as simple as a cardboard box. Why not decorate it with paint or cut-outs from magazines?
Model animations need good lighting. You can use a household lamp to do this. To soften the lighting and avoid harsh shadows place another lamp on the other side of the set, so that it is cross-lit.
You can shoot the frames in the old fashioned way with a video camera or mobile phone, or you can try Aardman’s simple-to-use Animate It! stop-motion software. You can download a free 14 day trial of the software on your computer or get the Animate It! app for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. It includes a really useful ‘onion skin function’ which allows you to see the ghost of the last frame, helping you position your characters before you capture the next frame and keeping the animation smooth. The PC version also allows you to record and import sounds.
To give an impression of movement, carefully adjust parts of your props or characters (things like ears, mouths or limbs) and capture this on camera. Take care not to change anything that is meant to stay still. A rule of thumb is that 12 adjustments, each one captured twice on camera, will add up to about one second of film. The bigger the movements between the frames, the faster the action and the jerkier the animation.
You’ll need to play back your animation and check that the movements you’ve made look realistic and not jerky. It’s at this point that you can also remove or reshoot any frames where you’ve made a mistake – or even add in some new ones to perfect your animation. There’s a whole editing function on Animate It! which you can use to tidy up your animation at the end.
Now all that’s left to do is share your animation. Why not try it out on friends and family first, then share it with the world on YouTube?
Making Shaun the Sheep animations
Visit the Eden Project during February half-term to build your very own Shaun the Sheep model with the expert help of Aardman’s animators, in one of our Aardman Animation Model-Making Workshops. Animate It! with Shaun the Sheep runs until Sunday 24 February 2013.
If you can’t make it to Eden, check out Aardman’s new Shaun the Sheep’s Farmyard Film Kit, which contains lots of countryside backgrounds and farmyard sound effects for you to use at home, plus instructions on how to make your own Shaun the Sheep model out of clay. If you need any inspiration, watch the short movie our team made of Shaun at Eden.
More Animate It! tips from Aardman
There are loads of great animation tip and ideas on www.animate-it.com. Check out this video of Aardman animator Steve Edge in which he shows you how to make your friend fly through space in a teacup!