Helpful Resources For The Creative Community
Interviews With Creative People Page Three
Isela Phelps, loom knitting phenomenon
Carol Bruner, founder of Sherri's Hat Shop, hats for children and teens with cancer
Marinho Nobre, award-winning composer for film, concert and television
David Joyner, the man inside Hip Hop Harry (2002-2010) and Barney (1992 - 2001)
Abdi Farah, winner of Bravo tv reality show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist
Andy Lomas, Emmy award winning visual effects and animation engineer
These interviews may not be reproduced without including the following credit: copyright Gregory Huff. Please visit www.CreativeHelps.com for more interviews like this and many other resources designed to energize your creativity.
Known and admired by many for her insightful loom knitting tips and creative designs, Isela chats with me about creating patterns and what inspires her:
How old were you when you first began to knit?
I began to knit at the age of 8 by my Grandma’s side. She is a master crafter in my eyes. She could create anything with a crochet hook or with needles. You will give her string and she will turn it into art.
What is your favorite size and kind of loom to use?
My favorite knitting loom is a round loom with the pegs spaced at a ¼ inch apart from center to center. I prefer them round in shape as it is easier to turn them around and knit—corners just don’t turn as nicely as a circle.
What is your favorite type of yarn to use?
I am known as a yarn snob, hahaha. My favorite types of yarn to use are merino wools in worsted or sports weight. I like them to feel soft and have a nice drape once knitted up.
Have you ever experienced any discomfort with using the loom? Are there ergonomic exercises or tools one can use to prevent injury?
Personally, the only discomfort I have experienced with a knitting loom is when I have spent more than 8 hours straight loom knitting on an extra fine gauge knitting loom. My hands tend to cramp up holding the knitting tool for long periods of time. There are ergonomic shape knitting tools that help by providing a more comfortable way to hold the tool. However, when you use it for long periods of time, even those can hurt your hand
What would be an easy project for a first time loom knitter?
The easiest project for a beginner is a hat. It is a simple tube and you just have to worry about wrapping and lifting off loops off the peg.
What inspires you? Where do you get most of your loom knitting ideas?
Inspiration is all around. Sometimes, I am running down the street (I am a runner) and all of a sudden I see flower or a car color that inspires and idea within. Most of my ideas come when I am out on a run. It is just me, my thoughts and the road.
Who are the other loom knitters that inspire you?
I am close friends with various amazing loom knitters, Bethany Dailey, Jennifer Stark, Denise Layman, and Kathy Norris. They are all amazing and they are full of great ideas.
In your opinion, what is the most rewarding aspect about loom knitting?
In my opinion, completing a project that others thought it was almost impossible to do on a knitting looms. Cable projects is one of those projects, followed closely by lace designs.
Describe your process for creating patterns. Do you start with an idea for what you want to make and adapt it for the loom?
An idea is usually in place and then I try to find a yarn that lends itself to the project in mind. I usually think in needle knit terms due to my knitting background. Once I have it worked out for the needles, I sit down and work it out either in my head or on paper for the knitting looms. The process sometimes takes a long time as I have to worry about moving stitches around on the loom where as the needles do not require that. It is a process of trial and error a lot of the time.
What is the most difficult pattern you have attempted and how were you able to master it?
Interesting that we went to the most difficult pattern attempted—I have to say that it was socks. Not a particular sock but a heel of the sock. Working short rows on a knitting loom was a new thing at the time and little was known about it and how to accomplish it. I remember frogging sock after sock after sock. I still have the first short row heel I made, it is purple with a little white heart at the cuff…I never even finished the sock. I just completed the heel portion and considered the project a success.
What advice do you have for someone who finds it difficult to read and follow knitting patterns?
Patience and practice. It takes a long time to master a craft. Nothing is really accomplish overnight, at least nothing that is worth it. Start at the beginning, learn the basics, and climb the staircase, step by step.
How did you get your first pattern published?
I was very lucky in this respect, I was contacted directly by a publishing company to produce a collection of patterns for an upcoming book. My blog was their landing page and at it they were able to see my previous self-published patterns.
What are the most important things to keep in mind when creating and writing a pattern for the loom?
The most important things to remember is to keep it as simple as possible. Write as if a child was reading it. However, you also need to write it so it is concise so it doesn’t take 8 pages long...unless you are writing a great novel.
What have you found to be the most effective marketing tools for promoting your loom knitting?
The most effective method is simple: help others. Be there to answer questions for them. Through the various social networks one can help quite a few loom knitters.
What made you decide to go from knitting with the loom to actually teaching others how to loom knit via online video?
I started teaching through the online videos almost at the same time when I started loom knitting. People were eager to learn and I couldn’t keep up with the emails, so I turned to videos. I figured if I could video myself doing the different stitches people could view them from their home and most of their questions would be answered. That was almost 9 years ago, since then my videos have helped thousands of loom knitters and they til this day they are one of the most sought after resources.
What would be your dream loom knitting project?
Each project I loom is a dream project…I have reached a point where I only loom knit projects I really want to knit. There is one project that I still have to conquer—entrelac.
Have you taught your children (or spouse) to loom knit? Do they show an interest in it?
My children loom knit. My son, 9 years old, has been loom knitting since he was 5 years old. He has completed hundreds of hats and little blankets. During school breaks, he goes through my stash and knits hats for everyone. My daughter, 6, has knitted a hat with the help of her brother. She shows a lot of interest in the needles rather than the looms.
Do you also know how to knit with needles?
I do. Needle knitting is my first passion in the fiber industry. Whenever I have a break from loom knitting, you can find me needle knitting. It is nice to simply sit and knit a pattern from someone else without having to worry about writing every down little thing, it is just about knitting and enjoy the process.
On your website you mention running, cycling, and swimming. That’s impressive! What motivates you to live an active and healthy lifestyle?
Ah, time for my other hobbies J. Aside from knitting, I consider myself a runner and triathlete. My regular jobs are on the active side too, I am a fitness instructor and I currently work as a Physical Education teacher at an elementary school.
My motivation can be found in the faces of two little ones—my children. I believe that as a parent, it is my duty to show my children that I not only need to care for them but also care for myself and that means taking care of the body I was given. There was a time, just a few years ago when my son thought of me as the Mom who sat on the couch and knitted all day long. He rarely saw me active. I was busy at the time writing my first book and spreading the knowledge of loom knitting. One day, my little boy asked me if I was pregnant. Nope. I wasn’t. I was just getting nicely plump. I knew at that moment that I had to change, not for me but for him and my daughter. Now, I don’t think I can perform without having these different outlets. Hitting the pavement allows me to have time for myself in a setting where I can dream and think about all the things going on in my life. Swimming has become one of my close loves. I dream of the feel of the water, of the bubbles created when I do a flip turn and I chase the opportunity to perform in a triathlon. I love the fact that my children no longer think of me as the couch mom, now they talk about me to their friends as the mom who runs marathons or who has a race this coming weekend. Most importantly, my lifestyle change has changed their lives too, they dream of one day completing a marathon faster than Mom or of doing a triathlon while Grandma (me) takes care of the babies. I am blessed to have a body that has allowed me to chase my dreams…be it physically active or through writing.
Do you have any new books or creative projects coming out?
There are a few projects in the works right now, I am not at a liberty to discuss the titles just yet…gotta keep them under wraps for a bit. I just completed the 4th book in the Loom Knitting Primer series, Loom Knitting Accessories, a collection of 40 designs.
Books by Isela Phelps:
Sherri’s Hat Shop provides free custom hats to children and teens with hair loss from cancer and alopecia. Read all about how Carol got started, and how you can create a hat:
Tell me about your shop’s namesake, Sherri.
Sherri is my sister-in-law, who was the center of life in my husband’s family. She could tell amazing stories, making everyone laugh, while we were in disbelief that these stories could possibly be true, but they were. She had a huge heart and for many people, Sherri was their only friend.
How did Sherri make a difference in your life?
She was such a big part of welcoming into their family. She taught me to hug!
Did you have the idea for the hats before or after Sherri?
Since I was about 7 years old, I’ve been very interested in creating/making things and always wanted to make something that would be useful to someone. My ideal job would be to work in Santa’s workshop, but… It wasn’t until about 2 years ago, when Sherri became very ill with cancer requiring much chemotherapy and radiation, causing her to lose her hair, that my focus turned to making hats for children with cancer. It started by making a few hats for Sherri. To “test” whether or not I really wanted to pursue this, I made dozens of hats for children in a hospital in the Dominican Republic where my church was visiting on a missions trip. While making those hats, it confirmed this was my passion. I didn’t want to go to sleep at the end of each day or go off to my “real job” the next day because I wanted to keep making the hats. So it was Sherri’s unfortunate circumstances that lead me to my lifelong dream of creating something. However, I would quickly give up my dream if it would mean that Sherri didn’t have to go through her battle with cancer and she could be back with us again.
How did Sherri respond to her illness? What year did she pass away?
Sherri was very courageous and positive. She was the one who was helping the rest of us not be so sad about her illness. She passed away in 2010.
Did she know about your creative dream? Did she encourage you in it?
Yes, and I would have given up my lifelong dream in a second if it meant Sherri didn’t have to go through cancer and its consequences. Sherri helped me decide what styles and fabrics people might like the best. She was very artistic and I had hoped she could design the logo but she was just too sick.
How did Sherri respond to your first hat?
With her classic smile.
How long was it from the time she passed away to the time you started your business?
I actually started the idea about 9 months before she passed away not knowing that would be the outcome. I would have named the business in honor of her regardless.
How long did it take for SHS to go from concept to reality?
It was a year and a half from the time I had the “light bulb” moment for the idea until the website was up and running and I had brochures available. It was much longer than I would have expected. I was working at another job during that time and there was a lot of experimenting with styles and fabrics so the time just went by.
Who creates the hats?
Actually, the kids create the hats. What is unique about our hat shop is our interactive website allows children to design their own hats by choosing a style, selecting fabrics, decorating with buttons and personalizing it with embroidery. Many of the hat styles are adaptations from patterns. For example, I may change the pattern so the hat can be reversible, allowing two hats in one. When my son, now 28, was very young, I made him some stuffed dinosaurs from a pattern. I hung on to that pattern for all these years and recently changed the stegosaurus from a stuffed animal into a hat. One of my original creations is the ladybug hat for little girls-it’s incredibly soft, comes with the traditional spots and has little legs hanging off the sides of the hat.
Who makes the hats once they are ordered?
Currently, I make the hats. I have a couple people on “stand-by” for when the business grows.
What is your most popular design?
The ladybug usually gets the most ooohs and aaaahs.
What is the most interesting hat or most imaginative request you have created so far?
My favorite is called, “let love grow”. As Valentine’s Day approached, I wanted a special hat so embroidered “let love grow” in the green “grass” at the bottom of the hat and several heart shaped flowers growing skyward.
How do children and their families and friends respond to the hats?
Many AAAAHHHHHSS!! One lady, who I barely know, said she was covered in goose bumps when I showed her the hats. We even had a random telemarketer on the phone in tears when she heard of what Sherri’s Hat Shop was all about.
What is the most challenging thing about starting a non-profit? What is the most rewarding thing?
Hmmmm, the most challenging would be two things actually: fulfilling paperwork requirements for the government and not having an endless supply of finances to be able to give as many hats to each child as they would like. The most rewarding is to see their smile. Our slogan is “put a hat on each head and a smile on each face”.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own non-profit?
Follow your God-given abilities, discover what your passions are and consult people you respect for their input.
In what ways are you seeking to increase awareness of your organization?
We are sending free samples of hats as well as our brochures to as many hospitals as we can reach.
If a hospital is interested in Sherri’s Hat Shop, what do they need to do?
They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to send them brochures and a sample of hats.
Are you in need of volunteers? How can they help?
The most helpful things would be for people to pass the word on to any family they know of with children affected by cancer so they are aware these hats are free to the children. We also greatly need people to help sponsor hats for these deserving children which they can do by sending a tax-deductible donation to: Sherri’s Hat Shop; 1792 Middlebrook Rd.; Bound Brook, NJ 08805
How long have you been writing music? How has your music changed over the years?
I started writing songs at age 9, the same year I started playing guitar and was open to the world of music making. So I guess that makes it 39 years or so...
At age 12 I got into electric guitar playing, rock n roll and all the madness that comes along with it. I literally put the other stuff aside for a while and went nose down on Jimmi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and all the great British metal invasion bands. Along with that, the Beatles and playing Jazz guitar were always great influences as well. I couldn't get over Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and the cool swing that Jazz itself played on me. My background is a crazy blend of classical, jazz and heavy metal... As a consequence of that, I started a band, played 12 hours of guitar per day. I lived in Brazil, but in 1984 at age 18, I took off to the US to pursue my dream. As the years progressed, I got back into writing classical along with other styles of music, leading me to film score writing which not only broadened my classical writing in itself, but my quest for music from different parts of the world. I got to love middle eastern music and ethnic music in general. I always found it fascinating how such primitive instruments could generate such amazing sound. Today they are an integral part of my life.
How important was your exposure to classical music early on, and who in your family introduced you to it?
I began listening to all sorts of music since I was 5, especially classical, as my Dad was an avid listener and loved music from all parts of the world. I believe that gave me much of the seed of the music that sprouts from me creatively to this day. The start was all about classical music, where I wrote much for classical guitar as well as baroque pieces for guitar and voice.
Being exposed to that gave me a subconscious formation which later developed into something much bigger, more of, say... a passion...
What composers past and present inspire you?
I am a huge Villa Lobos fan, putting aside his Brazilian descent, the man changed my way of thinking about music. Tchaikovsky is my other great passion, the man was pure love and feeling through music. So were Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and Dvorak not in any particular order. I have listened to all those composers’ work to a pulp.
But the list of classical inspirations is simply enormous.. Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Vivaldi, Brahms, Mahler, Puccini, Wagner, Verdi, Haydn... I could go on and on... In the film scoring world I am a huge Bernard Herman fan as well as Jerry Goldsmith. I also love the works of Alan Silvestri, James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, Phillip Glass, Angelo Badalamenti, Wojsiech Killar, and Brian Tyler to name a few.
What is your favorite film score and why?
I have a few, but if I have to pick one, it will be Wojsiech Killar's score of Francis Coppolla's "Dracula". The score is simple, yet incredibly powerful and charged with so much emotion... When a simple cello line brings you chills... you know that s got to be great.
Describe the process of scoring music for films. Do you read the script first, get musical ideas based on a character or title alone, etc? How many times do you edit or rewrite your composition?
I usually do get to read scripts, especially when I have the opportunity to get an early hold of the project, which isn't always the case. My standard process would be watching the film a good dozen times, and as music starts popping into my mind I sit by my piano and start scribbling lines. I later scan that into Sibelius and further finesse and orchestrate it there until it is completely to my liking. Once that’s done, off to my rig and onto Pro Tools for the mock up stage. After that's set, the film director will come in for the listening session and upon his approval or not, it will either go back to the drawing board or off to the copyist and to live musicians for the final recording. - But depending on the work I get, it could go many different ways, since much but not all of it is orchestral... I am working on a film right now where much of it is Industrial electro metal music, with just a small blend of orchestral parts, where apart from an arsenal of guitars, fuzz boxes and drum machines, I will probably just be using a string quartet. I’ve been getting bits of the film footage from the director one at the time and making music for them accordingly, fine tuning them etc... By the time the footage edit is finished, I’ll be close to the conclusion of the score. I think it is very important for a composer to be as flexible as possible as far as how the workflow goes, so you can accommodate your filmmaker in the way he will feel the most comfortable. He trusted you, and he will be sending you your check.
What was the hardest score you’ve worked on to date? What made it difficult?
Every score has it s challenges and to be truthful I do not recall being truly tortured on any of them. There were scores that were made difficult due to the little amount of time I had at my disposal to come up with the final product. I scored a Horror film called Left for Dead in 2008, where I had to come up with 65 minutes or so of full orchestral music within 4 and a half weeks. It was truly insane, not much sleep at all as far as I recall... Some other scores are made harder because the director has a hard time expressing himself. I recall once a while back a director asking me to make the music sound "more yellow"...
In your opinion, what is one of the most important things to keep in mind while composing music?
To be true to yourself and never let yourself be influenced by other composers or by what people believe you should sound like. Personality is a huge problem in music in general. In the world of today's film scoring, where so many composers are scared to death about what the director will say, or even worse, what other composers will think, I tend to believe that when I am writing my music I become my own god. And to be honest, it hasn't failed me yet.
Many of the great composers are identifiable by the ways that they express themselves; a musical signature, if you will. For example, anyone with a basic appreciation for classical music can probably tell when they hear a symphony by Mozart, an overture by Wagner, or even a score by Williams. What would you say is your overall musical signature, the thing that listeners say, “this piece was written by Nobre?”
I would like to believe that my music signature is in the "brutal writing" aspect. Simply honest. Simply myself, and I really do not care what people think. Of course there are always the moments when the boss will not agree with that, but I tend to like pushing the envelope on just about every situation. I have used anything from water bowls to reversed running water sounds tuned up back along with a dissonant 10 violin line, or simply going on a very repetitive 5/4 time signature passage where otherwise people would find it purely annoying. To sum it all up, I believe my honesty with the instruments I write is what brings me a signature in general. Too many composers sound like they are afraid to write a line, or simply to let it all out. If I had to exemplify one of my main marks which I hear from people about me, it would be to use the opposite in terms of intensity. Sometimes there s a huge action scene where I will be writing a silly string quartet passage, and other times where there’s a mellow scene in the film and one would expect a smaller portion of music and there I go, hitting it with a 40 piece string session. Opposite reaction, it’s what it s all about. It makes people think and directors shiver... I have been loving that from day one, and more and more it has become one of the things I consider the "me" in my music.
Is there a certain theme that runs through your work, such as the struggle for dark and light, the fine line between joy and pain, etc?
Many times I get to compare the scene on a film with times in my life. That brings me inspiration and the first thing that will come along is that type of conflict. But again, in the previous question, I have mentioned the opposite reaction factor, and there are certain happy scenes where I will write extremely sad music and vice versa.
How do you avoid distractions during your composition process (or do you welcome them)? How do you stay in your creative zone? How do you work around creative block?
I am eternally distracted so it doesn't really matter. I’ll be writing a huge 60 piece composition for orchestra and within minutes I will be playing with a small paper ball on my desk. But all of a sudden I will just snap back into it. Music has to be honest, and if it’s not, it becomes pure garbage. The more you fight against distractions and the more you try to force yourself to concentrate and follow the book, the less productive you will be. At least that’s the way it works with me. I have never had what people call a "writer's block"... wouldn't even know what that is... Sometimes I will just get bored, so I open up a bottle of Cabernet and go for a long walk in the neighborhood.
What genre do you like writing for best and why?
Classical, because I purely love it to the core of my heart. World music is taking much of that territory lately as well...
What is your favorite instrument to compose for?
The entire orchestra.
What is the most unusual “instrument” you have played, and how did you incorporate it into your work?
There are way too many to mention just one... But to mention a few, the Duduk (3000 year old Armenian Flute which is my latest passion), the waterphone, on which many composers use it exclusively for sound effects and I try instead to nail precise pitch and notes out of it.
The Glass Harmonica with an actual arsenal of wine glasses is also loads of fun for me. They get incorporated into the music as soon as I hear them within my mind along with the secondary tracks being played.
Which influences your composition the most – life experiences or the music of other composers, and how?
The demons inside my mind. They drive me to write what I do. Although I do appreciate their work, I stopped caring about what other composers do a long time ago, My life experiences are the ultimate tool, since they generate the patterns within my mind that will drive me to compose what I do. It s a rather flawless process and I have learned to respect it.
You receive a lot of acclaim for your work, but I’d be interested to know what piece you feel most connected to find most meaningful.
I’ve been slamming on a new non-film album made out of world music, properly called "World Citizen" which I am very fond of. It has been giving me unconditional freedom for me to do as I please and let myself go. I believe it will be one of my most acclaimed works to date. My score for Al Qarem is something I love very much, since I haven't stopped for as little as one second to think about how write it. I also love my work on the scores for the short "The Angel" and feature "Sacred Game".
Which music composition programs do you find the best or easiest to work with?
I have been a Pro Tools user for the longest time. It’s easy, It’s powerful, doesn't let me down.
Other than that, I’ve been working my hardest to avoid as many loop, generic, “yaka-daka-doo, spur-of-the-moment reason” live programs in my music, and getting more and more into organic real instrument music making. It’s all about being yourself and keeping from being able to be replicated. I like it like that.
Let’s say I was interested in becoming a composer for films. What should I do to prepare?
Be ready to: Be fooled for an eternity by people in the film industry, to never sleep, to spend all your savings in gear, to get a divorce if you're married and to hear that what you just spent 10 days working on is horrible. Also be prepared to see someone who just got a laptop with garage band and doesn't know what a G clef is stealing your next dream gig, simply because he is friends with the director's daughter.
If you can handle that, everything else will be great.
How do budding composers find mentors or people to give honest critiques of their work?
Find someone who you do not know, someone you do not have any relation to what so ever.
Most friends will tell you that you are the next Beethoven, not with the intention of fooling you, but because they feel great to be friends with someone who got that far. Sadly though, in the real world most of the time it won't be nearly as far as you need to in order to make it in the business. You need a real basher, someone who will tell you straight out when something isn't working, as much as it might upset you.
An indie film director, even if you're not working with him, would be a great one. Avoid fellow composers.
What other creative talents and abilities do you have?
I can paint and draw. I am a great cook. I connect with extraterrestrial creatures. I have an enormous Hookah collection. I am the king of Brazilian BBQ. I also have a passion for writing even though I haven't had the chance to pursue it yet.
Is all the music on your site film scores?
For the moment yes. My new solo world music cd is coming out soon and that will change.
How large is the staff at MANO music? With all those creative minds, how do you foster a sense of teamwork, agreement, and cooperation?
I am the creative mind. Everyone else listens to my requests and work diligently on it to my utmost liking. Yes, I’m the devil control freak, thank you. I have people working with me in 4 different corners of the world and am currently moving and relocating my studio to south of Brazil where I plan to have two assistants. Then I will work on a satellite basis with other people, such as copyists, orchestrators, small orchestras I will conduct, and secondary assistants throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East. As far as the cooperation part, I've come up with a brand new work incentive plan: "Do what I ask, or get fired".
How do you prevent your ideas from being copied?
I don't and there’s really no way to do that. I rely on things that I do that simply cannot be copied. Some of my arranging, composing and orchestrating ideas come from a place far deep inside my mind and I welcome people all over planet Earth to try and replicate it, since I know they won’t be able to.
What piece of music would you like to be remembered most for?
I would like to be remembered for my work in general and how it affects the films I work on as well as how it changes the listeners lives, as little as it may be.
I would love to think that even in the most subtle ways my music is making a difference.
Other than my love for music itself, that's the one reason I do this.
Contact information you wish to give (website, e-mail addresses, etc.)
http://www.marinhonobre.com (some portions of this website may not be appropriate for children)
And now, a little chat with a man who knows Barney & Hip Hop Harry inside and out: actor David Joyner.
How did you transition from your previous career to doing Barney?
My plan from the beginning was to get into entertainment even as a kid. I wanted to be on television so bad that I would actually stand in front of the TV and lip synch and imitate anything that was going on and just became the character. But I also had a love for electronics. So my goal was to go to a 2 year school get an associates degree in electronic engineering, work for a company for about 5 years and then resign to get into entertainment full time. After graduating I was recruited by Texas Instruments and moved to Texas. During the interview they asked what was my long term goal. I told them I wanted to work for 5 years then pursue entertainment full time. They looked at me like I was crazy. When the 5th year was coming up I didn’t have enough money saved up to quit the job. But even after an 8 hour shift I would perform in nightclubs, model as a store window mannequin, move as a robot mannequin, doing whatever I could to get my name out there. When the 6th year came, the company was about to have a major layoff, and I decided it was time to focus on acting. I took an adult acting workshop. The wife of the teacher of the workshop ran an acting school for children, so I worked as a substitute teacher there. After I prayed, I decided that I would quit my job in September of that year. One day as I warmed up the 3.5-6 year olds before a Hollywood Showcase at the acting school, a casting director saw me and asked for my contact info. Two weeks before I planned to quit, I got a fax from the casting director to audition for the part of Barney. At the time Barney was only on home video and wasn’t well known. As I filmed the first episode, I thought to myself, “If this ever gets on TV, it’s really going to take off.” Little did I know that they were already working on a TV deal at that time.
When you put on that costume the first time, what were you thinking?
I was hoping for it to open the door for even more opportunities. When I started to do Barney, they had a live show scheduled in Rhode Island. One of the things I always do to prepare is to ask the Holy Spirit to flow through me and draw the kids to Himself through the costume. Coming from an athletic background I was an excellent jumper. So for the very first live show, when the curtains flew open, all I could see was a sea of people. I immediately started jumping up and down, and I thought to myself, “I wonder if I could jump into a 360 degree spin while wearing this 70lb costume.” I jumped up and did it at the very end of the first song, and the crowd went berserk! So after the show is over, I’m exhausted . I went to the dressing room to catch my breath and one of the producers runs in and says excitedly, “That was amazing! That was amazing!”
How would you describe what you do as Barney and Harry? Is that mime?
It is considered live-action Costume puppeteering.
Do they use a computer to move your mouth and eyes?
No I do it manually inside the costume using gears and mechanisms. I’m also a percussionist and use that to my advantage to maneuver inside the costume in a realistic way.
Is there an audio playback while you are taping?
The voice is in the sound booth doing the voice as I act. As a child, lip synching in front of the TV prepared me perfectly for acting out the mannerisms that Barney or Harry would make as they speak. We are in total synch with each other, something we called “dino-synch.” During live interviews, instinctively I would start moving Barney’s mouth in anticipation of what his voice was going to say. During the commercial breaks, the interviewers would always wonder aloud in amazement, “How do you do that?”
How much leeway are you given with the Hip Harry script to inject your own improve or suggestions?
A lot of leeway. A choreographer works with us for dancing and walking. But as far as acting, dialogue and mannerisms, it’s pretty much whatever I decide. I try not to emulate any other person or character, though I do study people and their gestures. Hip Hop Harry has his own way of expressing himself. I want you to forget for a spilt second that there is a person inside a costume, and instead think that he is actually real. When you’re inside the costume you can’t see yourself making the gestures; you have to visualize what it looks like as you’re doing it. In meet and greet and live appearances, I always try to incorporate subtle movements and not be too overly animated at first. That way children won't be afraid to approach me, since I appear a lot bigger in person than on TV (of course). But during a live show I incorporate the right balance of subtlety, excitement, and acting. I watch playbacks of the show in order to improve my performance.
Which role do you like the best?
I can’t say which one I enjoy more. There would be no Harry without Barney. Yet Barney is totally different from Harry. Harry is cool and hip, Barney is more playful and jolly. Each one has its own characteristics. They’re both great.
What would be some of the most memorable moments from the set of:
Barney – working with the kids. We developed a real camaraderie and family. We all were aware we were doing something unique and special. Barney was the first show that targeted two year olds, even though there was Sesame Street and other shows on at the time. The kids were the greatest to work with and lots of fun.
Hip Hop Harry – geared more towards dancing, so kids had to be dancers more than actors. The kids were amazing and caught on quick with the choreography, as opposed to me having to take a little longer to learn the moves.
Do you still keep in touch with the cast from Barney?
Yes, from time to time online, by phone, through the directors, etc.
How old were you when you started doing Barney? 27
Did you follow any of the negative press regarding Barney when Barney first came out?
Yeah, as a matter of fact we got packages from our marketing group with Barney fan mail and press clippings. As far as the negativity, one of the biggest complaints was about the I Love You song and how much people hated it. But I would travel around the world, and whenever I was on an airplane and people reacted negatively to Barney, I would share about his impact on children. Barney teaches kids to love themselves and to love others. It’s not about you being in this world alone; we’re a family. And not only that, I’m going to reach out to you with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you. The response to that song during live performances is phenomenal. You see parents interacting with their children, siblings interacting with each other, people sitting next to each other interacting. They sing to one another, hug each other, and it’s like, wow, this is awesome. It’s so great to be a catalyst for that. Our target audience is 2 year olds; an adult may not get it, but the 2 year olds get it.Have you ever had a cameo role on Barney?
Not on the show but in the Barney movie (Barney's Great Adventure - 1998). During the “Raindrop” song in the restaurant, as the children are searching for the egg, you can see me in one of the shots singing along with Barney. But I was becoming recognized as the person inside Barney, so the directors did not want me to appear out of costume on the show. However, I have appeared out of costume on Hip Hop Harry.
Did you ever meet any of the character actors you grew up watching on tv?
At then-President Bill Clinton’s inaugural parade I met Maria (Sonia Manzano) from Sesame Street, the postman Mr. McFeely (David Newell) from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Caroll Spinney (Big Bird) – we actually did a video together. But as for Maria: as a child I was in love with her, and I was so thrilled to meet her in person. I told her, “I am a huge fan of yours.” She said, “I’m a huge fan of yours!”
Have you ever thought of doing your own children’s productions apart from your work on Barney and Harry?
Yes, I’ve been working on something, but it hasn’t come into fruition yet.
Do you have any children of your own?
No. Back in 2003 I discovered that I couldn’t have any children. It was a heavy blow at first. I absolutely love children, but found it so ironic that I couldn’t have my own. But after awhile I came to realize that I actually have millions of children (through my work), and I’m good with that.
Do you prefer to act in or out of costume?
Both. I stopped Barney after 10 years because I decided to move on to other acting opportunities. Before I auditioned for Barney I actually turned it down at first, because I didn’t want to be hidden inside a costume; I wanted to be seen. But God let me know He was going to use my talents, gifts and abilities, but no one would know it was me. It humbled me and made me realize that it wasn’t about me, it was about the gift and the talent of being able to connect with children. Acting outside the costume allows me to be me, which is great, and it helps me even when I am in costume.
Did you find it difficult to find work outside the costume? Were you typecast as the children’s actor?
My agent was specific about how she wanted to promote me as an actor, and for a long time wouldn’t allow me to put Barney on the resume at first so I wouldn’t be typecast. I wanted people to see that I was really a good actor, and after awhile adding Barney to my resume was a plus in addition to my other out of costume work.
Are you living your dream now?
I am living my dream, but there’s much more I would still like to accomplish. The acting jobs are going through a bit of a lull (with this economy), but I thank God He has allowed me to continue in this opportunity.
What would you say to someone who wants to get into costume puppeteering on TV or walking about in character at theme parks?
Take classes to learn the craft of acting. For me, it was important to be a good actor. I always saw myself as an actor inside a costume.
Thank you so much for sharing your time and giving such an interesting interview!
Contact Information: (David Joyner)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqaKIsZiToY (David Joyner – in costume and out)
Abdi Farah, winner of the Bravo reality tv show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, talks about his experience as an artist on the show:
How did you find out about and audition for the show?
The chair of the art dept. at (University of Pennsylvania) sent an email out to all the grads and undergrads. It said, “I found out about this, hope I don’t see any of you all on this.”
How were you able to take so much time off? Did the show offer you a stipend?
I had been working freelance teaching before the show started, but was unemployed when I found out that I was in. So I did not need to ask anyone for time off!
How was it for you on your first day?
It was super exciting but super nerve wracking! Everyone else looked so professional and older. I was more awestruck by all of the production equipment and the production lingo. But once we started working, for some reason I felt immediately comfortable. We were just making art. I do this all the time!
What did you think of your self portrait by Ryan?
I think he probably needed some more time. I think it lack a bit of my personality. I probably could have been a better model. I did not give him much to work with.
What was it like sharing space with the other contestants at the William Beaver House?
It was great. I am the freshest out of college so I am used to rooming with people with all their idiosyncrasies. That was probably an advantage for me over the competitors in their 30s and 40s.
Whose personality did you clash with and who did you get along with most, and why?
I didn't really clash with anyone. I think everybody has annoying things about themselves even myself so when people get in that annoying space I am pretty good at ignoring them.
How did it feel to win your first challenge?
It felt great, because I was close to not even finishing that piece. It felt especially great because that piece meant a lot to me. Everything; materially and conceptually just clicked that day!
Were the works you created works-for-hire, or did you keep them and take them home after the show?
The works are kept by Bravo and Magical Elves, which is cool because I probably would not have made them if I was not on the show.
Where did the people come from who were attending the exhibitions? Were you allowed to network with them?
I don't think they were allowed to know our names. But I slipped a few times; we had some great conversations. I have no idea where they came from. One of my best friends from college showed up randomly one time though!
How important was it to maintain a good attitude throughout the show?
It was imperative to keep a good attitude. When ever you would slip into a negative space you would make your worst art. When you just let go and try to have fun, that's when you make your best stuff!
Did you have any trouble getting used to cameras being around? Were scenes re-filmed so they would be more interesting?
After a few days you completely forget that the camera people are there. They are so professional. They are like ninjas, seriously.
Do you agree with how you (and your comments) were portrayed on the show?
I definitely agree with how I was portrayed. I kinda wish the editors left some of my more intelligent quotes because a lot of people probably see me as a naive pipsqueak, but I am. Everything I said, I said. The same is true for every one of us.
Which challenge was the hardest? The easiest?
By far the hardest was the Duality/Opposites challenge. And of all 6 choices I do not think that I am presumptuous in saying I had the hardest one. That challenge kicked my butt! Not sure about the easiest, but the most fun was the second, electronics graveyard, challenge!
Was it unnerving to meet and mingle with high profile artists and media?
OH YEAH! When I first saw Jerry Saltz, I was kinda speechless. So many of the guest judges I was already a big fan of. It was such an honor! Like performing for the Rolling Stones.
What was it about Chaos and Order that was challenging for you? Do you agree with how the judges critiqued your cave?
By that time in the competition my mind was oatmeal. If they had asked me to write my name in cursive I would have struggled. Also Chaos is just hard to wrap your mind around. Combine that with the fact that you have to keep in mind your partners piece. I knew the whole time that mine was going to stink. You win some, you lose some. It was still really fun.
What was it like being on the bottom and hearing the judges’ critiques? Do you feel that the critiques were fair and objective?
The sad part is that whenever I was on the bottom I deserved to be there. The only thing you are thinking is, Dang they’re right! Also because the challenges are so quick its really the first time you get to look at what you did. Its kinda crazy! You almost cannot believe that it was you who made it. Its kinda funny.
What was something that happened that got cut from the show that you wish they had aired?
Hmmm. The bombs that I made for the shock challenge were smoking when the gallery opened. But by the time the camera got to them the fuse had died.
If you could have changed something about the show what would it be?
I think the producers did an amazing job crafting this show. So much research went in to it. That said, them not being artists. I think they did not realize the perfect amount of time to keep the challenges difficult and surprising while still producing great art. A tad more time would have gone a long way.
Do people recognize you in your hometown? Did you get more press and plan to generate more freelance opportunities or sales as a result of being on the show?
I no longer live in my hometown so I am not sure! I hope so, I love Baltimore. The sky is the limit for what this show can do for my career!
Did your students watch the show? What did they think of it? Did you make lessons out of it?
I am not sure if any of my old students watched. I think 17 year old boys only watch MTV and ESPN. I did receive some congrats when I won which felt great.
How did being on the show change you and your art? What did you learn about your creative process?
I learned so much about art on the show, which I did not expect. I learned that great art comes from making art not from thinking about art. Your best art will come from within the confines of working. I am not smarter than the art.
Are there any plans for the winning art from each week to exhibit on tour throughout the country?
Hmmm. Not sure. That would be so sweet if they had a big public exhibition of the best work from the season. Art is always better in person!
Are you required to create new work for the museum show, or will it simply be the work that you created while on the show?
The Brooklyn show is comprised of the finale show and the drawing I did for the Nature challenge. We thought it would be good for people to see these in person!
What do you expect to accomplish after achieving the title of the Next Great Artist?
There really is no limit. I just want to continue to grow and grow as a artist and make work that moves people long after I am dead. I want to make work that’s good enough that everyone in the world will be familiar with it
Thanks for being interested!
You can find out more about Abdi’s exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, on display now through October 17, 2010, here: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/work_of_art/
Meet Andy Lomas, Emmy award winning CG effects maker and digital artist who uses a process called aggregation, which uses digital simulation of flow and deposition to create plant and coral-like structures.
you discover aggregation?
How much are you in control of the process of aggregation, or is it an entirely random process?
I control the rules of the process but not how any structure actually is formed. In other words I don't intervene at all once the simulation process has started. That's something that I wouldn't want to intervene with: I'm interested in what forms emerge. As you explore different forms you begin to get intuitions about the effects of different types of rule change, some of which produce the results you expect, but sometime produce very unexpected results. It's the unexpected results that are usually the most interesting: they are the results that make you think deeper about the processes going on and often lead to exploring in new directions.
aggregation images be colorized or made into 3 dimensions? Would that
destroy the integrity of the work for you?
been the response to your images when you exhibit them?
wondered what it would sound like if you could use the same aggregation and
flow process to create music via computer?
created other kinds of art besides on the computer?
been your most exciting CG project?
actually owns the CG work that you do and how are you credited for it?
competitive is it to get into places like DreamWorks and the Foundry?
Describe the process.
it like earning the first Emmy for your work? What opportunities opened up
for you as a result?
difficult to adjust when you moved to London? Were there differences in
culture that you hadn't anticipated?
little bit about Katana. How will using it make CG a little easier?
important is math in the process of creating your CG work?
your dream project, and how close are you to doing it?
would you say to encourage others who want to get into the CG field?
give me a link to a video of your specific CG work, a scene that you worked
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