The creator behind the film Listen to Me Sing, Isabel Garrett, discusses stop-motion animation and Alexander McQueen’s influence on her artistic journey.

By Mission.

Isabel Garrett is an award-winning Welsh animation director and puppet maker known for creating films that are both surreal and subversive. The artist is a graduate of the National Film and TV School where she obtained an MA in Directing Animation. Through stop-motion, puppetry, and live-action filmmaking, Garrett crafts stories filled with forceful yet tragic female characters. Below we chat with the artist about where she finds inspiration and how her time at Sarabande has helped her navigate the artistic and commercial worlds.

1. What drew you to puppetry?

The tactility of puppetry and stop-motion is something I love, it’s quite a simple thing. But the fact that everything’s real and made by hand gives it an inherent feeling of life even before it’s animated.

2. Your latest film, Listen to Me Sing, is currently on the festival circuit and has received awards like Best Animation at the BAFTA qualifying Underwire Festival. Can you tell us about the film and its reception so far?

The film is a love story between a downtrodden woman and a walrus. Sophie, the protagonist, essentially discovers her primal self through her relationship with the walrus. The reception has been lovely so far, and personally, the film’s helped me understand more clearly what sort of stories I want to tell.

3. Your work is often set within surreal worlds. Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating these environments?

I like the spaces that exist between the natural world and the parts humans inhabit. It seems like there’s always a miserable forgotten bridge between the two, like the outskirts of cities and industrial estates, where we don’t care about the landscape anymore but we also don’t get any pleasure from being there. I think this, mixed with a slightly odd sense of humor and timing, makes things a bit surreal.

4. How has your time at Sarabande influenced your work today?

Sarabande has been wonderful for loads of reasons. They’re incredibly helpful with things like networking and support, which in turn helps me on the road to working out where my work fits commercially and artistically. Stop motion is both very specific and endlessly broad, so figuring out where you sit is important.

5. The Sarabande studios seem to be ripe for collaboration. What was it like having access to other artists and designers working under the same roof as you?

It’s inspiring! Being surrounded by brilliant artists is always fascinating, and it’s really lovely having so much diversity in terms of practice, too. There are jewelers, fashion designers, sculptors, and so much more, all of whom are so knowledgeable and skillful in what they do. It’s the perfect environment for collaboration.

6. Since participating in Sarabande, have you taken inspiration from the founder himself, Alexander McQueen?

I loved Alexander McQueen when I was younger. I remember seeing his collections for the first time when I was 16 and being so blown away by the stories he was telling with clothes and the complexity of the worlds in his catwalks. I hadn’t quite realized you could do that, and it was a huge part of why I went on to study fashion instead of doing A-Levels, which in turn led me into the art world.

7. Are you working on anything new while under quarantine?

I’ve had a few really fun commissions. I’ve also been very slowly writing a graphic novel which I’m super excited about. I’m also in the very early stages of developing a new short film!

Photos courtesy of Sarabande Foundation.