From Weta to the world and back

At age seven Tanya Mar­riott sold her doll’s pram to start a ca­reer which has taken her over the world. She talks to Karo­line Tuckey.

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS FEATURE -

Pro­fes­sional doll­maker and dig­i­tal de­signer Tanya Mar­riott has plied her trade around the world, work­ing for some of the big­gest names in en­ter­tain­ment and sculpt­ing hob­bits’ ears, plas­ticine sheep and cre­at­ing amaz­ing toys.

An early pas­sion for doll­mak­ing and DIY crafts­man­ship led her to roles with the likes of Weta, Aard­man An­i­ma­tions and the com­pany that cre­ated the Ru­bik’s Cube, then back home again to Welling­ton where she now works as a dig­i­tal me­dia de­sign lec­turer at Massey Univer­sity.

Mar­riott grew up in Whitby and says her ear­li­est mem­ory is of be­ing taken to see the pup­petry fan­tasy film The Dark Crys­tal. The ex­pe­ri­ence kicked off her first cre­ations; a wardrobe of fan­tasy themed dolls’ clothes. By sev­enyears-old she wanted more time with her mum’s sewing ma­chine. So she sold her doll’s pram to buy her own sec­ond- hand sewing ma­chine and at 10 she took a porce­lain doll-mak­ing course for chil­dren, which fed years of craft­ing and ex­per­i­ment­ing with dolls.

‘‘I’ve been do­ing sculpt­ing my whole life and every­thing else’s at­tached to that.’’

She jokes she may be near­ing the life­time of hours re­quired to be recog­nised as a mas­ter crafts­man.

Mar­riott went to Aotea Col­lege and re­mem­bers hours spent in the art depart­ment work­ing on port­fo­lios and the wood­work teacher let­ting her pot­ter about in his work­shop.

From school she com­pleted a de­gree in de­sign at Massey Univer­sity, dur­ing which she scored a job work­ing for Weta Work­shop on The Lord of the Rings as a pros­thet­ics technician mak­ing hob­bit ears.

‘‘I sent them a sculp­ture of a goblin, called The Mes­sen­ger, say­ing ‘Please hire me’.

‘‘I loved it [at Weta]. It was re­ally amaz­ing but quite daunt­ing be­ing there. I it was a big bustling work­shop with a lot go­ing on, and I was re­ally young – it was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.’’

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, Mar­riott sought in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence and found work as a sculp­tor with Cana­dian stop mo­tion an­i­ma­tion com­pany Bowes pro­duc­tion.

‘‘They were a small com­pany that came to­gether when they had a film on and rented fa­cil­i­ties. We worked in a re­for­ested area near Vancouver with coy­otes wan­der­ing about. We had some amaz­ing artists around, and worked on projects like Co­ra­line, and Ro­bot Chicken.’’

From there Mar­riott had the op­por­tu­nity to work for in­dus­try lead­ers Aard­man An­i­ma­tions, the cre­ators of the much loved Bri­tish clay­ma­tion se­ries Wal­lace and Gromit in Bris­tol, Eng­land.

Mar­riott worked on sheep and seag­ulls for the Crea­ture Com­forts se­ries, a chain of ad­ver­tise­ments and later a TV se­ries that was in­spired by an Academy Award­win­ning clay­ma­tion short film of an­i­mals com­ment­ing on their liv­ing sit­u­a­tions.

Next came a ‘‘ dream job’’ with Lon­don toy mak­ers Seven Towns, the cre­ators of the Ru­bik’s Cube. The com­pany made and mar­keted its own de­signs, as well as work­ing on de­sign briefs from in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies like Mat­tel and Tomy.

‘‘They are a very old and very well re­spected com­pany in the in­dus­try, and I was work­ing as a toy­maker which is what I al­ways re­ally wanted to do.’’

Un­for­tu­nately the com­pany re­struc­tured and Mar­riott de­cided she was at a point in her ca­reer where she wanted more time to work on her own projects.

‘‘It was quite cool but it does get a bit rou­tine af­ter a while. It’s re­ally hard to see what some­one else has in their head and visu­alise it and in­ter­pret it.’’

She headed back to Massey, Welling­ton, to do a Masters de­gree in de­sign, with the in­ten­tion of re­vis­it­ing some of her fun­da­men­tal de­sign skills like draw­ing and at­ten­tion to de­tail in her sculp­ture. While study­ing she be­came in­ter­ested in the di­men­sions she could add to her char­ac­ters with dig­i­tal de­sign and an­i­ma­tion.

‘‘With an­i­ma­tion there’s lots of dif­fer­ent ways you can make things move, but you’ve got to work out why they move that way, and you can give them more ex­pres­sion.’’

While com­plet­ing her Masters she be­gan work­ing as a tu­tor for Massey, and on com­ple­tion was hired as a lec­turer, which she de­scribes as un­usual and a lit­tle bit ‘‘jammy’’.

Teach­ing de­sign has been the per­fect role to en­able her time and en­ergy to work on her own projects.

‘‘The stu­dents have so many great ideas, I come home re­ally in­spired, and en­thused to get on with my own work – they amaze me.’’

You can see ex­am­ples of Tanya Mar­riott’s work at tanya­mar­riott.co.nz

Fan­tas­tic: Welling­ton sculp­tor and doll­maker Tanya Mar­riott, work­ing on a grif­fin, one of her be­spoke cre­ations.

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