Creating Claymation and Lego Robots at Artech
By Joanne Jefferson, Chronicle Herald, SOUTH SHORE ARTS, March 8th, 2007
Joanne Jefferson is a freelance writer living in West Lahave and Spotlight’s voice on the Arts on the South Shore.
When Ronnie Scullion prepared to move her Bridgewater business a few blocks down King Street recently, she faced a unique challenge! How do you move dozens of tiny clay creations without damaging them? The care and respect with which Scullion handles the claymation masterpieces of a nine-year-old client reflects the overall philosophy of Artech Studios. The business, which offers creative technology workshops, is now two years old and has grown enough to need, and afford, a larger facility.
I visited Artech’s new space (in the former YMCA building) on a recent Saturday morning. Mitchell and Geoff Conrad, brothers from Petite Riviere, were working on designing a computer game using clay characters to represent the game characters. They’re making miniature spaceships that will eventually battle each other on screen. “It’s a srolling shooter game,” Mitchell explains. “You fire at the spaceships and they shoot you bark with marbles.” Geoff illustrates by showing me an online game called Platypus. Then he sets to work creating the opening credits for their game, Future Fight. He lays out clay letters on the Claymation stage, a raised platform draped with a cloth and illuminated by two desk lamps. A digital camera mounted on a tripod is hooked up to a laptop computer. Each shot can be immediately downloaded into animation software, Geoff snaps one picture, then moves a colourful spaceship a few millimetres, shoots again, moves it, shoots again. I’m impressed with his patience and his independence.
Scullion fosters the atmosphere that allows kids like the Conrad brothers to bring their imaginations to life using digital technology. But it’s not just about sitting at a computer. The activities are hands-on and inventiveness is the main ingredient. Besides computer games and Claymation. Scullion also teaches kids how to create and program robots made of Lego. The ‘bots’ can move on different surfaces, battle each other, and make sounds.
One four-legged robot creation looks like a fire-breathing dragon. Other examples are on display at Artech’s website along with schedules and registration forms for upcoming programs. While there are still elements to finish up in the new location, everything will be in place for the upcoming March Break camp. The theme for the allday sessions, for kids 8 to 14, is Monster Marathon. Participants will create monster robots, animated clay monsters, masks, and computer games. The camp day runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. – all five days. Kids can register for the whole week or just a day.
Scullion is also offering a two-hour program for younger kids (4 to 8), with stories, crafts, and Lego play around the theme of Where the Wild Things Are. She says the new space, a large open room with several rows of computers on one side and big project tables on the other, allows a range of activities to take place simultaneously. “Sometimes we get groups where one child wants to work with clay and another want to do robots,” she says. “Here we can do that.” She’s planning to add a T-shirt press and a ping-pong table.
Summertime will bring a further expansion — a six-week satellite program at the Dartmouth Sportsplex, Camps will also be offered at the new Bridgewater location, which Scullion predicts will he cool and comfortable. The entrance to the new space is right at river level and the building’s owner intends to add a deck. When Scullion opened Artech Studios two years ago, she was confident it would be successful but questioned its sustainability in Bridgewater. Now, enthusiastic about her new surroundings, she is happy that Artech is not only well-rooted in the town, but growing up and branching out.