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World renowned artists and designers inspire next generation of creatives

The creative brains behind Star Wars’ Yoda and designs in multiple blockbuster films have joined learners in south Wales to share their insights on how to create costumes and props ready for the big screen.

Learners at Coleg y Cymoedd were joined by acclaimed artists, designers and costume makers from across the world of film and design to hear about their careers and top tips on how to succeed in the industry.

Internationally renowned fantasy illustrator and movie conceptual designer Brian Froud, and his wife Wendy Froud, the doll maker behind the original Yoda from Star Wars, visited the college’s Nantgarw campus to speak to its creative learners.

Boasting a forty-year career, Brian has worked on the illustrations for several fantasy art books, including Faeries, produced in collaboration with The Lord of the Rings conceptual designer, Alan Lee. Following this, Brian worked as a conceptual designer on 80s hit Labyrinth, starring David Bowie, and puppet-animated adventure film, The Dark Crystal.

American sculptor and puppet maker Wendy, who worked alongside Brian on Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, is best known for her creations in The Muppet Show and The Empire Strikes Back film. She has also authored and illustrated several of her own books. More recently, the husband and wife duo have worked together on the concept and character design for Netflix’s ‘The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance’.

As part of the lecture, the couple were also joined by Welsh puppet designer and performer, William Todd-Jones, who has performed puppets and creatures on numerous feature films including Harry Potter, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Muppets, Batman and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. William has also been involved in creating the Creature FX department for this year’s popular BBC/HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman’s, His Dark Materials.

With over 500 young people studying creative subjects at Coleg y Cymoedd, the sell-out event provided a range of learners, including those studying prop making, costume construction, photography and art and design, with the opportunity to gain real insights from experts working within the industries that they are hoping to go into.

Following the lecture and a tour of the college’s workshops and studios, Brian and Wendy hosted a puppet making workshop with the learners, providing them with expert advice on creating their own masterpieces. In the lead up to the visit, the learners designed their own puppets inspired by Brian and Wendy’s work to be judged by them during their time at the college. The pair selected their favourite from the ‘Ready, Steady, Puppet’ contest and awarded the winning learner, Kamila Abramczyck, with a signed copy of their new book.

Brian and Wendy with puppet making competition winner Kamila Abramczyck

Competition winner Kamila, who studies HND Creative Production Arts with a focus on the design of props, said: “The opportunity to meet and talk to such inspiring and internationally acclaimed artists is such a privilege. My course works very closely with industry, which is so important when finding employment after I graduate.”

Alistair Aston, course leader of BA (Hons) TV and Film: Prop Making, said: “Having the opportunity to be in the company of some of the most talented designers and sculptors in the industry for the day was a truly wonderful experience for both our staff and students. Hearing about how they started their careers, their creative processes and what it was like to work with stars like David Bowie was absolute gold dust.

“It’s such an exciting time to be involved in the creative industries here in Wales, especially with the growth of high-end TV and Film productions locally. Having internationally renowned artists and designers, like Brian and Wendy Froud here at Coleg y Cymoedd supporting our courses can only give inspiration, confidence and value to our learners during their creative studies.”