Meet Samuel Shumway, a stop-motion animator, illustrator, papercraft artist, and lover of all (I repeat, ALL) kinds of food. Samuel grew up in Baltimore before attending the Parsons School of Design in NYC, where he received his BFA in Illustration. His current work has him doing a variety of quirky and eclectic projects, including making costumes for pugs to building archeological sites in his bedroom. Read below to learn more about Samuel's life and work!
What keeps you busy in the day-to-day? You seem to have your hands in a lot of different places - sculpture, illustration, video, animation, and more; do you have any side hobbies you enjoy as well?
My day job is as a fabricator and stop motion animator. I’ll get brought on to projects if props need to be made, but my passion is animation. As far as hobbies, I like reading, podcasts, playing pool, and being a homebody. I like traveling, and I try to travel as much as possible. That’s where the videography stuff comes in: I like documenting my trips. I think it’s a nice time capsule.
What’s your workspace like? Many of your animations include a variety of colorful objects, do you keep any collections that help get you inspired?
It’s chaos, to be honest, but yes, I have milk crates full of colorful props that I’ve used on set. My inspiration comes mostly from the digital realm, but I’m always combing thrift stores to look for objects to animate. I have a studio in my apartment where I work, and when I take on a project I put my whole life into it, so I usually try to reset every week or so. But no one would ever accuse me of being organized.
Have you always been attracted to playful, poppy images? A lot of your 2-dimensional illustration work is rendered in stark black and white, was this how you worked before getting into bright colors and papercrafts, or do you still bounce back and forth between the two?
I keep illustration in my back pocket now, although it comes in handy a lot. I have a little bit of an obsessive personality, so when I was in school that meant doing these crazy detailed black and white illustrations in pen and ink. Nowadays, I’ve turned that obsession into making things by hand. I love the therapeutic nature of construction. It’s also a trait that a lot of stop motion animators have, because when you animate objects you’re breaking them down into frames. Sometimes in a single second of video you’re dealing with hours and hours of work. I do feel like I was a different person when doing those illustrations though, especially when contrasted with my current work.
Speaking of, when did you start getting into working with paper as a sculptural medium?
This paper stuff really started as a hobby. I made my first paper meal in August 2017 and it just grew from there. I think my first one was a raw steak. I’d ask my followers to suggest paper meals they’d like to see made and I had an Excel spreadsheet with all the suggestions. I think I have something like 300 suggestions now.
But even before that, I’d always liked using paper. It wasn’t forgiving but it has such a nice texture to it. People really responded to it and that motivated me to make more. At the height of it I thought, “this could be ‘a thing’”; paper meals are about as niche as you can get. But in the end it’s just a fun thing I get to do in my spare time, and I’m pretty ok with keeping it that way.
Yeah totally! Your piece in Foodies is incredible - an appetizing and gravity-defying bowl of brightly colored noodles created from paper and wood. Can you tell us more about it, what the process of making it was like, and what the recipe means to you?
Thank you!! That’s very sweet of you to say. I’ve always wanted to do a gravity-defying piece and I thought the noodles were a great vessel for that. The process was not as bad as I’d thought, the main obstacle was shipping it, but building it involved a lot of math and planning. The concept isn’t super groundbreaking, but I knew that my pieces didn’t read very well as prints, so I asked for permission to ship a physical piece to LGAL and you guys let me! I had a “go big or go home” moment because it’s the first time I’d had my work displayed anywhere.
What are some of your other favorite foods or recipes? You mentioned you travel a lot, what are some of your favorite things you’ve eaten on these travels?
I’m very faithful to my crock pot; my significant other and I try to do meal prep for the week on Sundays. Aside from that, I love all foods. This might be a cop-out, but I love eating and I love food. One thing I am NOT is picky, so when I travel I’ll eat whatever is offered. The only thing I’ve turned down is pickled fish at 9am when my girlfriend and I were in Finland for a layover. I’m not that adventurous around breakfast time.
You do work for a variety of companies, projects, and individuals, however your work is always distinctly yours. What’s it like to collaborate with these clients, big or small? Do you keep a lot of creative freedom?
I try to be as nebulous as possible in my work. i was taught that the client gets what they ask for, because i’m being hired to accomplish the clients vision. That being said, sometimes it takes a little encouragement to help us both get the best possible product. The best kinds of gigs are the ones where the client says “do what you want”, but that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like
Who are some of your inspirations, within the realm of visual arts or elsewhere?
I’m inspired a lot by low poly art, which is often rendered in 3D modeling software and has a geometric quality to it. I like my stuff to be a communication between geometric shapes, which is why math is so important to my papercraft. Using a medium that’s 2-dimensional and making it 3-Dimensional is super gratifying. If we’re talking in the broader strokes of inspiration, I like tropical/west coast vaporwave aesthetics, 20th century nostalgia and type specimens, and analog photography, among other things. Memphis-style patterns, high saturation and color contrast, sea foam, coral, mint...
What are some techniques, narratives, or icons you want to work with in the near future?
In the immediate future. I just want to make cool things. I’ve said before that I’m happy when other people are happy. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a spectrum of companies as well as a handful of stop-motion studios and, in the end, that’s where I thrive . Right now I’m super satisfied with taking things as they come.
Any last thoughts? Where can people find you on the web?
Sure! thanks a bunch for letting me do this interview. I’m on instagram at @yungshum and my website is www.samuelshumway.com