Sheila Graber is the amateur animator whose work was so good she became professional. Many of her amusing, insightful and beautifully crafted films are on YouTube. Now there are DVDs of her wonderful work available for sale via her website and many other goodies - including free animation classes.
And it all started on a kitchen table.
It was my pleasure to visit Sheila's home in the North-East of England some years ago. At that time Sheila's mother acted as a "minder" to prevent people wasting her time. Animation takes time, mountains of it. Sheila's generous nature made it difficult for her to turn down requests for help with this, that and the other. But to make an animated series for television requires discipline and controlled use of every available minute. Even then she made space in her afternoon to talk enthusiastically about her part of Tyneside, the kids she had taught, her joy in art and the fun she finds in animating.
No, there was no tea on the table - it was needed for her animation. Tea was served on side-tables. Some years before, Sheila, a former teacher, had started making films and needed help ... as most of us do. In her case sound was the problem. Through local cine clubs she met people who gave her the help she needed ... and she was off. Her work established a reputation for charm, quality and conscientious research. She made movies for television all over the world.
I saw her at work on another occasion with a class of children, showing them how to make moving pictures using an apple on a desk, a camcorder on a tripod whose trigger was sharply "blipped" and some work with a poking finger The simple animation as fruit crossed desk felt like magic to the children - and to me - and, I suspect, to Sheila. She was opening a door for them. How many would go through that door none of us would ever know ... but she gave them that chance.
Sheila is still dedicated to giving everyone a chance to become an animator, whether for the big screen or a web site. She offers courses in computer animation and sells books based on her own practical experience.
Do take a look at the web site she and her friend Jen Miller run: www.graber-miller.com
- Dave Watterson