This week, we're shining the spotlight on Archivist Zoe Critchley, who shares her serendipitous journey to Aardman...
Tell us about your role at Aardman:
One of the things I love most about my role is that every day is different! We are a small team – just Senior Archivist Tom Vincent and myself – and on top of managing Aardman’s physical and digital archive of assets, we support many departments across the company. This includes handling internal requests and queries, being involved in post-production and (sometimes) pre-production, and working with the Attractions & Live Experiences team to set up exhibitions. I also keep busy updating the archive databases and digitising artwork.
How did you get into the industry?
I actually got into it through the heritage industry. I studied BA Heritage, Archaeology and History at Bangor University and MA Cultural Heritage Management at the University of York with the intention of working in the archive or museum sectors. I worked as an assistant in the archive of a WW2 & modern history museum before taking some time out to travel.
I happened to be in Melbourne when the Art of Aardman exhibition was at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. I have always had a keen interest in the film and animation industries, and grew up watching Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and Flushed Away with my sisters so of course I had to go! I remember sharing on social media how much I loved it and how amazing it was to see the sets, props, models and concept art. I also remember thinking what a dream job it would have been to work on that exhibition; a perfect combination of the heritage, animation and film industries.
Coincidentally, a couple of months later, I was back home in Yorkshire applying for jobs and Aardman advertised a position in its archive. The first time I came to Bristol was for the interview, and I moved down several weeks later for the job! It felt like one of those ‘meant to be’ moments – and still feels that way!
What’s your all-time favourite project that you’ve been involved with and why?
One of my favourite projects was working on the Animating Early Man exhibition at the M-Shed in Bristol. With it being a large, local exhibition, it was the first Aardman exhibition I was thoroughly involved in throughout the whole process; the planning, installation and deinstallation. I ended up visiting it several times with different family and friends who wanted to see it, so was able to give them a pretty in-depth guided tour!
To date, what has been your biggest professional achievement?
One that immediately springs to mind was attending the Bristol premiere of A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon and seeing my name in the credits. A first film credit is an unforgettable moment for a film geek! It was such a joy to see my name on the big screen alongside all the supremely talented people I had and have the honour to work with.
Name three people who inspire you and why:
Other than my family and friends, who inspire me all the time, and the people at Aardman, who do incredibly inspiring work both within and outside of the company, I find the work of authors like Susanna Clarke and Neil Gaiman, and lyricists like Stephen Schwartz inspiring. I write in my free time, so have such admiration for all great worldbuilders, wordsmiths and storytellers.
Who is your favourite Aardman character and why?
I have two. A bit of a cheat I know. First off, I adore Gromit (who doesn’t?!) He’s smart, resourceful, loyal, super cute and so wonderfully expressive. I also love Ginger. Not just because she’s a fellow Northern lass, but because I admire her pluck, her ambition and her big heart. She’s not just a chicken, she’s a role model!