Monday, March 22, 2010

HOUSE CALLS: Norma Toraya from Crankbunny

Have you discovered that fantastical papercraft work of Crankbunny? Norma (animator and illustrator) is the talent behind the name and since I discovered her work I have marvelled at the incredible skill and the inexplicable process behind her Pop Up Cards and Paper Puppets. I swear it seems to me that her creations are completely magical, and I can't get over how some one could actually create such clever and intricate work! I wanted to learn more, and I knew you would too, so Norma has shared her inspirations with me and today we are going to take a seat and let her tell you all! Grab a cup of coffee and settle in, Norma has a fascinating story to tell!

Describe the work that you do? "I am animation director and paper puppet pop-up person. Basically my creative life is split into two parts. I direct and animate TV commercials, web spots, independent film projects, projections, etc. That's mainly how I make a living and am very proud to consider myself an animator. Then the other half of me likes to illustrate and make handmade pop-up cards, paper puppets, and shadow puppets for folks which I sell through my online stores. These two halves really fit together to create a wonderful balance. If I did not have both of them- I'd probably be miserable."

Flying Monkey Lady Paper Pupppet

What was the career/education path you took to get to this point? "I never had a plan ever - somehow my interests and needs guided me to this point with a lot of hard work, intuition, and mucho get-up-n-go. Here is the path mapped out: In high school I studied a lot about art, photography, animation, and ceramics. In college I Majored in sculpture - mainly because it was the program most open to exploration. I studied photography, art theory, metal-smithing, graphic design, English literature, Latin American history, and of course sculpture. After graduation - I had bills to pay and ended up working in advertising as a designer/flash programmer/AD/visual who-done-it in New York City. Agency life got frustrating and it was a period in time with many lay-offs. Before I was unable to pinpoint exactly what I wanted to do, but soon then I realized I wanted to tell stories through my drawings. So I started to animate again. I packed up all my stuff and moved to LA to go to graduate school at CALarts for experimental animation (and still freelanced full-time as a designer...). I missed NYC and moved back. I started to animate more and more. Between commercial projects I was still animating personal projects. Eventually I hit a huge wall and realized I could not animate 24/7. It was becoming uncomfortable. There are many amazing animators who can do it... but it was burning me out. I decided to take some time off."

"I knew about Etsy and wondered if people would like the paper puppets and paper stuff that would usually get made for animating. I figured if I could sell them and pay for my groceries while keeping myself creatively entertained until my next commercial job - it wouldn't be such a bad thing. And then it blew up in my face (not in a bad way). The most valuable part of selling my handmade paper goodies to people is a reward that I can't get from my animated work. It's something about the direct contact, the responsibility, the object, the exchange, etc of an object that did not exist so specifically with me when I animated."

Where do you get your inspirations? "I get obsessive about random topics. They really do appear to me random. On a plane, sitting on the subway, a paper cut-out snail that some kid made and lost on the sidewalk, etc. It starts from that always. My family and friends also inspire me. Everyone I know is creative and caring and as much of work-o-holic as I am. Having that sort of energy around you does wonders."

Golden Ticket Scratch Card (Custom Message)

Describe the creative process in designing and constructing a particular piece. "I usually bump into something on the Internet, street, book, magazine, etc that intrigues me. It gets stored in the back of my brain and sort of simmers (I also keep a small sketchbook in my bag). There's a lot of simmering going on. Eventually one of those things rises to the top and stands out. Much of the stuff sinks. I design the card/paper puppet/etc in my sketchbook with drawings /different views / notes on many many pages. If there's issues that is difficult to solve - a good subway ride with my sketchbook clears it up. I get an amazing amount of thinking done on the subway. Then the sketchbook gets shut for awhile."

Lady Spider Paper Puppet Doll

"Eventually I look at it again, and if it makes sense... I decide to make a prototype out of regular paper. The prototype is really boring and ugly looking. There are usually paper parts glued or taped all over it. I sketch all over it too. Once the prototype is done, I take it apart. It gets scanned and the artwork is done digitally in the computer. It's then also setup for printing. I print the final out and test it. If something doesn't work it gets tweaked in the computer and then tada!"

Where do you create your work? "I have a "home office" which I refuse to call a studio. It's where I work on both my animation projects and my paper stuff."

Butterfly Flapping Pop-Up Card

Would you share a few of your favourite artisans whose work you admire? Robert Ryan, a London based Artist specialising in Paper Cutting

I Can Forget Screenprint

Rob Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart, Pop-Up Children's Book creators

From the Encylopedia Prehistorica - Dinosaurs Edition

Lindsey Carr, also known as Little Robot, a Scottish artist.

Paper Moon, Hand painted Wood and Paper Theater

Where do you sell your work? "I sell my paper goodies through my Etsy shop and my regular online store."

Paper Puppet Palooza A story book instructional to making Paper Puppets, is out now! Here's the trailer.

What/who are the things you love most in your life? "I love my friends and my family and my dog Gilda. I love New York City and consider myself a New Yorker (even though I grew up in Miami). Many people ask me 'don't you wanna travel?' and my answer is always "Why would I? I live in New York City?". I also love food - good responsibly grown and cooked food. I am also especially fond of loud hand bags, vintage tea towels, robots, parks, pop up books and some really good gelato."

Secret Decoder Card (Custom Message)

What would you do “in your wildest dreams”, if there were no restrictions (like money, or responsibilities!)? "I would live in NYC and in Miami (where I am from). I would fly with my dog on my lap - not stuffed under a seat in front of me. I would have a large studio with tons of neat paper die presses and laser cutters and printers and hired nifty paper people to help me run everything. I would quit working in advertising and go back to working on my own animated films. I would spend more time in the ocean."

Let Them Eat Cake Pop-Up Card

What is your greatest professional achievement? "One of my animated shorts was part of an screened exhibition at MOMA here in NYC."

What is new with you and your work? "I'm currently trying to organize and make my shop better (inventory / production method stuff). The goal is to keep my shops open when I am pulled away to do an animation job. Fooling around with a possible laser cutter in the future. Finishing a small personal shadow puppet animated film. Getting out a pop up card that's a money holder / gift card greeting card. I find the ones in the stores really boring and awkward!"

Do you have a motto for life? ""I can do whatever I want." And its true."

Wow, what a fabulous journey, I don't know how Norma does it all! I hope you have loved this fascinating look into the world of such a talented artist, as much as I have.

To keep up to date with the world of Crankbunny and all the exciting projects Norma has mentioned, please visit her blog, Crankbunny


  1. the golden ticket card is insane. i need an excuse to send one now!

  2. I know, that is my absolute fave. What a cool gift for someone, completely memorable and unique


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