Victoria Rose Zalewski
Enthralled by the aesthetic of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” Victoria Rose Zalewski knew early on that she wanted a career in the film industry. Her dream came true in 2006 when she moved to Oregon to begin work on “Coraline” with director Henry Selick. Surrounded by her family and friends, the artist watched as the film premiered from a theatre in Novi in February (2009).
“For two years, my involvement with ‘Coraline’ consumed my whole life, and, because of confidentiality issues, I couldn’t talk about it with anyone,” said Zalewski. “For people to finally see what I had been working on was the most awesome feeling. I had seen snippets of the film during production, yet I was still captivated by how the story came together on screen.”
As a puppet fabricator, Zalewski managed a team of five artists assigned to create and assemble puppet parts (specifically hands, boots and cat pieces) used in the film.
“We sort of worked like an assembly line,” Zalewski explained. “First we created silicone and foam casts in a three-part mold, then went back and erased the seams to make everything look flawless. The puppet Coraline only stood about eight-inches with hands the size of my fingernail, so you can imagine what it was like to paint each of her tiny fingernails!”
<span class='CALLOUT'>My portfolio revealed I had the skills they needed and the capability to learn fast… Those qualities are crucial in this industry</span>
Laika hired Zalewski during her senior year at CCS. Her fully stop motion portfolio, which contained two films she completed as part of her junior review, caught the attention of the Portland animation studio.
“My persistence paid off,” she laughed. “They told me that my portfolio revealed I had the skills they needed and the capability to learn fast… Those qualities are crucial in this industry.”
While she lubricated molds and mixed pigments for her puppets, Zalewski often recalled lessons she learned from Animation and Digital Media instructors such as Larry Larson and Steve Stanchfield, who gave her the inside scoop about working in the industry and taught her how to handle criticism professionally.
“The most valuable lesson I learned was the importance of sharing with other artists, whether it is teaching someone how to use a certain technique or improve on their work” said Zalewski. “In this industry, people want to save their best ideas for themselves. You should never be afraid to share your comments or teach someone because it will help you in the long run too.”
Work on most film projects often occurs in waves with two years on and one year off. Currently Zalewski is on hiatus from Laika, but looks forward to working with the studio again in the future. She is using the time to concentrate on personal projects. Her recent 49-piece show at Landmark Main Art in Royal Oak centered around cupcakes, sushi and sea creatures.
“I used a lot of fun textures and vibrant colors—what I would want to see on my walls,” she said. “It was a challenge to hang all of those snail puppets from the ceiling… I must say that my first show was definitely an eye-opening experience.”
- Graduation Year: 2007
- Employer: Laika (Portland, Oregon)
- Title: Puppet Fabricator
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