May 22, 2015 by Amanda Bradford, NMSU News Center
A program offered through Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University has helped an artist turn an antique, soon-to-be scrapped piece of animation equipment into an upgraded tool that’s driving the growth of her studio, Fundamentalist Flowerchild Productions – which was selected as a 2014 New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program Success Story.
Kate Brown, who spent 40 years as a successful potter before turning her attention and talents to animation, found a hulking Oxberry Master Series Animation Stand available for the taking on an online site and, unwilling to see the 2,000-pound iron beast taken for scrap, she retrieved it from its home in Rhode Island, bringing it back to her studio in San Lorenzo, New Mexico.
The Oxberry, once the industry standard equipment for stop-motion animation, wasn’t functional, but Brown had visions of restoring it for her own use and that of other animators seeking to use the vintage machine.
Brown turned for help to Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University, which was able to offer support through the NMSBA program, which allows New Mexico small businesses facing a technical challenge to access the unique expertise and capabilities of NMSU, channeled through Arrowhead Center. Arrowhead Center is one of four subcontractors for the NMSBA state program from Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.
Griselda Martinez, program manager for NMSBA at Arrowhead Center, served as principal investigator on the project, which included Anthony Hyde, Yu-Ping Tang, Charlie Park and Caleb Sokoll of the NMSU College of Engineering’s Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center.
Tang and the MTEC team designed and sourced the new stepper motors, controllers and drivers needed to operate the four axes of the Oxberry: the table’s north-south, east-west and rotation axes and the camera’s up-down axis. In late April 2014, a team of four engineers installed these new components.
“I felt the attention that NMSBA lavished on my project was extraordinary,” Brown said. “It’s not very often that a quirky, marginal business like mine gets this type of attention from such high-technology institutions.”
With the equipment upgraded and ready to work, Brown turned to Kickstarter to seek crowdfunding for additional software, camera equipment and an under-the-camera multi-plane rack.
She’s now able to offer production residencies for animators and an animation camp for students. In November, a class of New Media students from Western New Mexico University visited Brown’s studio for three evenings to shoot an animation project on the Oxberry. The resulting animation can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/124324805.
“They collected plants from around my house and garden, arranged them on the stacked glass sheets of the new multi-plane, and shot the stills that became this ‘First Light,’ a term used to designate the first project to come out of a new production facility,” Brown said in the video’s explanation.
Brown said she hopes to attract filmmakers, artists and visitors interested in the technique and the effects produced by the Oxberry – and wants them to learn more about the art-rich Mimbres Valley while they’re at it. More information about the entire project and Brown’s studio is available at oxberryproject.com.
Of the 352 small businesses benefiting from NMSBA support in 2014, Fundamentalist Flowerchild Productions was one of 10 selected as a 2014 NMSBA Success Story, and Brown will be recognized at an award celebration and NMSBA program information session from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 27, at Arrowhead Center, in Genesis Building C on the NMSU Campus. In addition, her business will be featured in NMSBA’s annual report, highlighting the impact that the program has had on helping it grow.
“Kate’s passion for it is contagious and invites others to want to be part of it,” said Martinez, the NMSBA program manager. “After the customized assistance provided by our NMSU MTEC team, Kate has continued to work toward turning the Mimbres Valley area into a highly unique destination for multiplane stop-motion animation, using this modernized Oxberry. The economic impact of this assistance is already tangible at Kate’s studio and in the Mimbres Valley.”
Brown has been hired to do the animation for “Johnny’s Cactus,” a New Mexico-produced short film about the legacy of the first young man from Las Cruces to be killed in Vietnam. More information about that project is available at johnnyscactus.com.
NMSBA was created by the New Mexico Legislature in 2000. Los Alamos National Laboratory joined the program in 2007. The assistance offered is of no cost to the small business; services provided to small companies are not to be available in the private sector at a reasonable cost.
Last year, 352 small businesses in 31 counties received assistance through the NMSBA program. Since its inception, the NMSBA has provided 2,341 New Mexico small businesses with more than $43 million in technical assistance. The program has helped create and retain more than 4,000 jobs at a mean salary of more than $38,000. Roughly 65 percent of businesses helped were located in rural areas of the state.
For more information about how the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program can help you, contact Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 575-646-7096, visit nmsba.org or attend the May 27 information session. For more information about Arrowhead Center, visit arrowhead.nmsu.edu.