Inari Sirola has a fascinating view of the world. An animator born in Finland, she sparks inspiration from fashion, cinema, a location or the people she’s met, and she’ll twist these everyday occurrences into her own marvellous version of reality. Take the other day as an example; she was having a coffee and eating her favourite ice cream, while two small boys walked by, “comparing who might be better at eating ants”. Inari found it hilarious.
Moments like this – or “random circumstances” – are what triggers her creativity. And once the ideas are flowing, she’ll evolve it into an animated narrative, taking form in many ways such as a goblin-like character eating in the dark, or the examination of body image as told through the drawings of sexualised dogs. Most imperative, however, is her gruesome character design, creating all sorts from saggy and wrinkly features to long-nosed aliens and sausages. But there’s a lot more to her absurd creations than just a funny depiction of a person or place; Inari aims to challenge gender stereotypes and the concept of identity throughout her work, and the playful incorporation of surrealism and comedy only helps her to achieve her goals.
Inari’s path into the medium wasn’t quite so straightforward – but when is it ever? In fact, she studied graphic design at university, and didn’t even realise that animation was a possible option for her. It was only during her studies that she started to realise her passion for visual arts and “awkwardly bounced around while trying to find [her] niche”. So much so that she landed a few internships in the medium, and through these placements her eyes were opened “to the wonders and possibilities of animation and digital illustration”. She gives a special shout-out to Balansia Films in Helsinki and BotVideos in Mumbai for helping pave the way into this next stage of her life. “I was lucky enough to be guided by creative, passionate and level-headed people who allowed me to just let go and have fun with my work,” she tells It’s Nice That. “Step aside the rigid world of layout and kerning, make way for long nipples and flaccid noses.”
Indeed far from the typical structured layout of a graphic design grid, Inari’s animations are sketchy, bizarre and devoid of any function or sharpness. It’s a special merging of both comedy and meaning, which she refers to as a “magical combination” that, when done well, can open up an infinite amount of possibilities. A deep thinker, she cites having a “Freudian Psychoanalyst for a mother” as her reasons for being this way, along with her experiences of growing up in Finland. “I come from a family of strong women who are unapologetic about their achievements, so naturally it created a gender neutral setting. It wasn’t until I started studying within this field when I realised how male-dominated the industry is, and this had a knock-on effect which heightened my themes around sexuality and solidified my female perspective.” As a result, topics such as confidence, beauty and identity are often addressed throughout her animations, which are then balanced out with the funnier side of humanity – things like “ugly, floppy, saggy characters with serious motives”.
Recently, Inari finished up her MA grad film Eating In The Dark, which is the one that she’s most proud of. “Through snake dildos, setting boundaries and a journey through a mind-bending forest, we follow Siro’s quest for self discovery,” she shares of the film’s description. In what took over a year to create, Inari managed to build a fascinating world that was inspired by a trip to Japan – where she was accepted into RCA’s Kyoto Exchange Programme and spent the first semester of her second MA year in Kyoto. “I’ve always been in love with Japan, so getting into the programme and actually living there for four months was a dream come true.” She also wrote the start of Eating In The Dark during this time, and the rest came naturally.
At the core of the film is the analysis of vulnerability, which is something Inari felt while travelling to Japan. Even though it’s where she’s always wanted to be, she still felt completely alone. The main character, Rici, is illustrated in a lively yellow and floats around the screen, done so in order to symbolise these vulnerabilities. “She is Siro’s, the protagonist’s, own self hate,” she notes. In the film, Rici follows and criticises her, “always diminishing her self worth.” It’s a story that many can relate to, and Inari wanted to capture the “voice inside of us that tries to put us down”.
Another piece is her first short film, Crazy. Quicker to make than the former, the idea for this one arrived while she was kissing on a date. “Out of nowhere, he asked me, ‘How crazy are you?’ I thought this was the most random yet hilarious thing to ask anyone, and I wanted to illustrate that into a small animated clip that ended up evolving itself into a short film.” They’re still friends, by the way, but this experience along with many other daily antics is what drives the creativity of this wonderful animator – who, quite frankly, could find the humour, wit and meaning in just about anything.
Inari Sirola: Giphy commission, Stuck (Copyright © Inari Sirola, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.