Joe Melhuish turns fidget spinners, avocados and anvils into animated outfits for any millennial
For Found in Adobe Stock, It’s Nice That has commissioned creatives to explore the world of Adobe Stock’s 3D collection to make a series of works using their individual discoveries. Starting from the same jumping off point, the project follows the journey each creative took as their paths diverged into the strange and wondrous depths of the huge collection, and how they used what they found to make beautiful and hypnotic final pieces.
Joe Melhuish, an illustrator and animation director based in London, has a very particular style of animation. His characters always hold the same kind of expression, enviously cool, joyful and just a little bit sassy too. However, what these characters interact with, how they are dressed and how they generally move, differs from project to project.
Whether he’s working with Adult Swim, MTV, Island Records or the BBC, Joe’s illustration and animation style is one that also puts texture and feel first, elevating communication with the viewer – meaning most of his shorts will either make you laugh, raise the hairs on your arms or give you a shiver.
This attribute of Joe’s work made the animation director the ideal collaborator for reimagining various 3D objects, all of which feature in Adobe Stock’s collections. For Joe, this project also gave him the chance to flesh out “the theme of upcycled or improvised technology products”, a regular feature in his pieces. While working with stock images wasn’t previously a part of his creative practice, “it was a surprisingly fun way to work”. And the results are just as fun too.
In terms of an overall theme for his five, stock-led animated shorts, it was fashion – but not as you’d expect.
“A few years ago I saw a video of someone who was vogueing in platform shoes they’d made out of bricks and strapped onto their feet, it went a bit viral,” Joe explains of the beginnings of his series’ idea. “I made some work that was a kind of homage to that idea,” he recalls, a piece which kickstarted Joe’s ongoing love of reimagining miscellaneous objects. “This felt like a great opportunity to go further with the idea, and the idea to take it into the world of fashion jumped out as a great way to inject humour, characters and keep it feeling contemporary, while tying everything together conceptually,” he tells It’s Nice That.
Consequently, confectionery forms one section of Joe’s objects of choice, choosing Adobe Stock’s rendering of a classic pink sprinkled juicy doughnut and a New York favourite; the salted pretzel.
Found while Joe was hunting “for objects that could be grouped together in themes to create comprehensive looks that didn’t feel entirely random or unconsidered”, the animator built upon the chosen object’s shape. Rather than destructing the doughnut, for instance, he embraced its round shape and layers, creating a ridiculously delicious-looking doughnut puffer jacket. “It felt like an obvious way to go for one of these would be to make some kind of kawaii-style Japanese look,” Joe explains. “I had two doughy/bread themed items I wanted to use and thought I’d combine them in this kind of heavenly scene.”
But how on earth do you morph a pretzel into a fashion accessory we hear you ask? You fashion it into a pretzel choker, of course, transforming its knots and loops into gold. “I actually think the pretzel choker and the doughnut puffer have enormous potential as marketable items,” Joe remarks – and we fully agree. It’s easy to imagine someone trotting down a high street in east London sporting either of these items, with no one batting an eyelid.
Corn on the Cob Poncho
Similarly, while browsing the food aisle of Adobe Stock’s 3D collection, Joe decided to fashion another outfit with three items on the healthier side of the spectrum: an avocado, corn on the cob and a pickle too.
In possibly what might be one of the greatest reveals in fashion of all time, the animator’s next short turns your average corn on the cob upside down to show a yellow bobbly head with its green outer casing forming a poncho-style dress.
“I wanted initially to make an outfit for a kind of woke millennial type and capitalise on the booming east London brunch trend,” explains Joe. This led to Joe’s introduction of the avocado sunglasses, the must-have brunch item of any artisan cafe goer across the globe: “it felt like an obvious choice.”
And, once paired with the already put together corn on the cob outfit, the similarities to those tiny 90s style tiny sunglasses and a flowing summer dress will catch the eye of any fashionista. And of course, the gherkin bracelet is “the perfect accessory to match”.
It’s in this short, in particular, where viewers will notice the added use of sound design in Joe’s animations, for which he collaborated with London-based composition and sound design studio Sounds Like These.
In their collaboration, Joe worked with the studio to translate “the textures of the clothes and the atmosphere of the scenes into a sonic palette,” highlights Joe. Commenting how they’ve done “an amazing job”, the added sound to these shorts heightens each of the animation’s hyperreal quality, introducing what the animator describes as “a visceral edge”.
Fast Food Heels
Next up are the results of Joe’s experiments with a host of condiment stock objects he found, loosening up his already stellar collection of food-related Adobe Stock 3D objects, to create a pair of platform shoes. Actually the first idea for the project, Joe built his animated pair of shoes by using ketchup and mustard bottles for the platform element of the shoes, burgers for the heels and, aptly, a straw for the straps.
“I think this might be my favourite,” comments Joe on this particular short, “simply for the fact that if you wore them you’d leave a disgusting trail of condiments behind you wherever you went.”
This short is also where Joe’s ability to utilise texture in his animations elevates the piece, retexturing the Adobe Stock objects “to look more fast-food-y”, he points out. Applying this texture to the objects and, in turn, mixing his own way of working with the details of the brief, was quite an easy process when working with Adobe Stock: “The models were great, it was easy to change the textures and a lot of them were in separate sections, which made them easy to break apart for alternative uses,” points out Joe.
The animator also used texture to ensure that the stock objects “didn’t stick out in such a way that they wouldn’t make sense without knowing the context of the project,” he adds. “I re-imagined the colour where I could and tried to mix them into my work in a way that didn’t seem too jarring, I did a lot of post work too to kind of flatten out the look of everything."
Joe’s next short continues the theme on elevating any old shoe into a platform using stock objects, harking back to the original viral video which inspired his project and subsequent style of working too.
The complete opposite to a bottle of mustard, Joe’s second pair of shoes began with a stock object of an anvil as their starting point. “Then I added chains and the straps from a snowboard to give it a futuristic industrial vibe,” he explains.
Yet this particular short sees the animator bring a wider collection of objects to demonstrate how the actual shoes would be used, if, as Joe dreams, a designer brings them to life. With the introduction of an unbranded silver, Joe demonstrates “the weight of these mighty platforms,” he says, “and stomping on a can like a punk and crushing a mirror into smithereens felt like excellent product demos.”
It’s here too that Sounds Like These’s design is really noticeable, pushing forward the stern atmosphere created by the shoes and the breaking frames which split apart this animation. “You can communicate so much with only sound,” Joe adds on this point. "Sounds Like These has totally succeeded in creating both a feeling of narrative and a tangible weight and texture to the garments which is difficult to do with animation alone.”
Fidget Spinner Hairpiece
The fifth and final of Joe’s animation brings into play the zeitgeist toy of 2018: the fidget spinner. In what is maybe the greatest use of the toy – which stopped people of all ages in their tracks by simply spinning last year – Joe “quickly knew I wanted to use the fidget spinner for something,” he tells It’s Nice that.
When working with the stock objects for this short Joe focused in on the kind of character who would fashion a fidget spinner into a garment. The animator realised the shape and style of the toy “lends itself nicely to a sort of Akira-style Queen Amidala headpiece.”
With this character built up in Joe’s mind, he then decided to extend her wardrobe in order to “up the anime look and made some USB Japanese sandals to complement it” also adding a gun holster stock object, “to give it a kind of health-goth strap jacket”.
Joe’s approach to the project in this way, perusing Adobe Stock’s collections as if shopping for accessories himself, has led the animator to create a series of shorts like nothing we’ve ever seen. A mix of animation styles, reimagined stock objects, texture, style, humour and character, the five shorts communicate how the objects you pass by every day (or in most of these cases – eat) could be your next piece of creative inspiration.
And, looking towards the future, Joe admits he personally feels “there’s potential (at least for comedy) in some of the clothes I’ve designed here and would genuinely love to make some of them for real – particularly the avocado glasses.”
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