The Royal Exchange commissioned the 3D motion designer Christina Worner to bring our Christmas Seek And Ye Shall Find microsite to life with sumptuous visuals – a shimmering interpretation of tactile materials associated with the festive season. Here, she tells us about the inspirations and techniques she draws on to create her captivating digital craftsmanship.
What was the brief for the artwork you have created for The Royal Exchange’s Christmas site, and how did you interpret it?
The brief was to create a set of textural surfaces that nod to the glamour and sparkle of Christmas in a modern way. I wanted to create surfaces that were highly satisfying to watch, sumptuous, with different light sources bouncing off expensive metallic materials like gold and silver. Choosing those tactile materials associated with the season, I recreated surfaces that are communicating anticipation – be it wrapping paper used for Christmas gifts or theatrical drapes that would open to reveal one’s favourite play ahead.
How would you describe the kind of art that you create?
Materiality and physicality in the digital space is a hugely exciting topic for me. When I am working on personal projects I am drawn to experimenting with how to achieve a sense of digital tactility and how you can push common physical limits to create something magical in 3D. I would therefore describe my work as very haptic, playful and surreal.
And how is it expressed in the artwork you’ve created for The Royal Exchange?
I wanted to make sure we get to see detailed close-ups of surfaces, drawing attention to every fold, hue and light refraction the material had to offer. Furthermore, in the scenes, I bent the metallic surfaces to a degree it would only be laborious to achieve with the underlying laws of physics in real life.
What process did you go through to conceive and create this particular piece of work?
After our initial brainstorming session and manifesting the creative direction through visual references, I modelled a 3D setup for each of the scenes where I could then flow, drape, hang and stretch various materials around. This basis was then imported to a cloth simulation software, where I could build, adjust and simulate materials, each with different parameters and physical attributes. For example, paper would here fold differently from fabric. The created simulation would then again be reimported into the 3D scene where I would texture, light and animate it before sending it to render – calculating the frames one by one.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Usually, I find inspiration in a variety of things and environments, often in nature itself. I like to play simple intellectual games of bringing together seemingly opposing parts in the mind and how they can form a symbiosis and counterbalance. When I find myself too busy, tied to the computer, my go-to place is are.na. For those who don’t know it, it’s an online platform similar to Pinterest, however with the difference that it is not an algorithm that is projecting your journey through visual inspiration, but people you follow and their curation of images. Once you find the right people to follow, are.na is the best, most sophisticated source of mind-blowing references.
How have you stayed connected to your creativity during the 2020 pandemic?
When you’re home all day it’s easy to get into a routine where you don’t leave your computer all day and work non-stop. I made sure I was taking enough time away from the screen, reading (paperback) books, painting canvases or going for cycles. Those tiny changes of setup helped me immensely, clearing the head and finding new ideas.
Do you have any habits or rituals that help your creative process?
Yes, I predominantly find myself the most creative when going for a run or taking my road bike on a tour. I spend 40 minutes each day doing sports activities away from the screen. This releases stress, literally clears my head and therefore makes me much more attentive to the next big campaign idea.
What epitomises Christmas for you?
Christmas means winding down from a busy year, taking the time to see it in retrospective while spending lots of quality time with my family. Also, playing Cards Against Humanity, a full belly and long walks. And appreciating how privileged I am to be celebrating like this.
How will you be celebrating this year?
I am still hopeful I will be able to travel to Germany where my parents and siblings are based. We also got a new furry golden retriever family member, who I am dying to meet in person. If travelling is not possible though, I am considering buying a small tree for my flat in London and having a few friends over for Raclette and Monopoly. Thinking of it, I actually can’t wait!
What impact do you hope the artwork you’ve created for The Royal Exchange will have on the people who see it?
I hope my artwork will be as rich and desirous, smooth and shiny, tactile and seamless as I imagined it from the very beginning of this project. Or maybe at least it will provide some spark of positive Christmas feelings for the viewer. Merry Christmas season everyone!
Visit our magical Christmas site – Seek As Ye Shall Find – to see Christina’s creations bring our festive content to life, and discover more of Christina’s fascinating work and projects at christinaworner.com