It all started at a farmer's market.
At that time, Andrea was in her early twenties, a farmhand spending her off-hours experimenting in stop motion struggling to form her puppet bodies. She had no knowledge that this interest would soon consume all her time, transform her basement into a fully functioning studio, and make her work a viral sensation.
“There was this little fibre farm that had a cute little needle felted sheep on its counter,” she shared. It was early morning in Port Townsend, Washington, but even through Zoom, you could sense the satisfaction the memory still held—the ‘aha’ moment, if you will.
Each [social media platform] caters to something different, but Andrea exacts the salubrious strategy of mastering one at a time rather than all simultaneously.
“When I saw this technique I thought, ‘Wow wouldn’t that be interesting,” she continued. “My early work was needle felting the puppets' shape and covering it with pantyhose. It makes a really cool texture but, you know, pantyhose.”
Andrea says pantyhose with a wry face and a chuckle. Something about the thin nylon tights was a touch too suggestive for her wholesome constructions. It was a small irk, but the gut instinct to uncover the wool led to something truly amazing. Her experiments evolved, becoming more technical as she discovered all the properties that lent themselves perfectly to animation. Wool was an uncommon textile; creating now, not only satisfied storytelling but also the sense that something original and unique was taking place.
And yet, with all its winsome versatility, Andrea’s creations were uploaded to YouTube only as a means to share with friends and family. Unmonitored and totally casual, Andrea was oblivious to her growing online impact. This was the power of the Internet and the earliest indications of media impressing on her talent. Fall would roll around and Andrea would find herself replete with time to dedicate to new and sudden requests.
However, this routine is governed by meaningful quality over aimless consistency.
“I started getting approached by local businesses that were interested in my animation - they had seen some stuff online - and I thought why not? I was thrilled someone actually wanted to pay me for my work,” Andrea recalls thankfully. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
Six hundred and ninety-five thousand Instagram followers later and this quality of gratitude and awe is still intact. Andrea’s significant fanbase is impressive and continuously growing, having been amassed through various viral hits and, most recently, a successful festival run of her short film, Tulip. Although now her uploads are far less random, strategically choosing to post in the mornings creating a subtle routine to keep online momentum. However, this routine is governed by meaningful quality over aimless consistency. Andrea makes a point not to apologise for taking pause every now and then, rewarding her followers with content she is always proud to promote.
“I resisted social media for a long time, so I would rather post nothing than post [a bunch of] filler that bores my audience,” she admits. “I got Instagram specifically to post my animation work, but I have a feeling I wouldn’t be on if not for that.”
Her experiments evolved, becoming more technical as she discovered all the properties that lent themselves perfectly to animation.
This is a common stance, with people often taking social cleanses either by deleting entire accounts or monthly breaks from all platforms. However, in this instance, it’s easy to believe Andrea, whose husband has zero social media and no cellphone. It’s a wild dynamic: someone with such a strong social presence juxtaposed against someone without one entirely. Although, it’s this very circumstance that motivates Andrea into a more conscious, more purposeful engagement online.
“It’s a good balance,” she said. “I’d say it’s been two-thirds positive and one-third negative.” It’s a refreshing fraction compared to the usual consensus that social media is a negative, anxiety-ridden blackhole. So after acknowledging the obvious addictive qualities, Andrea highlights how positive feedback has been a powerful motivator to continue creating and how the growing support has led to invaluable collaborations and commercial connections. It goes without saying that in this day and age social clout makes a huge difference.
Unfortunately, the negative aspect is a frustrating double-edged sword.
“My Cooking with Wool project went viral all over the world and I didn’t make a cent*. I know there were tons of Facebook and YouTube accounts reposting it in monetized ways and so I feel like it was great exposure for me, my following grew by hundreds of thousands of people and that has obvious value, but I’m hoping to find a way to strike a more sustainable balance between the time and effort and resources I put into my work, and what I’m getting back.”
I think to myself, wow, if I can do this by myself in my studio, imagine what I could do with a team of talented needle felters and amazing animators with a bigger budget.
It’s a tough situation that Andrea reflects on with cool assurance. “It’s a slow burn, but I’m expanding my social media. Instagram has been an excellent place to grow my following and that’s the main channel. While the Patreon-YouTube relationship is very symbiotic and is able to be monetized. I think having a platform that is smaller subscriber-based will be nice for me to interact a little bit more personally with people. And we haven’t even talked about TikTok yet!”
Andrea paused. It’s clear this is a topic she has contemplated often, and with it gathered a fount of information and potential strategies. For now, these platforms are something she’s working towards. YouTube is where the first videos lived, but Andrea has only just started posting there again. Patreon is a vision for the near future, while TikTok is a platform she’s keeping an eye on. Each caters to something different, but Andrea exacts the salubrious strategy of mastering one at a time rather than all simultaneously.
Although as her following grows, so does her ambition towards larger-scale projects, which have begun to peak over the horizon. This is where production companies come through. With her burgeoning online presence, companies like Curate Films were quick to notice Andrea’s distinct talent. “I’m an artist and a creative person,” she said. “The business side of it doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s something that burdens the creative process, so having that production company to facilitate that role makes it much easier and I’m much happier for it.”
I started getting approached by local businesses that were interested in my animation - they had seen some stuff online - and I thought why not? I was thrilled someone actually wanted to pay me for my work
The advertising world has been getting a bigger taste of animation over the last year and Andrea has lent an honest voice and an organic texture to the brands she’s already created for. Andrea is part of the next frontier offering something new amongst the medium. While there is no guarantee when it comes to creating viral content, Andrea is proof that persistence and masterful talent is hard to ignore.
“I think to myself, wow, if I can do this by myself in my studio, imagine what I could do with a team of talented needle felters and amazing animators with a bigger budget. So that is still something that I want to achieve and I am just playing the long game to get there.”