Toddler Ingrid in Sesame St t-shirt.

Ingrid didn’t always know she wanted to be an animator. But looking back at a childhood filled with Sesame Street, morning cartoons, and Brian Froud and Jim Henson films, it’s not hard to see where she became inspired to bring the inanimate to life. It was Rik Mayall’s Grim Fairy Tales that really cemented the passion and inspired a 16-year-old Ingrid to take herself off to a night class at the CAE to learn the basics of stop-motion animation.

In those pre-digital days, learning film or animation was a clunky, costly business. You could either buy a super 8 camera, pay a fortune for film and processing, and hope like hell you didn’t have a light leak or shoot out of focus. Or you could hire a video camera the size of a large suitcase and shoot animation on the camera’s best available start/stop option – 3 frames a second as opposed to the required 24. (Not to mention then having to book time at a professional studio to edit your film on suites that looked more like time-travel machines). Ingrid did both, and fell in love with the process.

Ingrid learning Stop Motion Animation at CAE.

Over the next decade or so, Ingrid tinkered away in her back shed experimenting with different types of animation. She did a Diploma of Multimedia at Swinburne TAFE to get a career in web design, but incorporated animation into every project she could. Between freelance web-design jobs, she continued to potter about with animation in her back-shed studio, and continued to dream.

At age 25, Ingrid was in the middle of working on a commissioned animation for the National Museum of Australia when her mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died suddenly and unexpectedly only 7 weeks later. Ingrid managed to complete the film in the weeks after her death. The theme was ‘collecting’, a passion she and her mum shared.

Five weeks later Ingrid embarked on a trip to France and Morocco, which she had planned prior to her mum’s illness. It was a trip of mixed emotions and a lot of introspection. It was in the middle of the Atlas Mountains, after hours of driving through barren, dusty landscapes, at a very nondescript roadside service station, that Ingrid decided to get more serious about animation. She came home and completed a Bachelor of Animation and Interactive Media (BAAIM) at RMIT.

Atlas Mountains, Morocco. 2006.

In 2009 Ingrid’s animation career was starting to take off. She won some big awards, was getting involved in some great projects, and got her first acceptance into a major international festival, Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF). OIAF is a big deal in animation land.

“It was so wonderful to be a guest of the festival and have my film in the official selection. I got to see my film on the big screen at the Bytown Cinema in downtown Ottawa and see a whole week full of superb animation. I was a speaker on discussion panels and I met heaps of interesting people. It felt amazing. It felt like my dreams were really beginning to come true.”

Bytown Cinema, Ottawa. Ingrid’s international premiere.

Only two months later, weeks after her 29th birthday and just before Christmas, Ingrid noticed numbness in her feet. At first she thought she had tied her shoelaces up too tightly, cutting off her circulation. But the feeling continued for a few days and started to spread up her legs. Just before New Year she saw a GP who referred her to a neurologist. Being Christmas time, none were available immediately, and the GP said if anything changed quickly to go to the emergency department. It was starting to sound sinister.

By New Year’s Day Ingrid was struggling to walk and was losing sensation in her torso and arms, so off to emergency she went.

Long story short, after 8 months of mysterious symptoms, many hospital visits and tons of tests, Ingrid was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

MS put a sudden halt to a lot of things in Ingrid’s life. MS symptoms are varied and changeable, but the most insidious and constant is the debilitating fatigue.

“I used to work my day job and then work on art and animation projects in the evenings. Now, just working part-time and managing the necessities in life like shopping and cooking exhausts me, leaving me with no energy for anything else.”

In 2012 Ingrid was the recipient of the Go For Gold grant from MS Australia, designed to support people with MS to pursue their passions. The grant allowed Ingrid to take a month off work to apply her energy to an animation project. The project was a collaboration with performer Sunny Drake, and together they created a theatre show called X which merges the real world with puppetry and animation. X had great success during its premier in Queensland and has since toured many cities in USA and Canada.

Ingrid currently works part-time at CARE Australia as a multimedia designer. “I love my job at CARE. It’s perfect for me because I get to be highly creative and at the same time contribute to such an important cause. I’ve always been passionate about poverty, education and social justice, and at CARE I get to use all my artistic skills to make a positive change in the world.”

“I’m also very lucky because they are very understanding and supportive about my MS. Over the years I have had to reduce my work hours because I can’t cope with long days or full-time work. Working part-time helps me manage my symptoms and energy expenditure, schedule in rest and recovery days, and ensures I don’t get physically or mentally overloaded. There are times when I really struggle, and there are times when I feel a bit healthier and can manage more things, like gardening, working on art projects, going to films and seeing my friends.”

Ingrid and Karen are able to relate to a lot of each other’s symptoms and challenges. It has helped form their friendship and motivated Ingrid to contribute when Karen proposed the idea of creating a resource for children of stroke survivors.

Since diagnosis, Ingrid has experienced 2 or 3 relapses a year. Relapses can vary in severity and duration. Sometimes she is unable to walk, has trouble with coordination and proprioception and can experience cognitive dysfunction that can affect her ability to speak, plan and think clearly.

It is because of this unpredictability that committing to projects and acquiring professional funding for them can be difficult. Ingrid is never sure when the next relapse will occur, so is hesitant to be involved in projects with inflexible deadlines for fear of not being able to meet them. Stress and ‘overdoing it’ can also contribute to the onset of a relapse so it is crucial not to take on more than she can handle.

That’s why kidstrokemotion is a labour of love for Karen and Ingrid – a not-for-profit, independent production. Karen and Ingrid strive to run the project and its timeline in a way that is nurturing and rewarding and low-impact on their health. Animation takes a long time at the best of times, and since Ingrid is a solo animator, working on kidstrokemotion in addition to her regular job, the timeline for this project remains fluid. We hope to have the final animation created within a year, and will be very excited to show participants and fans a sneak peak of how the project is developing along the way. Stay tuned to the blog, to follow the evolution of kidstrokemotion – and thank you for your support!