Laura Beth Cowley

Commenced: PhD October 2017

Research Topic: Printing Articulated Figures: Constructing flexible and extendable artificial figures using mixed filament 3D printing for use in stop-frame animation

Supervisory Team: Director of studies David Huson, Rachel Mills

Laura-Beth is a PhD candidate within the 3D3 programme researching flexible and extendable puppet building processes using mixed pliable and rigid filament printing. She is using 3D printing to create figures for stop-motion animation. She will investigate the potential for different materials and how they could be used within the construction of poseable objects and characters for the animation and physical special effects industry. The use of mixed filament printing is, in essence, the ability to take two or more types of printable material such as rigid and flexible rubberised materials and encase one inside the other. Stop-frame animation is the technique of animation in which a physical figure is moved in small increments to give the appearance of life and movement.

She will use action research following iterative cycles to trial and test different filaments to seek out their variable qualities such as appearance, strength, flexibility, surface finish/texture and use against one another, to help establish knowledge for use within the development of elements of a puppet’s construction. She will also examine the cultural and industrial implications of developing a 3D printing pipeline for the stop-frame process. As well as the aesthetic choices and options available with 3D printing for puppets regarding design, materiality and tactility. By embracing 3D printing as a tool she will look at how these elements affect both craftsmanship and authorship for animators, model-makers, directors or film-makers. She will use a mix of empirical action research, interviews and case studies to look at practitioners who have to utilise traditional and digital model-making techniques, their use of 3D printing and the styles and techniques that lead to its use originally. A large proportion of the study will be based around practical work, with an emphasis placed on developing an idea, designing, modelling, printing, testing, refining and reviewing the potential for future use.

Conferences & Publications 

Cowley, L. (2018) ‘The Changing face of replacement animation: How looking to the past can revolutionise the future of Stop-Motion Animation’. Society of Animation Studies Annual Conference. Concordia University, 18-22 June. Montreal, Canada.

Cowley, L. (2019) ‘“Show me what you’ve got”: The ‘making of video’ a multi-sensory and multi-purpose research method’. The Essay Film Form and Animation: Intersectionality in Motion. Derek Jarman Lab, 12-13 June. CAPA, London.

Cowley, L. (2019). ‘The Essay Film Form and Animation: Intersectionality in Motion Report’, AnimationStudies 2.0.




Laura’s PhD is supported by the AHRC.

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