This is the eleventh in a series of interviews with each of the Sondheim Award Semifinalists. Finalists will be announced in mid-April, and will be on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum June 21 to August 17; those not selected as finalists with be exhibited at the Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard Galleries at MICA  July 17 to August 3, 2014.

Name: Tiny Inventions (Max Porter & Ru Kuwahata)
Age: Both 32 years old
Current Location: Hampden, Baltimore
Hometown: Max- NY, Ru- Tokyo, Japan
School: Max- Rhode Island School of Design (BFA in Film / Vide / Animation)
Ru- Parsons the New School for Design (BFA in Illustration with Animation concentration)


Current favorite artists or artwork: We love the sequential art progress of Picasso’s bull fight. It inspires us to push our design and be playful with the approach. Some of our favorite artists are Jeremy Clapin, David O’Reilly, Miwa Matreyek, Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry.

What is your day job? How do you manage balancing work with studio time with your life? As Tiny Inventions, we’ve created TV commercials, music videos, designed toy line, etc. So we’ve been working commercially as well as making independent films. In the past 2 years, Max has been a full-time faculty at MICA animation department and Ru just started teaching there as a part-time this semester.


How would you describe your work, and your studio practice? We specialize in mixed-media narratives that marry analogue and digital animation techniques. Even if the final film is magical in tone, our ideas tend to come from real world observations.

How would you describe your collaboration? We have been collaborating since 2007. We enjoy merging our energies to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Our collaboration process is very intertwined that if we start explaining how we divide our work, it gets a bit too complicated. In short, we write and storyboard all our ideas together and we divide the production.


What part of artmaking to you like or enjoy the most? The least? Writing is always the most grueling, painful and rewarding part of the process.

What research do you do for your art practice? It depends on the project. I don’t think there is anything particularly unique about our research process. We keep a sketchbook around us to write down small moments we encounter every day. We do a lot of location drawings, research various books and films. For some reason, there tends to be a scientific element that we’re interested in: forensic science, environment, theories about time & space, etc.

What books have you read lately you would recommend? Movies? Television? Music? Our recent independent film was inspired by Alan Lightman’s “Einstein’s Dreams” which depicts the concept of time in a poetic way.

Do you ever get in creative dry spells, and if so, how do you get out of them? Cherish the small moments in our daily lives and draw…A LOT.

How do you challenge yourself in your work? We try to challenge ourselves with every project: storytelling, design, technical execution. One of the greatest challenges of animation is that there are many skills that you can improve, drawing, story-telling, new software, character animation, cinematography, editing, etc. So each of us pick one category that we really want to improve and proceed forward with our projects. ‘

What is your dream project? To have more time to make more films.