Animateka Interview: Pirate Piška

Tjaša Križnar is hard to miss – her own image is just as recognizable as the artwork she has been creating for the past six years to bring life to Animateka’s festival space. She’s the one running to and fro, scissors and a roll of tape in hand, bringing to life a world that becomes our home for the week when animation takes center stage. Her black hat, a constant companion, displays her “real” name in woven letters. She is a PIRATE. PIRATE PIŠKA.


I sought her out for the Animateka Journal and asked her to take a minute to indulge my nosy nature over a cup of coffee (with rice milk, if you please!).


Tjaša, could you start by telling me how and when you started your creative collaboration with Animateka? Who was the main instigator?

We collaborated for the first time back in 2008. I helped make foxes and other animals for Georges Schwizgebel. The following year, Urška Jež (the former festival producer) invited me to participate and naturally I was more than happy to accept. From then on, the Festival has become something of a constant in my life. This is the 6th edition of the Festival when I have the opportunity to shape the characters and space according to the resident artist’s vision.


Working with the Animateka team is a great honor and a real pleasure.


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How do you start your work each year? If I’m not mistaken, the resident artist creates the festival image. Then you take the basic element of this image, reinterpret it and bring it to life all around the festival space…

That’s right. The resident artist is the one who determines the visual design of the Festival each year, also making the poster. The poster is later my cue to make props of sorts, which are then used to enliven Kinodvor and the Slovenian Cinematheque. The first promotional cards for the Festival are usually already printed during the summer, which means it’s around that time that I have my first ideas and make the first sketches. These then germinate with me all through to November, when about a week or two before the opening I start actually making the props.


Where do you start? Do you try to find some kind of link between the resident artist’s concept image and your own style?

I always try to remain faithful to the image designed by the resident artist, as well as to his style. I try to avoid imposing my own style into the image itself. However, this doesn’t mean I try and copy the artist’s work at all costs and follow his lines to the letter. I try and understand his style and get as close to it as possible using my knowledge and experience. More than my personal style, I try to instill the spirit of handcraft into my work and allow for mistakes, which make the end products unique. This perhaps makes it clear at first sight that they were made exclusively with the Festival in mind.


The fact that Animateka is able to recognize the charm and advantage of these factors, which give it an advantage over other similar events, says a lot about the Festival. At the end of the day, the space is also one of the things which attract visitors.


What is your best tool while working – coffee, liquor or your understanding boyfriend? :D

HAHA, I see I could add moonshine production to my growing list of activities! (There’s nothing like spirits to lift your spirit! To your health, Bojana!)

In any case, coffee is definitely top on my list! The number of cups certainly goes hand in hand with the difficulty of the project; sometimes, coffee is my breakfast, lunch and dinner rolled in one, while liquor is more my supper! Haha.


Since we mentioned coffee, I should point out that it is directly proportional to the level of understanding. These kinds of projects are all about rhythm and a very intensive work process (especially when deadlines are involved). Work focus is much greater and that’s why it’s all the more important. There are moments when we’d just like to claw each other’s eyes out, since creative processes can be very tense at times, and moments when we complement each other’s work.


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What kind of role do materials play in your work?

Generally, I don’t have problems with materials. I’m also happy to have the opportunity to work on projects, where I can use a wide array of materials. I like to combine different kinds and take a general DIY approach to things. My aim is to find cost-effective and functional solutions for specific pieces.


Do you have a favorite image among all the ones you’ve created in the past few years? How do they influence your life?


One of my favorites is definitely the girl with a closet (!) for a head. She was created by Max Andersson, who was the resident artist in 2011. It was the first 3D construction to serve both as a stand for the festival schedule and a way for the festival to interact with passersby. The girl was made using an iron construction and a wooden closet, which represented her head and was used to change the festival schedule each day. The arms and legs were made out of foam and her clothes were sewn especially for her. This is exactly the kind of combined materials I mentioned earlier.



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What was the most positive comment you received about your work?

I best remember meeting Priit Pärn. Interpreting his Animateka 2010 poster was a special challenge, since I’m not much of a painter, especially when it comes to painting on such large surfaces (both posters were 2.30 m high). I needed quite a bit of time to get into the story. I was also extremely nervous both during working on it and after. The day before the start of the Festival, we were putting the poster up and Igor Prassel introduced me to Mr Pärn. To my great relief, he was very happy with the work.


We then talked about lines, painting in general and how we both experience it. At the end of our conversation, he remarked how the poster shows that the painting was done by a woman’s hand and that’s exactly what I mentioned earlier. No matter how hard I try to get close to the artist, I’ll never be able to leave myself completely behind. I’ll always leave my mark on a piece of work. This, in essence, is the point behind interpreting someone else’s work.


How do the authors of the festival’s visual identity (the resident artists) respond to your work?


This year’s resident artist, Akinori Oishi, was very happy with what I’d done! For the first time, the overall image based on the author’s template was done as a collaboration and not simply as an extension of what the author imagined.
Aki was interested in what I was doing and how I was getting along. Throughout the process, he was really supportive of my work and impressed with the final result.


So far, every artist was satisfied with the final image; however, some show their appreciation, while others don’t. It depends. And anyway, if the elements are correctly incorporated into the space and are not intrusive or annoying for the visitors, managing to capture the spirit of the Festival in a creative way, then I know I’ve done my job well.


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What happens to your creations once the festival is over? Do they get a new lease on life after the festival?

Last year marked the 10th anniversary of Animateka (and the fifth year of my collaboration with the festival). We collected all the characters and brought them back to life. At the Slovenian Cinematheque, we prepared an overview of these ten years. This was the first time (and hopefully not the last) when the characters were given another chance after the end of the festival. Last year, they found refuge under the roof of my workshop.


However, they keep piling up with each passing year. For the moment, I simply don’t know what I’ll do with them all in the future. Even though I on occasion threatened to incinerate one or two of the characters, we all remain friends. I hope we’ll be able to find a proper storage place or a new opportunity to use them.


Did you have a chance to see any of the films at the Animateka Festival this year?

Sadly, this was the first year when I didn’t have enough time to follow the festival program on a daily basis. I had to concentrate on other things. I’m counting on the week-end to make up for lost time.


What about your life after the festival? Does it exist? What does the future have in store for you?

For the remaining 11 months, I work and create under the name of Pirate Piška. I work with screen printing, sew backpacks and make limited-edition collection of my ideas, which usually end up as tee-shirts, backpacks, stickers, fanzines and illustrations.
After the New Year, I’ll start on new projects. I have an unlimited supply of ideas. Before the New Year, I’m moving to a renovated workshop, which is probably one of my largest projects to date – a huge space with open doors, dedicated solely to artistic expression!

I also can’t wait for the last week of December to press the pause button and press play on my DVD player, catching up with all the films I’ve missed over the year. That’s sort of how I imagine my winter holidays.


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Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?

I’m not in a position to play a smartass. However, the thing I think is important is to do everything possible to realize your idea! That’s the moment that separates the ones who would like to do something, but don’t know how, and the ones who actually go out and do it! You just go for it! Yeah, it’s that simple. All the tumbles along the way are just one more lesson on your way to your goal.


You can see all of Piška’s Animateka creations on the pages of her blog.


Bojana Bregar

Translation: Jernej Pribošič

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