Sakina’s Curious Cut-out World

Sakina’s Curious Cut-out World
Sakina’s Instagram World is made almost entirely of colourful paper cut-outs and old nostalgic Bollywood songs. Her short stop-motion films have a childlike DIY hand drawn feel and her stories are very relatable because they are based on snippets of our lives. Her style of stop-motion animation is uniquely kitschy and quirky and very endearing to watch. What’s more, it turns out Sakina is a one-woman army when it comes to creating these shorts. This is her story.
My name is Sakina Taiyeb Ali, I’m a stop motion artist working as a freelancer for nearly 7 years. I’m from India but currently live in Kuwait. Art has always been an inspiring factor in my life. Until high school me and my siblings were always working on some kind of DIY, crafts, drawing and creating pretty things. I have always been creatively inclined whether at school or college but never thought of making a career of it.
Even though I did my masters in Finance, I quickly realised my calling is in art. I stumbled upon a stop-motion video once and was very intrigued by the technique. The idea of creating something magical from different frames of photos just opened a new wave of ideas in my mind. The transition itself from the world of Finance to Art wasn’t hard but as a creative you constantly have self doubts. It’s definitely a journey. I remember the first few weeks I could barely think of anything else but about using this art form.This was when stop motion wasn’t a well known technique. There was a lot of self learning, trial and errors and failures. But it still never ceases to amaze me!
My sister, is a renowned food photographer in the Middle East and helping her out I figured I really enjoy food-styling. It helps me use my creative mojo in more than one field and I love it.
The main challenge with stop motion, specially as a one-woman show is how tedious it is. To balance between the detailing, editing, shooting hundreds of frames and keeping it new and fresh along with an engaging idea - it can be overwhelming sometimes. I do enjoy every aspect of it of course.
One of the most difficult parts of my daily life is to balance between being a mother, a wife and a professional artist. My daughter is 5yrs old and since the Pandemic, I have been home-schooling her and it’s been hard to find time for stop-motion, but we are all getting through it. The one thing that has worked for me personally over time is to stop being hard on myself for every role we women play. It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to have bad moments even as a mom, and it’s okay to prioritise one over other. Together, they make us what we are!
For me, the story is always the hero. My inspiration comes from the everyday-life and my Indian background. From the toddler series (from when I was a new mom) to cooking, which is daily part of life. I’m really enjoying the Indian theme currently and love Indian food.
I spend few weeks on an idea creating mood board and drawings. These few weeks are crucial and totally consumes me. Even after all the planning, the shoot day comes with its own set of challenges. Followed by editing which is defining of the story. On average it takes me at least 10-15 days to make a 30 secs video.
I work from my tiny home studio (which double up as a bedroom). I could definitely use a big studio but just like my miniature paper cuttings, I’m comfortable working anywhere. I use Godox for my lighting and recently switched to Dragon-frame which has streamlined my workflow tremendously. It surprises everyone but I actually use my iPhone for most of my work (unless it is used by client on anything beyond social media). But in general, I’m not a gadget person and prefer spending my time figuring out my storyboards, stop-motion techniques and lighting.
I have nearly 37 million views on the Labour Pain Video on youtube that I made (inspired from my own experience) a few years ago. Most of the series on pregnancy were greatly received. I definitely don’t create for what will be a ‘hit’. I try to create videos on topics that inspire me.
Of all the messages I get from my followers, the most common one is how kids really enjoy my videos. This is very fulfilling for me as I have always enjoyed teaching kids. I would love to do a kid’s series someday in stop-motion.
Commercial Videos take more time than my own videos as I need to get the client on-board with the idea and we both need to agree with the mood of the video. Also, the client has specific requirements which makes the process little time consuming. But that’s what I love, being able to create someone’s idea into paper motion.
One of the highlights for me was working with Netflix UK. They approached me to create series of videos for their show Lady Dynamite. I have been a fan of Maria Bamford and seeing her doing her own show is amazing. If you have seen the show you would get this video!
I also conducted workshops at Sharjah Children Festival which I thoroughly enjoyed, where using the stop-motion technique, children made short films & designed their favourite character with colourful paper cutouts.
You can find my work for some local Kuwaiti apps like Huggle, Mattic, All3abb, JOIN app to name a few.
I want to continue creating and developing my art. That’s my singular focus at the moment and I find everything else is a bonus. I also work as a food stylist and director which also keeps me busy. Some day I would like to make a short film with my art on India!
Even though I have been doing this for 7 years, as a creative soul I often take breaks. Breaks that can even last for months - but I find them necessary to keep myself creative and grounded. For me, it is always about the creativity first, business is always secondary. The one thing that keeps me interested in stop-motion is the limitless opportunities to grow. The learning is never-ending.
Get organised and get making! The only way to succeed is to put in the hard work and getting started!