Animating The Inanimate

Art director Rachael Olga Lloyd animates inanimate objects for a living. We weren’t surprised to learn she believes there is more to these objects than that which meets the eye.

Image by Rachael Olga Lloyd

Image by Rachael Olga Lloyd

I grew up in a “fairytale gingerbread house,” as some of my childhood friends used to call it. My parents still live there today. It’s an old stone house built in an Elizabethan style, over 150 years ago. My parents loved old things so the house was decked out in Victorian style with tattered old chesterfields, oil paintings and antique carved oak furniture—things they picked up cheap from shops that sold bric-à-brac, back in the 70s when everyone else thought: “out with the old, in with the new.” My dad would never buy anything new, instead insisting on getting everything second or third hand from charity shops or the auction house.

This was great, except when it came to functional things like doors and electronics. I was used to the door falling off when opening that cupboard and that doorknob in the upstairs bathroom that always came off when I turned it; we had to use three different remote controllers to work the ancient TV. Only now I’m older do I fully appreciate what a magical place it was to grow up in. There is such a sense of magic in that house for me. I was fortunate to spend my whole childhood there and I can still return to visit.

Like my parents, I have a love of “old things.” When it comes to functional things and electronics, I try to buy new, with the reassurance of years of warranty. But there is something very special for me about something that has belonged to someone else previously. It had a past owner and a different life, even lives; it has its own history. I think there is also something similar in things that are handmade. When something has a history or imprint from the person who made it—a barakah if you will—it feels kind of magical.

I have an old chair that belonged to my grandparents. I didn’t know my grandparents very well but I have this chair that they probably would have used a lot. My dad must have sat in it growing up, and other family members. For me, the real value of objects is not how expensive or flashy they are but in the sentimental—the memories they recall as well as the memories the item itself has. I’m not a religious person, in some ways I’m quite the skeptic, but I feel there is something inherent to these items.

There’s something magical about an old tattered teddy bear that has been loved by different children over many years. It has protected and comforted many children through dark nights and endured many hugs and loose stitches. Yet bears you see sold new in shops today don’t incite the same feeling in me. It’s not just that they haven’t been owned before; I know that partly it’s their clean modern design and industrially manufactureness that kills any feeling for me. So am I just romanticising the past and feeling nostalgic? Or is it the old design and materials and that the old bear was made by hand long ago, and the fact this new one is made from plastic and was probably made in a factory in China.

I look at the £15 chair I got from Ikea and I know that it won’t outlive me, it definitely won’t be a hand-me-down, or be viewed by those who come after us in a museum. This kind of makes me sad; few people will have the magical childhood I was fortunate to have. Obviously part of this is me romanticising the past. I can’t however deny that old things hold sway with us.

The things we make well and use and love outlive us and are there years later in a family attic or behind glass in a museum. After we’re gone, the objects we use hold a part of us in a time capsule. We can picture people or old family members using them and wondering who once sat in this chair or wore that ring.

*As an editorial team we decided to write a series of blog posts that reflect on our personal experience of magic—perhaps our daily rituals. We’re also keen to hear about your own experience of magic. We don’t expect a long memoir or a comprehensive compendium of your beliefs or rituals—this is the opportunity to hone in on something that’s important to you and explore it. It could be something that has somehow shaped you, grounds you in the present, connects you with nature or gives you a reason to drive on. This is an informal conversation with yourself as much as it is a conversation with others.*