Last year, artist Kim Graham exploded into internet fame for a YouTube video where she demonstrated a pair "digilegs" she'd designed herself. Now she's landed a job at Weta working on the Hobbit movies. Here's her story.
In a fascinating interview with Graham on Coilhouse, the artist talks about what happened after she posted the video of her digilegs:
Within the first two days, the video had 60,000 hits. And then, unbeknownst to all of this, [Weta's] Richard Taylor called me from Wellington, New Zealand. He had seen my portfolio and was calling to ask if I would like to work on the upcoming Hobbit movies. It was an absolute surprise. When I was in the initial phone interview with him, I said, "you must be calling because you saw the digilegs video!" His response was "nooo, what video?" So, while we were on the phone, he checked out Youtube. His immediate response was "hey, we can help you build those!" It was an offer I couldn't sensibly refuse. It took two months to do all the paperwork necessary to come to New Zealand. [By the time] I came to Wellington, I had prepared a production-worthy version of the digilegs.
Now Weta is selling the legs for $945 a pop. That means everyone from devoted cosplayers to indie moviemakers can have access to this amazing costume accessory.
This is a fun video of the lightweight "Weta legs," when they were tested in New Zealand.
Graham has been a creature designer and inventor for years, and specializes in large-scale public art projects. She likes to involve the community in her work, and one of her goals is to create huge statues of Tree Ents around the world:
The single most important project in my life is answering a promise that I made my mom. A couple of years ago, I made a ten-foot-tall version of Treebeard from The Lord of the Rings. Treebeard is a lovely image. Standing, he would have been about two stories tall. So I built a "life sized" papier-mâché version of him sitting on the ground. It was one of the most enjoyable sculptures I have ever made, because it was in collaboration with twenty-three other volunteers. People love this sculpture; it is this huge, warm, grandfatherly presence that you can walk right up to.
His face is seven feet off the ground; he has these gorgeous blue eyes. Having made the first one in papier-mâché, I realized I wanted to make a more permanent version, something that could go outdoors, that people could play on. So I started the process of figuring out how to build it in steel reinforced concrete. It would be ten to twelve feet tall, weigh about six tons, and last for centuries. I had been doing a lot of the R&D over the years, before I began building the digilegs. Now that the leg extensions are coming to an end, or at least the R&D on them is, what I want to do is build these monumental sculptures for playgrounds and public spaces.
To find out more about Graham, check out the interview with her in Coilhouse.