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Name: Gavin Strange
Location: Bristol, UK
Occupation: Director & Designer
Room size: 9 m² (97 ft²)
Cost of the setup: $7,3K (~£6K )
Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself
Hello! My name is Gavin Strange, and I’m a 40-year-old human that lives and works in Bristol.
I live here with my wife Jane and two young kids, Sully and Sylvie, and our rescue greyhound Peggy.
By day I’m a Director & Designer for Aardman — a creative studio also based in Bristol. It’s most known for its stop-frame animation work, such as Wallace & Gromit or Shaun the Sheep, but it does so much more than that.
It creates video games, short films, commercials, immersive attractions in 2D, 3D, 4D, CG, Stop-Frame and more — it’s an awesome place to work!
That’s just the day job, though. At night, I come home, and once my kids are asleep, I go under the alias of ‘Jamfactory’.
I make all the things that absolutely no one asks for!
I do anything that takes my fancy — illustration, graphic design, characters, music, art, films — everything and anything!
Because I have the security of the day job, it lets me just explore with no pressure on what to create.
Having my own space to pursue these passion projects has always been key, and wherever I’ve lived I’ve always managed to carve out a space. Sometimes, it’s literally been under the stairs. Other times, it’s been a spare bedroom.
Now, I feel like I’ve reached my final stage of Pokémon evolution with this custom pink den of dreams!
Take us through your setup
|Monitor||×2 LG 27″ Ergo with built-in clamp and stand|
|Monitor light bar||×3 Phillips Hue Play Light Bar|
|Laptop||MacBook Pro 2021 — M1 Max|
|Mouse||Apple Mighty Mouse|
|Chair||Herman Miller Aeron (via 2ndhnd.com)|
|Web camera||GoPro Hero 10 Black and Razer Kiyo Pro|
|Macro Controller/Launcher||Loupedeck Live|
|Streaming PC setup||Intel Xeon W-2145 CPU, NVIDIA Quadro RTX 4000 8GB GPU, 64GB ECC REG Memory, 2x Samsung 970 EVO NVMe 512GB, SuperMicro X11SRA Motherboard, Fractal Design Define R6 Case, BeQuiet Dark Power Pro 11 PSU|
|Streaming lights||Elgato Keylight|
|Streaming mic||Rode NT-USB|
|Streaming controller||‘Wotto’ MIDI controller|
|Synthesizer/Sequencer||Teenage Engineering OP-Z|
|Synthesizer/Sequencer||Teenage Engineering OP-1|
|MIDI Controller||MIDI Fighter 3D|
|Audio Controller||Ableton Push 2|
So the space itself is quite small but it was custom built for me by my brilliant Dad in a secret location in central Bristol.
It doesn’t need to be massive, though, because all it needs to hold is my computers, toys and tech.
I lovingly refer to it as “the den”, and dens are usually quite small and cosy anyways, aren’t they?
I love being surrounded by everything I’m inspired by.
So being able to put up shelves for toys and mount artworks on the walls is a big part of the appeal of having my own custom space.
It took around three months in total for my Dad to build the shell, do the interior and then paint it pink, install the artificial grass walls and floor, and then get the tables set up and ready for all my machines and gear.
Some stuff took a bit longer, like getting the air con installed but I was up and ready to go after about the 12-week mark.
My Dad was doing it on weekdays and weekends when he could, do it wasn’t like a pressured timeline or anything. Especially as I was only paying for materials rather than labour (thanks, Dad!).
So my room looks like… an assault on the eyeballs.
It has neon pink-painted MDF walls and ceiling, with artificial plant walls and fake grass flooring.
The walls are peppered with translucent shelves full of vinyl toys and collectables.
Another space is filled with prints, skateboards, and trinkets.
Surrounding the edges are a set of IKEA curved tables which hold all my computers, screens, musical gear, and odds & sods.
It’s illuminated by a square LED track in the ceiling and then a series of Phillips Hue uplighters and LED strips behind the monitors to give it all a nice glow.
I can turn all the lights on remotely thanks to Apple HomeKit, which is a handy feature.
The PC also has a couple of 27″ monitors, but I use that less frequently.
I also love buttons, so I’ve got a few arcade sticks as well as musical hardware, which falls into the “love of buttons” category.
I just like having fun things to hand as I often, whilst waiting for a render or something to save, just pick up something lying around and have a quick blast!
There were a couple of struggles when we were building “the den” — costs and lead times.
Because we (erm, my Dad) built it in summer of 2021, right at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the middle of Britain’s idiotic exit from the EU, the cost of materials just kept climbing.
So the wood and cladding doubled in price from what we thought it would cost, so that really sucked.
The other thing was just waiting for things to be available — particularly the doors.
In the end, the doors (even though they were custom, they’re just regular glass exterior doors) took nearly three months to be delivered. I couldn’t properly move in until they arrived.
One last thing was the aircon unit. I naively bought a consumer unit online for about £500 ($608), thinking I’d just get my DIY Dad to install it.
Little did I know that in order to install an aircon unit, you have to be “F-Gas approved”, and that is not the same as a standard gas engineer.
It’s mostly larger companies who do it, who have no interest in coming out to a small pink cube to do just one unit.
Luckily, after issuing a plea online, I discovered an old friend is in the trade, and he managed to hook it up, thankfully!
So if anyone else is thinking about adding aircon to their space, make sure you look into F-Gas engineers first.
I’m really happy with how much natural light my space gets. To be honest, though, I sit in the corner of the den on the opposite side of the windows. I always have my colourful lights on, so I feel enveloped in the space.
That being said, it’s nice to turn round and get some nice light shining in through the window and the glass-fronted door.
I feel like I get the best of both worlds.
I got thermal blackout blinds too though. For security and to keep the heat trapped in / bounced out, they were a worthy addition.
In terms of improvements, there’s nothing else I want to do really, apart from adding more toys, tech, and buttons!
In an ideal world, I’d have more space to fit a drum kit, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon, so I am very happy with what I’ve got.
I’m always on the hunt for new gear, though — you can always have new cameras or new music hardware!
What’s your favourite item on your desk?
Ahhh man, that’s a tough one, as I’ve got a range of trinkets that I love. If I had to pick one… it’d have to be the Teenage Engineering OP-Z.
Now, I make really quite bad music.
Hell, it’s not even music, it’s just beats, but I LOVE the creative process of just pressing, prodding, trying and noodling until you get something you like.
It feels removed from my day-to-day process, so it has a special place in my heart.
So I chose one of the earliest pieces of musical hardware that I picked up, the OP-Z. The device itself is a little grey rectangle of joy.
It invites play.
It’s a sequencer and synthesizer, all in a really tiny footprint.
In pre-COVID times I would take it with me on all trips. It’s the perfect timekiller in an airport.
It doesn’t have a screen or really any text, just lots of icons. You just start pushing and pressing and making stuff.
The beauty of the OP-Z is its power in beginning with something basic and then with that next layer of fiddling about can create something organic and unique.
A big part of the attraction to Teenage Engineering products is the design. They just make everything super cool and contemporary yet seemingly fun and intuitive (also, eye-wateringly expensive too)!!
What apps or tools do you use to get things done?
For 3D, it was Cinema 4D but I’ve started to make the transition to Blender because it’s incredible (and free).
For email, it’s ideas, notes and general mind-mapping of everything; it’s Notion, which I absolutely love (previously used Bear).
I use the Loupedeck Live piece of hardware to make those shortcuts and button presses a bit more tactile, I really like it.
In terms of online tools — shotdeck.com is a brilliant resource for creating high-quality mood boards, frame.io is great for collaborative filmmaking and reviews (I also use shotgrid for the same thing).
What books, blogs or podcasts recently caught your attention?
I ADORE a YouTube channel called “New Frame Plus” which is all about celebrating the animation in video games.
It’s mighty inspiring.
I don’t often get stuck into podcasts (I find I get too distracted when working if I listen to them) but I do have a few favourites: Twenty Thousand Hertz is an excellent deep dive into the history of different sounds, it’s fascinating!
Lastly, 13 Minutes To The Moon is incredible and emotional, all about the people and the process behind the first trip to the moon.
What I do love to consume is behind-the-scenes and making of documentaries! I’m fascinated by other people’s processes and get super inspired by others in the creative field!
Some of my favourites are:
- The Imagineering Story on Disney+
- The Art Of Design on Netflix
- Chefs Table on Netflix
- Developing Hell - Making Hades on YouTube
- Complex ‘Blueprint’ series on YouTube
- Leica ‘Let Us Roam’ series on YouTube
- Ilford Inspires series: Ray Barbee and Jason Lee and Joe Brook on YouTube
Any tips for other makers who want to improve their workspaces?
I think it’s about making a space that works for you.
Create an environment that is conducive to making you more creative!
For me, that’s making everything neon pink and having everything I love on display and at arm’s length.
For others, it might be carving out a calm, tranquil space.
It’s also worth saying that it doesn’t have to cost a lot or be big.
Over the years, my “den” has taken all sorts of different forms — from a desk at the end of a bedroom to a literal space under the stairs.
There are lots of space-saving and cost-cutting ways to make something great — the internet is full of useful hacks and, I gotta say, IKEA covers most things you’ll need to not break the bank.
What does your typical day look like?
I’ve got two young kids so my day starts anytime from 5 am onwards.
7 am is when my day properly begins as I get my kids breakfast, dressed and ready for school.
If I’m working from home, then I head to my space at 8:30 am, or if I’m going into the Aardman studio, then I get on an electric bike and leave the house at 8 am.
The first thing I usually do once I’ve switched my machine on is fire up my email, my calendar, my Slack and my Discord to get a sense of what’s going on, who’s saying what and what I need to think about.
I often have a good idea of what I need to do each day.
However, the very nature of directing is reacting to what’s going on, which is exciting because it means the day is always full of surprises.
It can be tricky to maintain the balance between doing admin, managing people and then doing the work that actually needs to be done.
But it’s a great challenge to have!
I often operate on a system of what needs to be done first gets priority, which I know sounds obvious. But it means I don’t overload my brain by worrying about too much in one go.
When I’m in the studio, I like to go and speak to people in person rather than over email. After 2 ½ years of COVID-19, I appreciate the human connection more than ever!
I love being in the studio; the place’s culture is special and essential to the work we do.
I usually work through lunch and leave around 4:30-5 pm to get home in time to do dinner time with the kids.
Then it’s bath time and bedtime for them, before coming down around 9 pm.
Then it’s time for a coffee and catch-up with my wife before gearing up for round 2 — passion project time. That’s when I head to my personal studio and get stuck into whatever side project I’ve got going on at the time.
If I’m lucky (and the kids don’t wake up), I’d get around two hours of time before normally retiring to bed around midnight, before doing it all over again the next night.
It can be hard some nights when you’re tired.
So I’m flexible and forgiving of myself if I can’t manage much passion project time or if I have to get an earlier night because I need to rest up.
Sometimes, I just want to unwind too. Getting a bit of PS5 or Switch time is a real treat.
I love an hour or so getting stuck into a video game. I don’t get as often as I’d like to play games, so I tend to forget what I was doing or what the buttons are.
Your tips for working from home?
Invest in a good chair! Can’t recommend that enough.
I especially recommend using 2ndhnd.com because you can get a really good quality chair for more than half the price of a brand new one.
Get yourself a good routine. I never work on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights and that’s essential for maintaining a healthy balance.
Get up, walk about, and break up your inputs for a while, even if it’s just five minutes to grab a cup of tea.
At the end of the day, you’ll thank yourself for it.
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