PNW animation spotlight: Pistachios by Terese Cuff

Pistachios from Terese Cuff on Vimeo.

Part of our mission here at Haptic is to spotlight animators making independent work today. Terese Cuff is an artist based in Tacoma who has relatively recently moved into animation. She now runs a production company called Blue Melon. I happened upon her new short film Pistachios and thought it was lovely! Watch it above!


Cuff explains that this film “began with conversations with my siblings about their memories of eating pistachios. A family portrait and a somewhat dysfunctional family dynamic is revealed as different memories of shared experiences are discussed. The paintings used to create the animation and video footage are woven together digitally to support the narrative and create a cycle of image generation.”


And Terese was kind enough to answer some questions for me, read on:


1. How did you end up in animation? I know you have a background in fine art and live action filmmaking, so when did you start to get the animation itch?

I was teaching visual arts in a middle school and started using the school’s cameras and software.  I dabbled in live-action, stop-motion, and Flash making shorts.  The animation “itch” crept up on me as my skill level and my access to digital equipment improved. Animation feels like a natural extension of my painting practice.


2. How did you find out about this one year course at Evergreen that you attended, and what made you decide to do it?

I went to Evergreen for my Masters in Teaching, so I was familiar with the school.  After teaching for 15 years I knew I wanted to create more and teach less.  I started sniffing around Media Arts master programs and got discouraged by the cost so I started looking  through Evergreen’s undergraduate catalog and came across Non-fiction Media Arts: Animation, Documentary, and Experimental Approaches to the Moving Image, perfect for what I didn’t know I was looking for.


3. For those who may be considering this course, can you share your opinion of it?

I loved it, probably more than most.  The program gave me structure and some needed academic rigor along with creative freedom and access to all kinds of equipment.  Anne Fischel, a documentary filmmaker, and Ruth Hayes, an animator, were the best teachers I have ever had, strong in both practice and theory. They were incredible at making interesting connections within academic, cultural, and esoteric resources.


4. Why the subject of pistachios specifically?

Pistachios, because I love them and I have warm fuzzy feelings when I think about all my brothers and sisters sitting around the kitchen table eating pistachios and listening to stories from my uncle.


5. What is one thing you learned while making Pistachios?

A greater appreciation of the role sound has in creating a structure for an animation.


6. You live and work in Tacoma – how many other people do you know in Tacoma working with animation? What is the ‘scene’ like?

I know two Tacomans working with animation, Isaac Olsen and Nick Butler.  I don’t know anything about the Tacoma ‘scene’ or if it has one. I’m poor and don’t get out much.

Animated GIF by Terese Cuff

Animated GIF by Terese Cuff


Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Terese! Here’s hoping we see more work from you and other Tacomans in the near future.