In their intriguing animations, Studio Desk transforms digital images into painterly and metaphorical films which make our inner lives visible
I don’t think there’s an animation by Studio Desk that hasn’t won an award or hasn’t been celebrated at a festival somewhere in the world. Since Emily Downe and Kathrin Steinbacher met at London’s Kingston University and finally graduated at the Royal College of Art, they have been an exceptional team. Originally, Kathrin, who hails from an Austrian village, wanted to stay in London only temporarily, but now she has been there for nine years. Since 2020, Emily and Kathrin have been Studio Desk, a name composed of their initials, a hint to “where the magic is happening” – and they transform digital images into poetic paintings charged with emotion and stunning insights. We talked to them about the human touch in their work, their passion for art, and why reportage illustration is so important for their lyrical animations.
When I looked up your work online, the first thing I saw was the statement that you are a female animation studio. Kathrin Steinbacher: At one point in our studies at Kingston University in London, our tutors organized loads of visits with studio and production companies that represent animators and illustrators. In our year, 50 of the 60 students were women. But that was not reflected at all in this male-dominated industry. We only met men. That’s why we emphasize that we’re a female studio. It was also quite a rare thing at the time. Because often women end up in producing roles, which is mirroring that stereotype of women being good at organizing and making everything work. But we always wanted to be directors and make all the creative decisions ourselves.