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Andy Peitsch arranges a set for a stop-motion animation video in her studio at The Mill at Shady Lea in North Kingstown during the Open Studio Tour on June 1.

NORTH KINGSTOWN — Andy Peitsch finds the Mill at Shady Lea more than an artists’ colony. It’s a place of refuge for plotting her own future and developing her talents.

In the midst of some turbulence in her own life, the old mill is a safe place for searching through life’s decisions as well as discovering new creative inspiration as a full-time artist.

“It’s a workspace. It’s the idea that I have a place to go and work every day,” said Peitsch, whose South County Art Supply in Wakefield closed about a year and a half ago. She is also a part-time teacher and tutor in art.

In addition, she’s a song writer and musician. She plays banjo, drums, bass guitar and manages a synthesizer pretty well. These talents accompany an equally attentive eye for video creation and stop-motion animation.

Stop-motion animation captures changes in scenes, often cartoons or other fantasies, one frame at a time. When all frames are played, there is the illusion of movement. She studied this form recently at a workshop in the Czech Republic called Puppets in Prague.

“I stayed there for two weeks and worked every day alongside 11 other students from all over the world. We visited two working animation studios, and then attended the Anifilm festival in Trebon to see a lot of stop-motion animated films,” she said.

In her Shady Lea studio, thousands of miles from Prague, she’s applying her new skills by building a fantasy wooded forest for animation in her real-life themed song entitled “Mr. Squirrel.” It is about human needs, love and feelings during a conversation with a squirrel.  

“But if I were a squirrel lady

Would you build a cozy nest with me

a little home in the tree for you and me.”

As the song moves along, a human dilemma unfolds.

“Well I loved a boy and he didn’t love me

and he would not make a home with me

and he would not give his heart to me

He ran off with another girl

And so I’m talking to you squirrel

Seems there’s nobody in this world to care for me.”

To build the right scene for this song, Peitsch has half-constructed a wooded treescape with leafy ferns sprouting underneath from a brown wooden board looking like ground in a forest clearing.

Standing in the clearing is a woman in a green shirt, black pants and with long brown hair held in a headband. She’s strumming a banjo. A small reddish-orange fox hides near the base of a tree trunk and above on a branch sits a gray squirrel.

There is no music playing in the workshop Saturday, just the lone characters motionless in their silence.

“She is basically feeling,” Peitsch said, interpreting the moment, “like a social outcast among the animals who have their stuff all figured out. They’re not very nice to her, either.”

“They storyboard is still in progress,” she added about her life and the character merging into one. “It is somewhat autobiographical. I’m sure everybody feels that way sometimes.”

When she’s done, she said, she’ll post online the song as a video with its animation.

She pondered her creation for a moment, then said the Mill at Shady Lea has something for every artist’s needs and explorations.

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