Alice-Mae wrote the first article in the first issue of Friends On The Shelf – read it here …

The Stupid Button

Last year, at the grand old age of 26 I found myself teaching a group of twenty one 18-year-olds, alone and with sole responsibility, for the first time. I was giving them an introduction to the world of stop motion animation and we were in the university’s brand spanking new state-of-the-art animation suite.

  I was extremely nervous and was suffering from overbearing imposter syndrome. However, I had faith that the swanky cameras, computers and generally impressive-looking equipment would distract the students from my shaking fingers and the light sheen of face sweat that was settling in for the day. 

  Besides my nerves, the sweat and the impostor syndrome, there was another obstacle to me pulling off a tremendous lesson – building works were going on next door. The drilling was so loud, it felt like it was going directly into my skull.

  Despite all this it was with relief that I found myself getting into the swing of things. I began by setting the students off with the stop motion programme, and in groups of five they started to discover just how painfully slow the animation process is. It was great to see the occasional glint of delight on their faces when they played their work back and saw small scraps of paper jittering across the computer screens.           

  It was all going brilliantly. I did another round of the groups. In a loud voice – so I could be heard over the incessant and deafening noise outside – I dropped some impressive sounding animation jargon and shouted words of encouragement. I made a variety of generally interested looking facial expressions. Feeling I was probably a natural at this teaching thing, I decided I could afford a small sit down in order to marvel at the unfolding genius I was cultivating before me.

  I spotted a likely looking perching table at the side of the classroom and went for the full, casual-yet-authoritative, sit-down-and-lean-back pose. 

Sudden and complete blackness. 

All the cameras went off. 

All the computers went off.

All the big fancy studio lights went off.   

  ‘The builders have drilled through the electrics!’ screamed one of the most high-pitched18-year-old girls.

  It crossed my mind that this could actually be the case, and I was going to have to do some extra responsible herding of scared teenagers away from an electrical disaster. I leaped up from my perch, poised to be the responsible adult. As I did so, I noticed a massive red button directly behind where I had been sitting. In huge red letters it said: EMERGENCY STOP.

  I felt my face go as red as the emergency stop button as I tried to – casually – un-press the stupid button. All the computers and lights and cameras jumped back to life. I employed a nervous laugh and a couple of foot taps to diffuse the tension of the forty-two 18-year-old raised eyebrows staring at me. Stress sweat poured from both my armpits. Huge drops of sweat glistened on my bright red moon face. (Forget the light sheen – that was nothing in comparison to this).

  There was a momentary silence.

  ‘That was a test to teach you an all important lesson in animation,’

I said, in a shaky, but attempted-jaunty voice.

   ‘Always save your work as you go along!’

The 18-year-olds looked unconvinced. Someone shouted out. 

   ‘So, what – we’ve actually lost everything we’ve done?’

I tried for a commanding smile. 

  ‘Well, only if you didn’t save your work!’

I think I pulled it off.


Alice-Mae Mayall is an illustrator, animator and art school teacher based in London.

Copyright: Alice-Mae Mayall, licensed to Friends On The Shelf

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Rubber Stamp and letter press A3 poster.
Promoting seasonal UK grown vegetables.

Available to buy from @alicemaemayall

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Rubber Stamp and letterpress printed limited edition, hand-bound, concertina book in collaboration with Harrington & Squires

When Fishes by Christina Rosetti 

See Alice-Mae's Buns By Mayall

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