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Interview with Dina Amin, Creator of "Tinker Fridays" - Beautifully Animated Stories made from Dismantled Products

The old idiom “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rings particularly true in describing the creative process of product-designer-turned-stop-motion-animator Dina Amin, as does another time-tested idiom – “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” For Amin, her work is all about getting others to see the beauty that she sees in everyday, overlooked and forgotten items, proving that a second glance – and a second chance – can truly make a world of difference.

Amin, a stop-motion animator based in Egypt, began a little over a year ago to take an interest in salvaging products, whether broken or simply forgotten, to study them and learn how they worked. Everything from hairdryers to alarm clocks to PS3 controllers – anything with gears, motors, and intricate workings – captured Amin's interest, fascinating her as she began to embark on a journey to discover the innermost parts of these and legions of other items, eager to find out what made each of them tick. From scouring scrap markets in Cairo to acquiring unused products given to her by family, friends, and fans, Amin found items to dissect and explore, as an archaeologist would lost cities and forgotten catacombs. Her newly found passion led to her sharing her projects on Instagram where she quickly gained a large following. Over the last year her online fan base has exponentially grown, as have her aspirations for where she'll next take her love of reverse-engineering.

In our interview, Amin explains that sharing her discoveries on Instagram quickly lead to her wondering if there wasn’t a better way to show people how products work beyond simply snapping a picture of a dissected item. Thus began her experimentation and quickly kindled infatuation with stop motion, something which came to her quite naturally. She titled her experimental stop motion series, Tinker Fridays, and has since then progressed in creating amazing stop motion films with ever-increasing ornate beauty, always at work to capturing the very essence of the products featured.

Each of Amin’s stop motion films follows a similar pattern: a normal, unassuming product quickly transforms into a pattern, character, or milieu created by the parts of the product and imagined by Amin which then come to life in fascinating short stories.

An excellent start-to-finish example of Amin’s creative process behind her animations can be seen across three of her most recent Instagram videos, the first of which (posted below) features a particular product (in this case, a plug-in timer), which she dismantles to find out its inner workings.

The second video, a time-lapse, shows her animation process as she takes apart and animates the particular product in her studio.

The third video showcases the final Tinker Fridays animation – a quirky little film in which the timer disassembles, seemingly by itself, and then reassembles into a little dog-like character prancing about in front of a beautiful, elaborate pattern created out of several small, black plastic pieces from the interior of the timer.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dina about her work in stop motion. Our discussion rages from how she became interested in product disassembly in the first place to what interacting with her fans has taught her about privilege and the assumptions many make about her life in a “third world” country. The interview is below – enjoy!

A.H. Uriah: Can you tell us a little about Tinker Friday and how you got started dismantling objects and making zany stop motion films with the parts inside of them?

Dina Amin: After working in so many jobs I felt as if I no longer knew what I liked or disliked – I had no idea what I was really passionate about. It seemed that I was just accepting whatever life threw at me, so I decided to just spend my time doing one thing that I thought I liked, which was taking apart broken products that were about to be thrown away.

At first I started to just take things apart and see how it all came together, what was inside, how it worked, why was it broken and so on. Then I thought I’d snap some photos and post them on Instagram to document my lil’ projects just for my own amusement. I would just post photos of the parts all laid down, and I would do this every week. Then one day I thought, “this doesn’t really show how all the parts come together,” so I made my first stop motion video of a shaver coming apart and I discovered my love for stop motion. As I started doing something different every week, I started seeing characters and stories in all the pieces.

A.H.: How do you choose which objects to dismantle and where do you go to find the objects that you end up choosing?

DA: It’s a bit random, I would choose one product every Friday that I was curious to learn how it works or why it doesn’t work anymore. I first started with my very own products that had been collecting dust in a drawer. Then, after I started animating them and making my videos, friends and family members wanted to give me their things, even strangers on Instagram would send me a picture of their things, saying that It would be of better use in my hands haha. I also started visiting the scrap market in Cairo. The amount of waste there is astonishing!

A.H.: In your Patreon video, you mention that you began to have certain revelations about society and culture and the use of certain objects after you began dismantling products, such as a revelatory moment in which, after talking with a friend of yours, you realized how culture, social constructs, and beauty companies impact and affect self-image, in particular by encouraging or discouraging a certain ‘look’ in something as minute as a particular hairstyle. You elaborate on this idea the description for your video What’s Inside My Hair Dryer?, where you mention that you “see eight-year-old girls getting their hair straightened and all I want to do is tell them how beautiful their curls are. We don’t really ‘need’ this.” What have been the biggest revelations to you along this journey you’re on of tinkering with and dismantling things?

DA: Several things, the first thing was about the necessity of a ‘title.’ I studied product design – I am not an animator. After spending a whole year doing stop motion I felt so lost. I wanted so badly to decide whether I was a product designer or a stop motion animator. I would feel so stressed when I meet someone for the first time and they would ask me what I do, and I couldn’t explain what I do to them in one title. And I figured out that I don’t really need one title, or to be one thing – if I want to do stop motion because I love it then I should, and if the next day I want to design something I love then I should.

Another thing that I started to think about is the notion of being ‘privileged’. Occasionally some people would comment on my work or videos saying positive, great words but they would note that I come from a ‘third world country’ or that my videos don’t look very ‘first worldly’ with all the repurposing I am doing, and some even assume I am repurposing things because I can't afford things haha.

Or sometimes they say that they have ‘western privilege’ and have tools like 3D printers or CNC machines and yet they never thought of making the things I make. At first it used to make me proud that at least now people can see that a girl from Egypt can think, be creative and have ideas. But it has now started to agitate me – is it really hard to believe that someone from a “third world” country can be smart and creative? Are tools what makes a person creative? What sort of privileges would someone from the West have over someone from a “third world” country that would by default make him more creative? In our vastly open world what can “privileged” really be?

If I have the drive to learn, know a bit of English, have access to the internet, and can use my brain and connect with people then I am privileged. Yes, it’s super challenging when you are from a country like Egypt; yes, I have limited resources – things cost me 25 times more (not exaggerating) than to someone in the West, but it’s not what will stop me from thinking or bringing my ideas to life.

And it really saddens me that in our vastly open world we still use such terms – how can someone say I come from a lesser world than him?

A.H.: What artists, animators, and animations have most impacted and influenced your style of stop motion?

DA: I am still learning stop motion and still feel I haven’t developed a style yet. But I love the work of stop motion artists like Guldies. Also, Marty Cooper does great cel animations. Also, those of an Automata artist named Keith Newstead and an artist named Doro (dorobot) – she’s really funny.

A.H.: What’s on your wish list for things you would love to dismantle but that you haven’t gotten the chance to yet?

DA: A car haha! I’ve always wanted to know what’s inside my car – I’d really like to see where everything goes and learn about every piece in it. I drive daily but have really little knowledge about what makes up a car.

You can explore more of Amin’s wonderfully charming work on her Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, and website. You can also go support Dina and Tinker Fridays by becoming a patron on her Patreon.

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