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Star Wars fanatic Elliott Ashton has made his own award-winning sci-fi film and has now created an exhibition, Star Walls, dedicated to the film’s make-up artist, writes Amie Mulderrig
Figurine upon figurine upon figurine. Endless posters. Behind- the-scenes books. More than 100 T-shirts. Animator Elliott Ashton is a Star Wars fan. A super-fan, if you will.
So it’s not surprising to discover that it was the 1980s release of the movie The Empire Strikes Back that inspired the Leytonstone-resident to turn to special effects.
“I bought a making of The Empire Strikes Back book and since then have been making models,“ explains Elliott.
“The idea that people were able to make these characters, it just blew me away.“
From there, Elliott moved into computer animation, and has since had his work featured in numerous advertisements and music videos.
The sci-fi movie also provided inspiration for Elliott’s own picture, Attack of the Aliens, which won best animated film at the New York Film Festival and was screened in Times Square.
But it was at this time in 2010 that Elliott read an article about Stuart Freeborn, the creative genius behind the make-up of characters including Yoda and Chewbacca in the Star Wars trilogy.
“Purely by accident I discovered that Stuart was born in Leytonstone,“ says Elliott, excitement rising in his voice. “There were these stories about how he used to do make-up on himself and he’d ride around Leytonstone on his bike, looking to see if he’d get a reaction from people.
“Following that I did an engraving of Yoda for the Leytonstone Arts Trail, as well as an article about Stuart. I was amazed by the number of people who showed an interest, and how few knew he was from Leytonstone.
“Alfred Hitchcock is always hailed as the area’s most famous resident, but all this time Stuart Freeborn was from here. He needs to have his own blue plaque.“
The result of his discovery is a new exhibition, Star Walls, set to be shown at the Stone Space Gallery in Leytonstone, honouring Stuart Freeborn.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by how many people have signed up to take part,“ says Elliot.
"There are at least 20 artists, Artefacto Bespoke Tattoo is running an exhibition in conjunction with the Stone Space show, and the Luna Lounge, next to the gallery, will be holding a Star Wars day on May 25, with a Star Wars-themed indoor market and fancy dress disco.
“It’s great, because May 25 will be 36th anniversary of Star Wars, the 33rd anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi.
“I’ll be showing a couple of acrylic paintings of Luke Skywalker and Boba Fett, a Yoda mirror, and my short film.
“We’ll also be running workshops and talks at Leytonstone Library.
“Unfortunately Stuart passed away earlier this year, otherwise I would have asked him to come along. But it’s nice this will be a tribute to him.“
So what force does Star Wars have for its fans to maintain such a cult following?
“I grew up in a generation that when it came out, it was so new, so exciting, but even now it’s just as exciting, it has an enduring appeal.
“It’s inspired a lot of people in the art world, it’s amazing that a lot of artists have said that they got involved with art purely because of the films, that they started drawing the characters as kids.
“As for me, I’ve now sold most of my collectibles and that was to finance my film,“ reveals Elliott, with a tinge of sadness in his voice.
“It was difficult, it was 30-odd years spent collecting. But the result, a film inspired by Star Wars, a winner at the New York Film Festival and to have it shown in Times Square, well, it was all worth it. “
Star Walls is coming to Leytonstone from Thursday, May 16 until Sunday, June 9. For full details of events, visit: www.thestonespace.wordpress.com, Star Walls on Facebook, or call Leytonstone Library on: 020 8496 1190