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AWUK Raising Visibility | Bianca Iancu

AWUK Raising Visibility | Bianca Iancu

We firmly believe in the importance and impact of raising the visibility of women within Animation and VFX in order to support and inspire others. As a members' organisation run by volunteers, we welcome involvement from you, our members, to make this happen! In this new blog series, we ask recent event speakers to share their experiences with us. 
If this inspires you to also get involved, please contact our Panel Producer, Debra Coleman, at


Introducing Speaker: Bianca Iancu

Please introduce yourself/tell our other members a little bit about yourself.

Hello! I'm Bianca Iancu, currently the 3D animation lead over at Bomper Studio where we create short-form content for advertising, branding and broadcast. I specialize in leading teams to create playful, stylized character animation across a range of diverse projects for clients like the BBC and Big Fish Games. I've previously worked in kids' television at Blue Zoo Animation on Go Jetters and the award-winning series Pip & Posy as well as on the short film Sinking Feeling for suicide prevention charity Papyrus. Before that I worked as an animator and artist in video games. I occasionally guest lecture for NextGen Skills Academy, help shortlist entries as part BAFTA Film and Games juries and enjoy supporting the next generation of animators as part of mentorship programs like Access: VFX, Screenskills and AWUK. I love being active in the animation community, sharing tools and resources with anyone looking to learn as well as exploring how animation can help shape storytelling in each of these different formats.

Still image from one of our latest promos for the mobile game EverMerge

What events have you contributed to, on behalf of Animated Women UK?

I was kindly invited to take part in a panel for Stardance Animation Festival last year where myself and a group of top-shelf ladies from studios around the UK discussed our personal experiences and the subtextual yet very real issues women universally seem to face across animation-related workplaces. Many of our encounters were similar and it was both a comfort to know that no single one of us had experienced these things in isolation as well as a sign that more work needs to be done. I've also taken part in a recurring panel format, dubiously named 'F*ck Up Night' where we took turns to talk everyone through stories of mistakes we'd made, lessons we learned from them and how we handled the consequences.

Following these, I was put in touch with the organisers at Animex Festival who were interested in a speaking contribution from me. This is an annual international festival taking place in the North East which is divided into Animation / VFX and Games where speakers from all over the world come together for a week of talks, critique sessions, screenings and live events with attendees. I had such a wonderful time being counted among creators whose work I admire and being on the contributing side, giving people advice and feedback on their showreels.

Stardance Festival event poster for our Animation & VFX panel.

Please tell us a bit more about them: what was involved? Was it in person, or remote/virtual? Who was the audience? What was your role?

Both panels were during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to take place online, with AWUK members and public attendees joining to listen and watch via Zoom. Gathering around to swap cautionary tales is something that naturally happens in my peer groups. Our role was to give less experienced audience members a seat at the table, shattering the perception that professionals don't make mistakes and allowing them to learn from ours. It's been one of my most memorable engagements to date because of how novel a topic it was for me and how simultaneously unguarded and courageous we as panellists had to be to make it work.

Animex however was an in-person event hosted by Teesside University in Middlesbrough, although I believe some of the talks are recorded and uploaded online afterwards. The audience was a combination of students and professionals keen to see behind the scenes of their favourite productions and further their knowledge of the industry. My talk was titled '3D Animation Workflow on a Series Production' and as guest speaker it was up to me to familiarize the audience with this type of production pipeline, describe common pitfalls to avoid, provide tips on how to break into this line of work as well as explain what we generally look for in an animation showreel.

By a stroke of luck I also got to meet someone I'd been mentoring online via AWUK who happened to be in attendance. It was wonderful to be able to say hello in-person for the first time and see them doing so well. I only wish we had more time to spend chatting between me running around for the festival!

Our F*ck Up Night event as featured in Animation Magazine.

How did you find the experience? What did you learn/gain from being involved? Anything you would have done differently?

The online panels were very laid-back. It was eye-opening to find out more about my fellow panellists' experiences as women in generally male-dominated workplaces. I learned a lot from them and was honoured that they felt comfortable allowing us that intimate glimpse of failure. Despite how isolated we all were, it was wonderful to come together and share in this moment of vulnerability. I think it worked really well that everyone was sharing these experiences from their own safe spaces at home rather than in a room full of people. That lent itself well to the sensitive topics at hand and I think really allowed us to be more open. I'm not sure I would have done anything differently! I'm really glad I got the chance to get to know more of the women at AWUK doing the quiet, often thankless work of supporting other women in UK animation.

Animex was definitely nerve wracking in the lead-up as it was my first speaking engagement since the pandemic and I'd lost the habit of being around so many people, although I relaxed the minute I stepped up in front of everyone. My confidence noticeably improves each time I venture outside my comfort zone so continuing to do that is always a thrill. In retrospect, it would have been wise to put my slides on a USB drive as a plan B in case Google Slides decided to fail on the day but I mercifully managed to get away with it! I had such a wonderful time making new friends, being counted among creators whose work I'd admired and being on the contributing side, giving the people advice and feedback.

Delivering my talk onstage at Middlesbrough Town Hall

Delivering my talk onstage at Middlesbrough Town Hall.

What do you get from being a member of AWUK? And what does 'raising visibility' mean to you?

Members have access to a monthly newsletter outlining upcoming online or in-person events taking place in the organisation as well as access to support and industry-specific statistical research. On a less formal level it feels like being privy to a welcoming secret club, where it's safe to be open about mistakes because everyone in it understands that making them is especially hard on women who often bear the scrutiny of failure much more intensely. If there's an issue I'm facing at work or need advice on I know I have this group of women, well-equipped to turn to for support because they have likely had to navigate the same sensitive, subjective issues themselves. Also it's generally just a great place to be making more female friends with shared interests, particularly if you're struggling with that at a studio where we aren't so present.

Raising visibility to me means taking those small interstitial actions to support women every day either by standing up for them when they're not in the room, giving them space to finish speaking when interrupted, calling out internalised misogyny in my circles and in myself, openly discussing pay gaps, spotlighting my female friends' achievements, mentoring young women and showing up to do things out of my comfort zone because it matters that they see themselves succeeding in higher-level roles. Ultimately it's offering a reminder that our artform will always be more rounded coming from an equally balanced group of creators whether that's related to gender, race, ability or economic background.

Any final thoughts to share?

I'm very inspired by AWUK and aim to keep furthering this cause not only via public events but also through the work I make. My hope is that in future we won't need any extra subversive organisational work to support and elevate women to a level where they are seen. It will simply be the norm.
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On 20th October AWUK: SEEN launched with it’s first event Start. Support. Grow. We hosted a networking and panel with women of colour in the industry at various stages in their career, who shared their own experiences, and advice for women looking to begin or grow in their career.

A massive thank you to your panelists: Sharlayne Flanders, Yukai Du, Bianca Farquharson and Julia Helou and also to everyone that was able to join and support, it was great to see many of our community and allies connecting, but also supporting any queries that anyone else had in regards to their own careers.

There will be some collaborative events and workshops that we will be launching and hosting soon to help women further develop and expand their current skill set.

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What inspires the Limitless artists?

What inspires the Limitless artists?

With Limitless V-Exhibition now live we sat down with some of our exhibiting artists to find out more about what inspires them, what the exhibition means to them and what gets their creative juices flowing.

What/who inspires you?

Jo Salmon: There are so many things that inspire me. It can be another artist’s painting, music, movie or even a walk along the beach or in the woods. I can also feel inspired by emotions or mood. Even funny or difficult moments in life.

Lemon by JoAnne Salmon, 2021

Isobel Stenhouse: At the very beginning, it was Disney. For me what it was about Disney, in particular it was the high quality and even though it’s very stylised, there’s something quite realistic about the exaggerated realism. 

In terms of influences now it’s people that draw and paint realistically. So there’s one artist whose work I’ll look at and I feel like if I was really brilliant that’s what I’d like my really brilliant work to look like. It’s a guy called Darek Zabrocki and he did images for Mouse Guard. I just love those particular series of images; they’re kind of my benchmark for what I’d love to go for. Then there’s Djamila Knopf who has such a nice sense of storytelling in her images.

Visiting Granny by Isobel Stenhouse, 2021

There’s also Ian McEwan, his concept art and studies are just powerful, so strong and the sort of thing that wows me. I love seeing graphic art like from Robh Ruppel, you know, he’s fantastic and methodical in the way that he works. 

Emma Niemis: I think a lot of animated media such as films, TV shows and videogames inspire my art, especially magic realism stories which introduce something otherworldly and change our reality. From my early love of Tim Burton’s creatures and his illustrations, I now find inspiration from the imaginations of such artists as Emily Carroll, writer Haruki Murakami and filmmaker Jan Švankmajer.

What do you get from being creative in your spare time?

Jo Salmon: I get a sense of freedom and peace when I am creating. I feel connected in a way as I can see my imagination coming to life in the sketch, painting or animation in front of me. And also a sense of pride and release as it feels like I have let the imagination in me free. 

Isobel Stenhouse: The main thing I got was the hunger to move from production back into an artistic role, which has been a great move. However, there is a difference between producing work for a studio or for yourself. When working on my own thing, I don’t usually have a clear vision beforehand of what I’m going to paint, so it’s fun to see what emerges. That’s my way of playing!

Steve by Emma Niemis, 2020

Emma Niemis: Being creative in my spare time makes me feel like I am progressing, especially during the pandemic as everything just came to a stop, I felt like I needed to be creative to keep myself moving forward. It also brings me joy to bring something to life that comes from my imagination, as soon as a concept pops into my head or I put a sketch to paper I will always have an itch to make it physical.

Jess Mountfield: I think creative people naturally let creativity overflow outside their working lives – so being creative in your spare time is often something that just comes naturally and feels right. I find drawing, sculpting, felting – whatever it is – to be hugely meditative and satisfying. I like to have something physical at the end of time spent doing something (like with cooking!) so I find it hugely rewarding to step back from a jumble of felt or a mess of balsa wood and see something starting to take shape.

What does exhibiting in the Limitless exhibition mean to you?

Jo Salmon: It means a great deal! I am so honoured to get the chance to show my art along with such talented people!

Isobel Stenhouse: I’m so grateful for the chance to show my artwork and be seen as an artist in my own right, after several years of working in production. It also gave me the momentum to produce new work, and to learn new skills as I did so.  

Emma Niemis: Exhibiting in the Limitless exhibition feels very special to me because it is a unique space where I can showcase my own personal artwork alongside other fantastic likeminded women. From the beginning I have been so welcomed and supported by the team in such a difficult time for all of us, I instantly felt that I was so lucky to be a part of this amazing and very rewarding experience.

Isle of Tapestry by Jess Mountfield, 2021

Jess Mountfield: It’s wonderful to be a part of a group of diverse women who are creating such a wide range of works outside of their professional practice. I find it motivating, encouraging, and it’s prompted me to want to try out lots more techniques and materials based on what I’ve seen other people experimenting with.

You can visit the Limitless V-Exhibition now. Limitless V-Exhibition will run until Thursday 14th October. 

Read more about our featured artists here: part 1 and part 2.

Plus, hear more about what inspires one of our exhibiting artists, Isobel Stenhouse.

Please do also follow our Facebook page, where you can ask the artists questions, provide feedback and find out more about some of our artists!

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Limitless V-Exhibition Opens Its Virtual Doors!

Limitless V-Exhibition Opens Its Virtual Doors!

We’re so excited to share that Limitless V-Exhibition, a new exhibition celebrating established and female artists from the VFX and animation industry is now live!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the launch evening on Thursday 23rd September!

Limitless V-Exhibition highlights the work of creatives in a diverse range of job roles across animation and VFX.

Presented on the Kunstmatrix platform, visitors can explore the virtual gallery in a 3D environment, and get up close and personal to the art at their own leisurely pace.

Our featured artists include:

  • Anushka Naanayakara
  • Amy Backwell
  • Emma Niemis
  • Helen Piercy
  • Isobel Stenhouse
  • Jennifer Zheng
  • Jess Mountfield
  • JoAnne Salmon
  • Kim Noce
  • Magdalena Osinska
  • Natasha Tonkin
  • Stacy Bias

Limitless is curated by Director and Creative Producer Amy Backwell, Director and Creative Manager Helen Piercy, Director and Operations Manager Anna Gregory, and Head of PR Carrie Mok.

You can visit the Limitless V-Exhibition now. Limitless V-Exhibition will run until Thursday 14th October. 

Read more about our featured artists here: part 1 and part 2.

Plus, hear more about what inspires one of our exhibiting artists, Isobel Stenhouse, in this blog.

Please do also follow our Facebook page, where you can ask the artists questions, provide feedback and find out more about some of our artists!

Stay tuned to hear details about our wrap-up event!

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