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Catching up with Storyline Express creators

30 November 2022

We caught up with Melbourne art duo Isobel and Cat from Soft Stories to have a chat about their child-friendly, locomotive installation in the Library called Storyline Express. See below their responses about the installation and the imagination behind it.

1. You’re called Soft Stories; what do you do?

‘Soft Stories creates stories in lots of different forms. We have made two books — Owl Know How and Too Much for Turtle, we make films — we’ve almost finished our latest one, See You In The Soup, and we make installations like Storyline Express! Our other installations have been fictional factories and fun food landscapes, and you might remember the Story-Go-Round, which was an elephant with a spinning disc of stories inside. We’re really looking forward to reading the little stories written for the Storyline Express.’

2. What do you think children will love about the Storyline Express installation?

‘We hope children will love to add something from their imaginations to the landscape. Some fun things for the people on the train to look out at and tell stories about. We hope some children will like the challenge of making a 3D house and enjoy creating a family to live inside. We also hope children will come back and see how the soft city grows and changes.’

3. What’s the most curious thing you’ve seen on a train trip?

Isobel: ‘Once, when I was a kid riding on the train to Melbourne with Nanna, I got a bit sick and suddenly spewed onto the seat (gross!) What was curious about it was the colour. Bright orange like I’d just eaten a big bag of Twisties. I had, in fact, been longing for a packet of Twisties but had not managed to persuade Nanna. Maybe my wishful thinking made a twisty tangle in my tummy!’

Cat: ‘I was catching the train to meet Isobel, and as I stepped aboard, my sandal slid off my foot and disappeared in the gap between the platform and train! For a moment, I didn’t know if I should just leave it and hop about with just one shoe on all day long, but I thought better of it and quickly hopped off before the door closed. Luckily the station attendant retrieved my sandal with a giant pair of tongs. I was curious about all the funny things that had been rescued off the tracks with those giant pincers!’

4. You handcraft all the Storyline Express animal characters! If you crafted one based on yourself, what animal would you be and why?

‘We’d be a pair of busy beavers! I recently saw a video of a beaver trying to carry lots of oversized things in its paws and mouth and rolling things along with its foot. It forever feels like we’re carrying a great many ridiculous items with all our hands busy at once.’

5. We love stop-motion! How long does it take you to make a one-minute movie? 

‘Stop-motion can be fast or really slow depending on what you want to make! A lot of the time is spent making the sets and characters. For example, the very first Soft Stories film was Owl Know How. It took two weeks to make the sets and characters and one day to film!’

‘One minute is about 360 pictures and if the movements are simple it can take as little as one hour but if the movements are complicated and there are different sets and camera angles it can take several days.’

6. Any suggestions for kids’ craft activities during the festive season?

‘Decorations are the most fun. They are quick and easy to make and give the house a festive feel. They make great gifts too! Even better if you can make them out of stuff you find around the house, like fabric scraps, tin foil and pretty scrap paper.’

7. Finish this sentence: ‘When I was a kid, my favourite book was...’

Isobel: ‘I could name a great many. One of my very favourites was called Whistle up the Chimney by Nan Hunt. It was about a woman who used some old train sleepers as firewood, and whenever she burnt them in the fireplace, a train would come rushing down the chimney, out of the fireplace and through the lounge room! I loved thinking about the people on the train and where they were all going! The illustrations by Craig Smith are beautifully detailed.’

Cat: ‘When I was a kid, my favourite book was I am a Bunny by Richard Scarry because I wanted to stand under a mushroom with Nicholas Bunny (and still do).’

Printable Storyline Express activities for home

The Storyline Express is a captivating installation for children and families with a range of self-directed activities. It is on display in the PGCQ over summer and recommended for ages toddler – 8 years.