Steff Lee

"I use my creative practice as a therapy as well as a way to satisfy my deep drive and creative passion, that often feels like it’s going to burst out of me"

What do you do?

I’m currently running Kino Bino animation studio based in Leicester with my partner. We create 2D animation primarily for education, healthcare and business. I work on all elements of the process from the creative side to the business side; planning, producing, directing, designing and animating.

I’m a creative at heart and although animation and digital illustration have always been my primary focus I also enjoy traditional painting and have recently created several street art pieces. I’ve been inspired by many great animated films, from Disney to Studio Ghibli. Hints of influence from my early love of manga and anime can be seen throughout my work. I take inspiration from everything - my past experiences, my travels and my mixed heritage.

How did you get to where you are?

I’ve loved drawing and tech from a young age and first became interested in animation after watching a making-of documentary about Pixar’s A Bug's Life at age 12. This was the moment I realised my love for art and computers could come together. From that point, I immersed myself in animation, films, comics and illustration before heading to art school to study design and animation, intent on pursuing a career in the industry.

Graduating bang in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis, left little job options. To get the creative career I wanted I freelanced alongside my supermarket job. It wasn’t until 2010 that I got my first full-time creative role creating animation and illustration for children’s online games. This job started my interest in the education sector and creating content to inspire and help kids learn. After a few years there, missing the freedom of freelance life, I quit my job and never looked back. As I became more established, I was determined to set up my own animation studio to enable me to work on bigger and more exciting projects. So in 2018, I set up Kino Bino with my partner. We’ve been making stuff together ever since.

Why do you love what you do?

For me, one of the most exciting parts of animation is when you first see your characters come to life. I love it every single time and it never gets old!

When I was a kid I remember clearly the games and cartoons that inspired me and to be able to do that for the next generation of children is a wonderful feeling.

I’ve always enjoyed drawing, making art and telling stories and will always want to create and learn new things. I use my creative practice as a therapy as well as a way to satisfy my deep drive and creative passion, that often feels like it’s going to burst out of me.

Why are you based in Leicester?

I moved to Leicester because my partner was here. Previously only visiting the city as a teenager to shop and hang out with friends, I didn’t know what to expect from my new home. Luck was on my side though, as I found the creative community here was amazing! After attending a Creative Coffee event at the Phoenix, doors were opened for me and I connected with many people who I’m still close to today, I found my creative family. With my business based in the Cultural Quarter, I feel fully embedded in the Leicester creative community and it’s great to see so many passionate people making things happen in the city. From designers, filmmakers, photographers, artists, musicians and makers, I’ve met so many talented and hard-working individuals. There are also some amazing events happening throughout the year and I feel lucky that I’ve been able to participate in Design Season and Bring the Paint. It’s great working with such inspiring creatives around me. There is a wonderful mix of people and cultures in the city. I love it and I’m glad I can call it home. As a bonus, we also have some of the best food around!

What’s next?

As Kino Bino, we worked on a fun animation project for BBC Bitesize earlier in the year, which will hopefully be online by the summer, so keep an eye out for that.

Having focused on building the business for the last couple of years I’m keen to get back into making my own art. I have found some time and space during lockdown to start creating again and have a couple of personal projects in the works. Whether this will be illustration, animation or even VR I don’t know yet, only time will tell! I’m always looking for new people to chat and collaborate with. Find me on my socials to connect and follow my progress.

Social media accounts to follow:

Instagram: @steffleeartist | @kinobinostudio Twitter: @steff_lee | @kinobinostudio Facebook: Steff Lee Artist | Kino Bino Animation Studio

Website: Steff Lee Studios | Kino Bino