When Noelle Melody moved to Kingston in 2012, no one in the area knew about her. Now it is impossible to miss.
If you visit the market scene, you will see Noelle and her sister Joy Buran at every creator market in the Hudson Valley. As you stroll down Broadway in Kingston, see the Noelle mural created for The Yoga House. If you attend the Woodstock Film Festival, you will see her and her sister’s name on every festival program and maybe watch them interview an audience.
Noelle and Joy are illustrators, animators, and happen to be twins. The duo that work together have formidable résumés for brands like Anthropologie, Netflix, A + E Digital, NBC, Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Amazon Studios, and Sesame Studios.
However, your preferred “customer” may be smaller regional companies in Ulster County.
The duo were inspired at a young age by their grandfather, who was an artist who taught them to paint and draw.
Noelle Melody and Joy Buran
When not working for well-known brands, Joy and Noelle are hired by local musicians like Matt Pond to animate music videos and by the Kingston Waterfront Business Association to illustrate social media posts that encourage local shopping. For every big job they get, the twins make sure they work for a smaller one.
“I don’t want to choose any favorites,” says Noelle about working with regional companies. “But I feel happier when I work with someone on site.” Joy feels the same. “The smaller jobs don’t pay the bills, but they do fuel our creativity,” she adds.
Strengthening regional companies through art
The companies in the region are also grateful for Joy and Noelle’s commitment. “They do such a good job, are very community-based, and so friendly when they could have easily stayed to themselves,” said Hadas Liebermann, co-owner of Jay Tseke Leather Co and a member of the Kingston Waterfront Business Association. Liebermann hired Joy and Noelle to animate a Kingston Waterfront Instagram post to encourage people to shop locally over the holidays.
Meira Blaustein, filmmaker and co-founder of the Woodstock Film Festival, says it is an honor to have Joy and Noelle participate in the annual event. The twins curate the animation program and happened to be the successor to one of their idols, Oscar nominee Bill Plympton, who ran it from 2002 to 2016.
Joy and Noelle not only have their names on the program imprint, but also animated the trailers and advertising posters for the film festival every year. In 2020, the festival was hosted in various Hudson Valley drive-ins as well as online. From now on, this is also the plan for the festival in 2021.
The sisters, who grew up on Long Island, were introduced to the artistic process early on. Their grandfather was an artist who taught them to paint and draw. When her father didn’t run his restaurant (Gemelli’s, which means “twins” in Italian), he also drew with the duo. Without knowing exactly what they wanted to do but knowing that they wanted to be artists, Joy and Noelle packed their bags and went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where they studied media arts.
Watching the aforementioned Bill Plympton films and taking animation classes helped the sisters discover a mutual love for their craft. A thesis project cemented the idea of making it a company. And it was a professor who encouraged her to hone her collaborative skills, referring to it as an essential skill needed in filmmaking.
Joy Buran lives and works in her apartment in Queens, New York. But her sister Noelle tries to pull her up. “Noelle did a really good job convincing me to live in Kingston,” says Joy. “It’s really tempting between the people and the mountains and the culture.”
Noelle Melody and Joy Buran
A handful of arguments in their dormitory, some disagreements at the dining table, and a few years later Joy and Noelle are a well-oiled machine. Even with Noelle in Kingston, Joy in Queens New York and an ongoing global pandemic, the sisters manage to work together on a daily basis via Google Hangouts.
The animation field has proven to be somewhat pandemic-proof. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic impact of the Hudson Valley film and television industries hit record highs, generating more than $ 46 million in spending in 2019, according to the Hudson Valley Film Commission.
Although the rest of the television and film industries have been badly hit by the pandemic, animation – a trade usually conducted in solitude – has largely continued. Joy and Noelle had to turn around a bit, but for the most part they run the business – with customers large and small – as usual.
Get inspiration from other Hudson Valley creatives
What has changed is their ability to connect with other manufacturers in the region. In the pre-pandemic world, you will most likely find the twins at the Hudson River Exchange, the Hudson Valley Hullabaloo, or the Kingston Night Market. Joy and Noelle got to know all of their friends and employees in the regional market scene.
“These markets are an integral part of our current location,” says Noelle. “Without these connections with other local manufacturers, we would not have made our friends or built our business the way it is.”
When twin animators Noelle Melody and Joy Buran aren’t inspired by other local creators, folklore, or mythology, they are referring to the surrounding Hudson Valley landscape.
Noelle Melody and Joy Buran
Your admiration for other regional makers is palpable. Joy and Noelle are quick to highlight the creatives they’ve worked with and make it clear that it’s more about camaraderie than competition. “We are a small company and working with local people has a special place in our hearts,” says Joy. “We can help each other reach a wider audience than we could do alone. The makers and companies we work with make our community different from anywhere else. “
During our interview, Joy picks up small items adorning her desk in her Queens apartment and holds them up to her laptop camera to reveal what she has collected from local manufacturers in the Hudson Valley. There’s a felt creature from PetitFelts in Kingston and a pottery from Shop Little House in Woodstock.
About a hundred miles north, Noelle holds up a Silke Jacobs bag to show on camera during our interview. “I met Silke Jacobs for a year at the Hudson River Exchange and bought one of her bags,” recalls Noelle, “now I have a lot of them!”
The undeniable support is refreshing and reflects how much the Hudson Valley creators benefit from each other’s skills and resources. “We haven’t needed a résumé in years,” laughs Noelle. “A lot of local artists and creators who recommend us have done a lot of work. We are a small community so we all vouch for one another. “
When not inspired by other local creators, folklore, or mythology, the twins are referring to the surrounding Hudson Valley landscape.
“We do these meditation retreats with the Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center,” says Joy, “and everything from the mountain views to the meditation practices really took our art to the next level.”
The twins attended the Taghkanic meditation retreats after Noelle was diagnosed with Stage II Hodgkin lymphoma in 2018 to help cope with the trauma. “Instead of escaping all these feelings of fear, we decided to put our creativity into them,” explains Noelle. As a result, her art became more personal.
“Being in the mountains and in nature, surrounded by issues of acceptance and letting go, along with the images, symbols and colors of Pumpkin Hollow, has really helped us get to where we are today.” Noelle is currently cancer-free.
Kingston-based illustrator and animator Noelle Melody said the local network of creatives was instrumental in keeping her and her sister’s business going and growing. “A lot of local artists and creators who recommend us have done a lot of work,” she says. “We’re a small community so we all vouch for one another.”
Noelle Melody and Joy Buran
While Joy and Noelle wait for the markets to resume and personal collaboration to resume, they are working on releasing films in larger studios and writing a children’s book. In the meantime, Noelle tries to persuade Joy to take the step up.
“Noelle did a really good job convincing me to live in Kingston,” says Joy. “It’s really tempting between the people and the mountains and the culture.”
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