Fishing is integral to Jeremy Mayhew’s life, not only because of a deep familial connection, but because it introduced him to filmmaking too. As a young boy, he would go swordfishing with his father, Greg. One of the first jobs his father gave him, along with washing dishes, was documenting the trips on video. Young Jeremy began to play around with the camera, learning tricks like how to make a person disappear.

“I started realizing the magic you could do with that kind of thing. I started experimenting with the camera more and more, aside from just documenting the trip,” he said. “So when I came home, I’d spend weekends holed up in my room trying to figure out how to do clay animations and that sort of thing with an old shoulder mount VHS video camera, which was really hard...that’s how I started doing my first animations and soon as I realized it was possible, I was just hooked.”

Jeremy Mayhew discovered his love of filmmaking and animation through fishing, naturally. — Ray Ewing

He filmed his first claymation video when he was 11 years old. Filmed in two second bursts, it begins with a little clay man waving to the camera and rolling his eyes before melting into a puddle on the ground. The puddle transformed into a sailboat and a series of animals. The clay eventually forms a giant hand that uses a pencil to write “the” before dragging in a scrap of paper that says “end” and waving goodbye.

Before he discovered the camera and the power of bringing his imagination to life, Mr. Mayhew worked in still arts; drawing, painting and filling sketchbook after sketchbook. Though his father’s family were farmers and fishermen, his mother’s family were more in touch with their artistic side, he said.

After graduation from the regional high school in 1994, Mr. Mayhew left the Island for art school in Philadelphia without a plan to return. He studied film, played around with animation and worked on his first documentary, Striker’s Passing, about Island swordfishermen. But eventually the Vineyard called him back, and he returned in 2002, a married man now. He and his wife Michele have twin four-year-old girls.

Back on the Island, he fished with his father for awhile, and then took a job as an assistant editor at Galen Films in Vineyard Haven. Though he had always thought he would end up in a big city, he began thinking about how to make a film career work on the Island. About 11 years ago, Mr. Mayhew turned to freelancing as an animator. His style is very handmade and purposefully unrefined. He finds inspiration in old lithographs, artifacts and things that generally look hodgepodge.

Deep roots in Menemsha and fishing industry led to Mr. Mayhew's artistic career. — Ray Ewing

“I like to see the messy seams of what makes up something,” he said.

He wants the audience to see the strings behind the show, the stick that lifts the puppet’s hand. Though he does still graphic design as well, his true interest is in movement.

“My heart is definitely in motion,” he said. “Whatever it is that got me hooked when I was younger, when you start seeing what you can bring to life with the camera, it’s something to do with that. I can’t really put my finger on it.”

He works in a variety of styles, from completely computer-animated to using handmade puppets and sets. Some of his work seems like collaged illustrations from an almanac. The characters’ joints move jerkily and their features are sometimes merely a suggestion.

“Most of the stuff I try to do, I feel inspired by things that feel more tactile,” he said. “Things that seem to have their roots in the beginnings of film or animation, from long ago.”

A trailer for the Beetlebung cookbook combined styles using illustrations and stamps with isolated movement. A cut-paper whale swallowed illustrated fish made of clapboards for an International Film Festival piece.

Scene from trailer for Beetlebung Farm Cookbook. — Jeremy Mayhew

Mr. Mayhew often begins with list of restrictions, either from the client or his own. In one watery piece, he restricted himself to only using certain shapes. To create a spout of water spraying from a whale’s blowhole he took the shape of a fish overlapping it thousands of times and then twirling the fish around, creating a movement that evoked water but was in no way liquid.

In another piece, he built a model wintery village out of cardboard including a detailed Film Center. In the stop motion video, the cardboard town is populated by puppets with rocks for heads and tiny knitted sweaters, including a miniature Richard Paradise, complete with mustache.

Now, having recently turned 40, Mr. Mayhew is deep into construction on his family’s dream home on a youth lot in Chilmark. He is also working on his second documentary about commercial fishing as well as freelancing as an animator.

Living on the Vineyard as a graphic artist and filmmaker is challenging, he said, because it can be harder for networking than in a city. However, involvement in film festivals and other creative community pursuits have served him well.

"Sky's the limit almost, with the stuff you want to attempt." — Ray Ewing

“At the same time, it’s one of those things where it’s the Vineyard and you meet a lot of folks here that come in from all walks of life and different places,” he said. “So I’ve actually made a lot of good connections.”

In the tiny spaces in his busy schedule, Mr. Mayhew continues to create for himself. Silly things, reminiscent of his first videos which made use of his siblings and friends. Using a green screen he has made his daughters twirl around the ice with world champion skaters or play living room pinball in their baby seats, bouncing off of couches and tables, racking up points.

A recent motion graphic is a streaking steampunk monster created of stacked shapes running in a perfect loop. His aesthetic preference for rough edges isn’t universally shared.

“People ask why are you doing that?” he said. “And it’s like I don’t really know, I just love it.”

And he’s going to keep on doing it.

“Sky’s the limit almost, with the stuff you want to attempt,” he said.

View Jeremy Mayhew's work at