Puppets. A Profession and a Passion!

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I’m a puppet artist. They are a life long passion of mine and an adulthood profession. I’ve been making these fun friends since I was three. I remember taking scraps from my mother’s sewing room garbage. I would stitch together marionette birds with a needle I’d found and short pieces of thread. Bits of yarn would be tied to them before I dangled them from sticks. My greatest creation before I was 9 years old was a dinosaur. I never got to finish him because he vanished when we moved two states away. After that my puppets got bigger and better. By the time I was 14 I had an order for a 6 foot dragon who probably still lives in Canada. He was a gorgeous green fellow with a full mouth of long, white teeth.

One way or another I have been a storyteller since I was little. Puppets are one of the oldest styles of storytelling. I wanted to work for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop so I could make movies like The Dark Crystal. If I’d known about Wetta and The Lord of The Rings films when I got out of college I might have hopped a plane for New Zealand without even thinking!

It got harder to make puppets and be involved in theatre after my children were born. I eventually found a way to make simple puppets that I can sell at events. Also the coloring puppets I make are good for children to color themselves with crayons or markers. I do dream of making my big, fancy puppets again some day. In the meantime I write plays, puppet shows and novels. The novels are a challenge. Despite how long they are to write and perfect, I love the work. Most weeks I only get a few hours to write as I run kids around. The rest of the time my mind is roiling with ideas, dialogue, action; all the things I need to write fast in the moments I get… and puppet to go with them! More recently the same thing is happening with ideas and plans for puppet films.

The puppets I make tend to be complete characters with voices and lives that jump back into them when a human helps them. What a union, the puppet and the puppet master! A living moment of creativity! Someday I want to have a puppet theatre where humans and puppets perform together like Jim Henson’s The Frog Prince or Labyrinth for stage.

Ah, the great someday. In the meantime I get to enjoy watching my kids perform such characters as SteamPink, Ambrose (who was only a head for awhile), Seal and Zephyra The Vermillion Assassin.

SteamPink Seal, Me and FiShannon and Vermillian

“I wanna be JUST like you!”

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Father and Son Nigerian Dwarf Bucks. Blue eyes, Identical markings and their tails even curl the same direction.

 

Many children have turned to a parent at some point or another and said, “I wanna be just like you.” They copy us and follow our example–until the teenage years when things can go quite opposite! We mimic to learn. We mimic to improve, but eventually we have to start emulating other people and become our own person.

Mimicry or Emulation? This very topic was brought up on The Voice. The judges said that they seek singers who are emulating their favorite singers and styles, not mimicking. Emulation allows for creativity and individuality.

When I was young there weren’t people that I want to just meet and shake their hand (then never wash it again), but there were people who I wanted to work with someday. I wanted to learn from their skills. I wanted to watch them create the magic I loved. Then I wanted to go out into the world and do the same.

A fairy created in a workshop taught by Wendy Froud and Brian Froud.

A fairy created in a workshop taught by Wendy Froud and Brian Froud.

Many years ago I had a rare opportunity to take some workshops from the Froud family. Wendy Froud was the second to top person I wanted to work with as a child. She helped give life to Yoda, Jen and Kira of the Dark Crystal and many fun creatures from Labyrinth. Brian and Wendy Froud are amazing artist in both 2-D and 3-D mediums.

I sat across from Brian and next to Wendy as they guided us through the making of a clay fairy figure. Amazing is just not enough to describe the experience. I learned so much from them in the handful of workshops they did in my region.

Mowquin, the water Fairy. A rod puppet created during a Toby Froud workshop

Mowquin, the water Fairy. A rod puppet created during a Toby Froud workshop

Their son, Toby, is another great artist that I also got to take workshops from. One of my favorite puppets is from the rod-puppet workshop I took from him. I keep waiting for them to do another one in driving distance of my life, but I do have to keep trying to expand my skills from what I learned already from them. I have tons of ideas that mesh my novel writing and puppet work together. Now if only the kids would learn to go to bed at a realistic time!

The top person on my list of people I wanted to work with… He’s not available. Jim Henson taught me many things without me having to meet him. In losing him just before I reached adulthood and headed to The Creature Shop to knock on the door and ask for work, I learned that I had to pace myself. I was prone to overworking and ignoring problems. I wish he hadn’t. I wish he could still be here to enrich our lives with his magic. I regularly watch his works and through them develop my own skills of story telling and puppetry.

I was lucky to get tickets to a showing of Toby Froud’s Lesson’s Learned. They are doing a showing of Labyrinth with it. It is bound to be such fun. I’ve wanted to see his new show since the Kickstarter information about it led me to donating all I could at that moment: Five humble dollars.┬áToby’s friend, Sam Koji Hale, is creating a puppet film called “Monsters of the Sky”. Between the two of these films I feel a resurgence of my dream to create films with puppets that emulate “The StoryTeller” and “The Dark Crystal”. I really hope that getting to see this showing will add to my inspiration that may take years to lead to this dream. I know I’ll talk about it more. My biggest dream was to work for Jim Henson in The Creature Shop. Someday I will live a measure of that dream by creating puppet films of my own.

So the point of all this is that mimicking is okay, but emulation is the goal. Emulate the people you admire and become someone that others will wish to emulate someday.

What do you aspire to be? Who do you emulate to become that future self? What is your biggest dream?