I am taking this from questions that I got at the blogs, by e-mail, and from a conversation I had the other day with my bowling league.
1) Why do you share so much of your work?
Probably because I was raised by teachers who believe that teaching others is a calling and I have that calling.
I know there are people who carry how they do something close to the vest. I figure, especially for the puppets, that I would rather have that knowledge out there and growing rather than all to myself. I have learned so much from so many and I want to share that knowledge with others. I think the only things I don’t show are things that I learned that I promised not to show and I respect the people who taught me to keep their trust by not telling. I figure if what I do inspires someone else, then I have done something good in the world.
2) Have you ever built a full-body puppet (like Sweetums)? And how long did it take?
Yes I have several times. Most of them are for costume calls at various conventions. I made a Stitch in an Elvis costume for a Buffy sketch. I made a Disney Beast for Beauty and the Beasts. I built a dinosaur and rebuilt some full body dino puppets. How long did it take? Well depends on when it was in my build career. I have learned tricks that over time makes it easier to construct. But I would say a couple of days if that is all that I am doing.
3) How do you decide what to work on next?
It starts with the most pressing deadline and goes from there. If there isn’t a pressing deadline then it is whatever won’t go away from my head. This past year I made the Chuck and Eric puppets because they wouldn’t go away. Sometimes something just strikes my fancy and it gets made. Other times I try things I haven’t done before just to see if I can do them.
4) What do you make your puppets out of like the Purple People Eater?
The puppet I am talking about
I use fleece over ¼ to ½ inch foam. The foam allows me to create a structure to put the fleece over that maintains the shape of the puppet. I used pretty much the standard fleece that you can get at just about any fabric store. The holy grail of puppet fleece is Antron Fleece which can be dyed just about any color you want and hides the seams beautifully. However it is very expensive about 25 a yard rather than from 8 to 3 a yard depending if you have a coupon. I love it but it puts too much cost to a puppet that I am selling to the general public. It is a little different on the commissioned pieces. The horn was made out of white Crayola model magic which I then painted to make it look more like bone (picked that trick up at the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA) and refined the trick due to things I learned from the Frouds. The “fur” is a feather boa which has made my life so much easier in terms of puppet hair. The mouth is thick cardboard covered by red cloth. The one eye is a piece of craft foam and a black sharpie with a piece of purple fabric for the eyelid.
5) What did you learn over time that you wished you had known when you started?
For the puppets it was that unless I was going to redress the puppet, I didn’t have to make all the buttonholes for the clothing. That took a long time and really don’t add anything to the look of the finished puppet.
Most of the rest have been things that were more valuable because I learned from them so I know why I don’t do it another way.
6) How long does it take you to make a puppet?
Well the Purple People Eater was done in less than 8 hours and I had to pattern part of him. But that was an extreme example. For a basic puppet including a t-shirt and the hand rods, I have it down to 4 hours but that is after a lot of practice. Things that can slow me down are having to create patterns from scratch, having to go get more fabric to finish up, or not being able to find that one thing I need to finish the puppet properly. So I don’t start until I have all my pieces that I need to do the whole project so I don’t get frustrated half way through.
7) Which is easier, costumes for puppets or people?
For me it has to be puppets but then I was building clothing for puppets way before I made anything for people. There is the matter of scale and puppet details can be very very tiny but it is worth it for the whole effect. I have gotten good at people sized clothing but it takes a lot longer to do a shirt for a human than it does for a puppet. I do enjoy the challenge of making a costume and figuring out ways to recreate the look of something.
8) What are you working on next?
This would have been a different answer a week ago but right now it is puppets for Field Day where we are doing a show that takes place under the sea. I need to make and refurbish a number of puppets for it. Fortunately I had done a show like it many moons ago so I know how I am going to build everything. Two weeks for all that. So that is going to be my next couple of Crafty Tuesdays.
I am grateful for all the questions I was asked. It gave me things to think about. (I am still taking questions if you got them)