puppetmaker: (Secret of Sherlock Holmes)
Ronnie Burkett is an amazing puppeteer. His shows are breathtaking to watch. He also is a fount of knowledge about marionettes and the history of puppetry. On his Facebook page he has a request I seem to have a lot of friends on here who are puppeteers, puppet enthusiasts, puppetry hobbyists or puppet smartypants-know-it-all-academics. So how about this: today, right now, Tuesday, you just all post a picture of something puppet related you are proud of, or a puppet that you find so gobsmackinglyfucking beautiful it makes your teeth hurt. And then on Wednesday we can all go back to inanity and sharing of angry political posts not of your own design, or GIFs of poop coming out of Trump's mouth. But let's make Tuesday a nice day of puppets. Come on. It's not that hard. copyright Ronnie Burkett 2016.

So I am going to, behind the cut because this is going to get photo heavy, show you some of the puppets I have made that I am proud of.

I am grateful that I have made so many puppets and amused so many people.

puppetmaker: (Secret of Sherlock Holmes)
I do get asked a couple of questions that I can now answer with this project.

This one is photo heavy so I am putting the photos behind the cut.

This project starts with some bad behavior by fans towards Michelle Gomez who plays Missy on Doctor Who. Apparently some people can’t separate the role from the person and she got all kinds of weird hateful messages.

Fast forward to about a month ago when Peter got an email from one of our BBC Cymru Wales buddies to keep date clear if he could with more information to follow.

About two weeks later through a BBC America tweet, Peter figured out what might be in the pipeline.

The week of we got conformation that Peter was to be on the guest list for the BBC America preview of Doctor Who and Michelle Gomez would be introducing the episode.

“So do you think you can do a puppet by then?” came the question.

“Sure,” said I.

I looked at Missy’s costume and figured out what I needed to do. A trip to my local fabric store and I found all the fabrics I needed. While looking at the photos, I realized that the shirt was not white but lightly striped. I debated and decided to go with the detail. I found something to use for the cameo and something to use for the trim.

And in about a 48 hours period, I assembled Missy the puppet. The final touch was the hat that I went back and forth on about half a dozen times and then decided that she really needed the hat.

Peter went to the event and managed to get the puppet to Ms. Gomez who, by all reports, adored it.

Onto the Photos

The_Missy_Project )
puppetmaker: (Secret of Sherlock Holmes)
Entitled as such since apparently I have used Crafty Tuesday: The Return before.

For new folks who are reading a little explanation, a number of years ago I started writing about various projects I was working on and issues that affected the artistic community from my perspective.

I decided that Tuesday was going to be my day to devote to this since Monday tends to be the New Who Review when Doctor Who is on or Monday Morning Quarterbacking in which I talk about sports. Wednesday still is Conventional Wisdom when I get back to that.

So Crafty Tuesday is back.

And it is post Dragon Con so I can look back on a creative year and try to figure out what I might attempt before the next Dragon Con.

Currently I have four puppets in the que. Three are commissioned pieces that the people who have paid me have been saints about the deadlines but I want to have all of it done before the end of the year. There is one puppet that I want to get done in the next two days for reasons I can say probably Friday unless I can’t then I can next Tuesday.

I have decided to build more girl puppets than boy puppets within the next year. Not sure if I am going to keep that promise but at least I am going to try. I looked back at what I have done and find that I tend to shy away from doing them so best way to get rid of that fear is to just do it. Also I found a splendid dress form that, with a little padding, will help me to be able to drape dresses properly.

Puppet Dress form photo 12002745_10206491164350661_4851147046491789760_n_zpschvilwrg.jpg
My new Puppet Dress form
(For the VI: This is a white Styrofoam female torso that looks like a dress makers form)

I found it at Joann’s Fabrics in the Halloween area. Apparently there is this new thing about taking these forms and dressing them up. I am a little fuzzy how it is used in crafting but I am very sure this is going to make my life easier. I just have to pad out the middle a little for a true fit.

As for the past year, I didn’t do as many shows as I would have liked including some I have done for years.

However my sales at Dragon Con were good so that’s a plus in my column.

Next year I would like to show my puppets in at least four art shows if not a few more.

Oh, I have decided that Dragon Con is the end of my creative year rather than Dec. 31st because then I have a little less than a year to plan for the next Dragon Con. And because Dragon Con does more to get my creative hamster wheel spinning than anything else I do during the year.

That’s a rough for the next twelve months. Let’s see what I can get done.

I am grateful for the creative charge I get at Dragon Con.
puppetmaker: (Goatboy)
Ok it didn’t really go away but it did go quiet for a while.

Since I talked about it at Dragon Con this year, I thought I would do an entry on what Crafty Tuesday is and why I do it.

The why is simple. I had been talking about how I put things up on my web log at various conventions. Someone asked what day I did that. At the time it was kind of all over the place. I said rather glibly, “Tuesday” and Crafty Tuesday was born. I am not saying that Tuesday is the only day I talk about my artistic endeavors, it is just the most consistent.

So for the new readers, hi I am Kath the Puppeteer. I make puppets, costumes, masks, dolls, plushies and whatever else strikes my fancy. I have been doing this for more years than I will admit but the number is over 30.

I have made just about ever form of puppet that there can be but enjoy making hand and rod and hand puppets the most. I learned the form of doll making I like best from Wendy Froud so if you find a tip or technique that you love, she is the one who taught me. I learned about building puppets from working at the Center for Puppetry Arts and from my fellow puppet artisans. The costumes came out of the puppet clothing. The mask making from working with a number of artists who had learned from other artists and they passed on what they learned to me.

Because so many people over the years have been so giving with how they do things, I feel like it is my responsibility to pass on what knowledge I have onto others. I don’t have a “secret methods” on how to do things. (OK I do know a couple of magic tricks that I can’t tell you how they were done since I signed an NDA a long time ago but I don’t use them in my puppets and art.) I have what works for me. And people have taken what I have shown them and made it their own. No two people are going to do the exact same thing unless they are copying on purpose. I can teach you exactly how I make a Phluzzie (my signature puppet) and you could do what I did but your puppet is going to look different from mine. I take my role as teacher very seriously. I do consider myself as a student as well. I love learning how people do things.

I am working on figuring out how to create a website so I can show what I do. I have been saying this for a number of years (try over 10) but I think this year might finally be the year I get it together. I have enough photos to put into something like that. It would also be a good place to sell puppets to the public. If anyone had any ideas on the matter, I could use some help.

Next week, I hope, how I do arm rods for puppets.

Do you have a topic or trick you have seen in my art you want me to talk about? Please tell me.

I am grateful for all the people who have taught me over the years.
puppetmaker: (Fluzzies by Kathleen David)
Technically I am done with Art Shows this year. I think my first one next year is Farpoint. Next year are my usual shows of Farpoint, LunaCon, Shoreleave, and DragonCon if I jury into each. I might have one or two others to add.

In doing so, I need to figure out what I would like to do next year. There are always a couple of things I sort out during the year that get added into the mix.

I have been thinking about doing a Firefly puppet set for quite a while. I think I might have it all figured out. But after I heard the comment about “puppet show in the backyard” now I have to make them. Deciding whether to do a set of hand puppets or the large ones.

I am working through my head some new monster type puppets that I think I am going to introduce along with the usual Phluzzies.

The dolls are going to make a comeback this year. I had mostly puppets last year but after a talk with Wendy Froud at NYCC, I have an itch to do the anthropomorphic Victorian dolls (Not calling them Steampunk because I don’t know if I am going that direction.)

Might make a puppet or two based on anime characters. Or maybe some dolls.

Am working on the geometry of what is know as a chibi sort of doll. Same for some stuffed animals that are not puppets which will be a first.

I might have to finish up a few critters that I found in the not quite done box. I have about half a dozen bodies that are only so far along. Some of them are fail experiments at the time but I think I can salvage them.

My goal for the next year is NOT to be rushing right before the convention.

Also I do plan to put some stuff up for sale on Esty this year to see what might happen there.

I open the floor to you my dear reader, based on what I have done before, what would you like to see me do? Remember this is blue skying so just about anything goes except recreations of established puppets.

I am grateful for ideas that work.
puppetmaker: (Boy Wizard Puppet)
I am a day off. I woke up thinking this was Tuesday but I know it is Wednesday because I have class today. Convention time is not normal time and it can take a day or so to get back to the norm.

I finally think I have my puppet slam piece in hand. Now I need to review the puppets that I have. Figure out which I need to make or in this case remake or repair. And that will be done.

Right now I am at the gathering stage of my process. I am making sure I have the things I need to complete my projects. Or at least to get them much further along. Today is going to be “find those things I know I have in my storage area”. I also need to clear out some stuff and move a lot of stuff around for the next day or so. This will allow me to get everything I need where I need it. It got a little more complicated because I have the puppets put somewhere and I don’t think they are even all together any more. Well one problem at a time.

Next is to start at the top of the list and work my way through as efficiently and I can with minimal mess. I am going to be cleaning as I go so once one project is done, I can pull forward the materials for the second one and go from there. I also need to find my box of puppet wigs and see what I need to get. I also need to restock my eyeball box.

It is 22 days to DragonCon so this blog is probably going to get a little quiet or going to be a lot about building and making things. So I declare the rest of this month, Crafty Month!

I am grateful that I have figure out what I am doing for the puppet slam.
puppetmaker: (Fluzzies by Kathleen David)
This is something that has been mulling around in my head for a while but I seem to be reading almost a perfect storm of both rants and helpful advise about worth. What one’s time is worth. What one’s work is worth. And why everyone seems to think that ephemeral worth is less than the concrete worth, or not as the case maybe.

People ask me why I don’t sell my puppets online. Honestly because between materials and time I would have to charge about 75 dollars a Phluzzie and at least 50 for a hand-puppet if not more. Anything like the Doctors is a minimum of 100 to 150 depending on materials. And that is low-balling my worth as a puppet maker to close to current minimum wage in the US. And, honestly, I think my skill is worth a little more than that. It has taken me years to get where I am today so when you buy one of my puppets, you also buy over 25 years of experience in puppet building.

There is a story about Picasso doing a drawing for a woman at her insistence and telling her it would be 20,000 francs. She said that was absurd that he had done the sketch in 5 minutes. He replied that she was not paying him for just the 5 minutes but for the lifetime he studied to come to this point to be able to do such a sketch in 5 minutes.

Artists spend a lifetime refining their craft. There is a continued learning curve that goes on for as long as you make some form of art. Each project teaches you something new or how to do something better. But that gets lost when you watch someone like Brian Froud do a quick sketch of a Goblin in a book along with his signature. Wow, he makes it look easy but consider what he did to get to the point of making it look easy. There is inane talent but refining that talent is a long road with many twists and turns.

I have been to many art shows at conventions. I have even participated in a number of them all over the US. I walk around and hear conversations that go like this.

Scene: A couple looking at a rather fine original oil painting of a Dragon

Person A: Wow! That’s incredible.

Person B (looks at the bid sheet): I can’t believe they are charging that for something like this. Artist 1 does something like this and charges ½ what this Artist is asking for the same thing.

(Note: Artist 1 is selling a Gliche of a digital painting they did not the original which would be hard since it is digital. I’m not saying that there are less hours or work in digital art but it is easier to recreate the piece than say making a whole other exact oil painting.)

Person B (continued): Besides, I could do something like that. I don’t think it is worth that.

Person A: You’re probably right.

And they walk on to the next bay.

I think the words “I could do something like that” annoy me more than anything else in those exchanges. Really, can you? Well good for you but don’t belittle the talent that when into that Dragon you are dismissing so quickly.

There has been a rash of people trying to get a deal in the Art shows. They don’t bid until the last minute and then they try to keep it at the minimum price so they can get a bargain. I know some artists that lose money in the long run because they figure a sale is better than a good sale and lowball themselves into selling things at less than they are worth. They usually don’t work this out until the end of the year when they are working through their taxes and if themselves taking a loss for something that they though they had taken a profit on.

I don’t sell a lot of pieces in art shows but my minimum bid is the lowest I will go on a piece and not lose money. It is not worth it to me to spend 4 hours on a puppet and sell it for ten dollars when there is at least five dollars worth of materials in the thing. I’d rather hold onto it and sell at a price that recoups my costs and work rather than price it just to sell. Occasionally on an older piece I do price down a bit because I need the room in the house but those are rare.

It does come down to a matter of worth. What a piece is worth to you might be different than what it is worth to me. I have a MacBook. I know I could have gotten another computer with about the same specs from another company but I am willing to pay more for what I get with a Mac and I like what I can do with a Mac.

Artists create art but they also work in the creation of art. Like writers who write books. Writing is hard work. Art is hard work. And the worth of someone’s work when you can’t quantify it, like fixing a car or a roof, can be hard to judge. So we say let the market dictate what our work is worth. The problem is that once we undervalue our work, it can be hard to bring the price up to its true worth.

I am grateful for those people who have seen the value of my work and paid me accordingly.


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