David Bowies at Chicago Public Library

On Monday I had the opportunity to teach a puppet-making workshop at the Maker Lab at Harold Washington Library. That morning the news had broken that David Bowie passed away overnight, and it was clearly on everyone’s minds. I had intended on allowing participants to chose their own hero to commemorate as a puppet during the class, but someone suggested early on that the different Bowie eras people had been seeing on social media all morning would make the perfect subjects. So each person set out to select their favorite Bowie, from an eye-patched Ziggy Stardust, to the hairless The Man to Fell to Earth, Aladdin Sane’s iconic lightening bolt, and Labyrinth‘s flamboyant Jareth.

The class would have been fun regardless, but the special subjects turned it into a lovely tribute as well. Not to mention the amazing creations that came out of the event.

Thanks to Harold Washington Library and One Book, One Chicago for having me!

An Old Year, A New Year

Inspired by the Top Nine lists everyone’s been posting on Instagram this week, I decided to take a look back at some of my favorite moments from 2015. Instead of going on just people’s likes on the photos I posted (which, let’s be honest, tended to be an indicator of how well I hashtagged), I created a collage of the personal and professional moments that’ll stick with me most over the past twelve months.
Top Nine of 2015

  1. RBG: My new Ruth Bader Ginsburg puppet was by far my favorite design in years. I’ve already explored some of the many reasons why I love RGB, and it was lovely to know that she’s got plenty of other puppet-loving fans out there besides myself.
  2. Good/Bad: A twofer of possibly my best and worst parent moments of the year– The bad news: My kid got his front tooth knocked out at school. Dang. The good news: An epic Pee Wee Herman Halloween costume.
  3. The King: I love this custom Elvis puppet. It was about time I got to render that famous white suit in felt.
  4. Pride + Victory: This year, the Chicago Pride Parade fortuitiously fell the day after the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. To say that the event felt electric would be a bit of an understatement, and I’m so proud we could be there to witness that moment.
  5. Furiosa: My favorite custom puppet of the year– I got to create this Imperator Furiosa based on the badass character from the surprisingly good film, Mad Max: Fury Road. I shared a few months back about my process in getting her signature black make-up just right.
  6. New Views: Probably my biggest personal moment of the year, after a very long search and a lot of false starts and dead ends, this August I got a new job doing pretty much exactly what I dreamed of doing at pretty much exactly the kind of organization I wanted to work for. Oh, and this is the view from the building on Michigan Avenue. Not too shabby.
  7. Jean-Michel: Another fun custom order I completed this year was this Jean-Michel Basquiat. One of my favorite all-time artists, it was great to get the push to finally try out making him 4″ tall.
  8. Roadtrip: Our family vacation to Cape Cod this fall was an epic week of r + r, but the highlight of the trip (and one of my very highest highlights of the year) was the 30+ humpback whales we saw on our whale-watching excursion. It was pure magic to be in the presence of these incredible creatures, literally close enough to be eye to eye and get wet from their spray, and is an experience I’ll never forget.
  9. Furry Friends: This year we decided to volunteer as a foster home for the wonderful dog rescue One Tail at a Time. We hosted four lovely pups over the course of the year, the final one– Sprinks/now Murf– became a “foster fail” when we decided to make him a permanent addition to the family. How could we say no to that face!

There you have it–my 2015 in a nine-part nutshell! I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: thank you to you–my readers, customers, and friends–for coming along on this journey, reading what I have to say, and being interested in my finds. I hope 2015 was good to you, and wish for a brighter and kinder 2016 for us all.

New Swallow Christmas Ornaments

There are times when I feel myself becoming something of a living Portlandia skit, and never more so than when I decided to whip up a batch of swallow ornaments the other day. When in doubt, put a bird on it!These candy-colored avians are inspired by classic tattoo illustrations, and a variation on a brooch design you may remember from years back. Bright and cheery colors like this are sort of my thing, and these birds do their job looking pretty darn cheerful on the tree. Tis the season to deck the halls!

Swallow ornaments are now!

 

Holiday Products Are a Go!

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are upon us– or getting there, at least– and seasonal products are available now in my shop!Louis CK ornament, Ira Glass ornament, Frida Kahlo ornament, Steve Martin ornamentAny finger puppet you’ve had your eye on is available as an ornament, for the perfect bit of fandom for any tree. How about a Ruth Bader Ginsburg ornament for the law student in your life, Frida Kahlo for your favorite budding surrealist, or Steve Martin going wild and crazy on the tree for years to come.
Pop culture ornamentsBack in the shop is also old favorites– felt state ornaments and Ralphie from A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”).

Unless you happen to be one of those weirdos who has all their shopping done by November, there’s an excellent chance you’ve got somebody on your list who could use a finger puppet or ornament to make their life complete. So get on it! ; )

New Headshot

I’ve been in need of a new headshot for a while now. The photo that I’d been using to represent me and my business was, well, sorely out of date. It was taken back in 2009 or so, and basically everything pictured, besides me, is gone now– the apartment, the dog, the laptop, even my old studio chair. Plus, I’m not even looking at the camera, which is sort of rule number 1 for an engaging headshot.abbey studio1I’ve been scheming for close to a year to hire a photographer to come take some shots, but I’m a world class procrastinator– not to mention I never want to clean up my studio– so, down to the wire on a deadline, I had to take matters into my own hands.

Last Saturday while the kiddo was napping, I asked my boyfriend to come take photos of me. He’s no photographer, but I figured I could get everything into place and have him focus and press the shutter. When I was finally set up and went to look for him, I heard the distinctive sound of snoring coming from the living room. They tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps, and it’s clearly a habit we’ve had a hard time breaking three years in. So, I was on my own.

Not a photo of the actual nap in question, but still relevant.

Left to my own devices, I decided to see if I could rig up a photo on my own. Armed with my delayed shutter, a stack of empty Amazon boxes, and some nice afternoon light, I’m pretty happy with the results. Abbey HambrightWho needs a photographer when you can Photoshop the mess out of the background yourself ; )

Imperator Furiosa Custom Puppets

Of all the things I love about running my little business, one of my favorites has to be when people come to me with surprising, fun, and off the wall custom puppet requests. I was recently approached to create a custom Imperator Furiosa, Charlize Theron’s character from Mad Max: Fury Road.

furiosa

Mad Max was one of the few movies I saw this summer, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. It was great to see a badass lady at the center of an action flick, not to mention one that actually passes the Bechdel test.

The idea of an Imperator Furiosa puppet was immediately thrilling and terrifying, mostly because she had so many details that would require experimentation. Of course there would be that crazy prosthetic arm and harness, but most importantly, capturing her dark black make-up was a must to make the puppet work. After some thought and experimentation, I found that black ink applied with my fingers worked perfectly to achieve the effect I was going for. It took about three applications to get the color dark enough, but I was thrilled with the final look.Imperator Furiosa finger puppet by Abbey HambrightImperator Furiosa finger puppet by Abbey HambrightI had to pick and choose which details from her costume to include, since there were so many. The arm harness was particularly complex, but I feel like the pared-down version works well. I especially like the transition from her arm to the claw portion at the end.

Imperator Furiosa finger puppet by Abbey Hambright

Got a crazy puppet idea of your own? Get in touch— I’d love to make it happen!

Team CoCo

The shop is coming up on a big 10 year milestone next month, and given that I’ve been at this puppet game for so long, it’s probably not too surprising that sometimes I find that I’ve totally forgotten designs I did back in the day. Case in point: I stumbled upon this old Conan O’Brien design.Conan

How funny is this one, right? I’m still really into this design. If I made it today, I’m not sure it would turn out a whole lot different that this 2008-era puppet. My “drop it onto a sheet of white cardstock” photo method leaves a little to be desired, however ; )

I also found this image I mocked-up with the Late Night logo. Old school fans may remember that I did these sort of backgrounds with puppets for the first few years to give them a little context.conan-with-background

Ten years of puppets is a whole lot of puppets! Who knows what other designs I’ve forgotten and will discover later on!