Feminist Puppet Donation to ACN

Feminist finger puppets: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Angela Davis, Margaret Sanger, and bell hooksThere’s a great quote by Bertolt Brecht that says that “Art is not a mirror held up to reality
but a hammer with which to shape it.” This idea has always really resonated with me in that what we create, no matter how small, is not only an expression of who we are, but also a vital part of making the world the way we want it to be. Whether painting or photography, or even a finger puppet!, the choices that an artist makes mean something because our work is inherently a message out to the rest of the world.

It’s always been important to me to create work that’s clever and fun, but given that art-making is also a opportunity to “shape the world,” I’ve also tried to feature puppet characters and people who were progressive or subversive in some way. Whether it’s a character we see take a journey no one would’ve expected at the startone that breaks seemingly every stereotype, if I’m going to commemorate someone, it’s because I love it and I see real positive value in what that person represents.

In this spirit, I recently jumped at the chance to create a silent auction donation for Abortion Care Network‘s yearly meeting. ACN supports independent abortion providers around the country–a network that currently provides care for 2 out of 3 women in the U.S. who have abortions each year–and works to increase access and end stigma and harassment of abortion-seekers and caregivers.

south-wind-womens-center-wichita-ks-1

My family happened to have donated to South Wind Women’s Center, part of ACN’s network, late last year, shortly before the opportunity to take part on the auction came about. Funny how things come together, huh?

Obviously this is an issue that’s been in the news in recent months, I was glad to have an opportunity to do something positive for this cause, and excited for the challenge of creating work that would appeal specifically to ACN’s members and donors. I decided that this event would be a great opportunity to celebrate some of my favorite feminist icons as puppets. It was no easy decision to narrow down the field, but I eventually chose four women: birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger (a no-brainer, given the cause), radical anti-racist and women’s right activist Angela Davis, scholar and writer bell hooks (watch this great recent clip of her and the divine Laverne Cox talking about feminism and reproductive rights), and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my love for whom has been well-documented.

A pretty badass crew, don't you think? Talk about #squadgoals!

A pretty badass crew, don’t you think? Talk about #squadgoals!

Custom projects like this are always exciting, and even more so when I have an opportunity to indulge my activist side more than usual. Here’s hoping the crowd at the ACN event agrees and the set raises some money for such a great cause!

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.

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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!

The King of Finger Puppets

You’d think that in 10 years, I would’ve made a custom Elvis Presley puppet before now. I’ve talked about it with a couple of customers before, but things just never panned out– That is until earlier this month when I finally got the opportunity to create The King once and for all.

Lovely customer Judy was interested in an Elvis from either the “Jailhouse Rock” or “Aloha from Hawaii”-eras, and although that black and white striped shirt is super iconic, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create a felt and embroidered version of that classic bedazzled white suit.It was surprisingly difficult to find good detail photos of Elvis’ white suits (of which there were multiple, I discovered), but I did figure out that the red, gold and blue rhinestones in the “Aloha from Hawaii” suit were in the shape of an eagle. Who knew, right?When I’m creating a custom puppet, I usually start with a sketch based on source photos. I keep detail photos up on my phone or computer to refer back to as I work. If the expression is key– as it obviously is with Elvis– I’ll often do a “sketch” on a piece of scrap felt to get the details just right. You can see in the photo above a few of the tests I made to get that smirky, hunch-lipped sneer just right.Once the parts are all cut to size, I’ll start piecing together the body and sewing in details. For Elvis, this meant that crazy suit. I wasn’t quite brave enough to try to do the eagle pattern with the rhinestones, but I think the dots keep the spirit of the bedazzling. And the red lei was a must, of course. When in Hawaii, right?I’ve done a few puppets with microphones before. Because they’re so tiny and have to be free-standing, it’s tough to get much detail, but I decided that the finishing touch for Elvis would be to have a black cord coming from the bottom of the mic. I had to experiment a bit to figure out how to attach it at both ends, staying taught enough without pulling the arm in. With a little finessing, I’m thrilled with how much that small detail adds to the design.So, what do you think– a puppet fit for a King? (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

 

Interested in a custom puppet of your own? Get in touch— I’d love to make it happen!

 

 

Bowties are Cool

Now that the holidays are over, I can finally share the set of Dr. Who finger puppets I made for my nephew this year. He sat with me at my booth this summer at the Indieana Handicraft Exchange and was quite insistent that I should be making a Matt Smith puppet as part of my collection. I explained that if I make a puppet for a show I don’t watch, I’ll just end up in a bunch of awkward conversations (“Oh yeah, I totally remember that one time where that person did that, uh, funny thing.”), but did agree that a custom set just for him was probably do-able. So I finally relented and gave these for Christmas.

I did some reconisence with my sister-in-law and found out that his other two fave characters were Rory and Amy, so the complete set also included them, but the Tardis and Doctor were my favorite parts. It seems appropriate to be making Noah basically whatever puppets he wants, since he was the original inspiration for me making them to begin with– it was for his birthday in 2006 that I made my very first animal designs that led down this puppet-crazy road. Pretty amazing how things can come full circle, huh?

 

Felt Outlaws, and How I Create Custom Puppets

I completed a fun custom order the other day for set of Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings finger puppets. The customer I worked with had purchased my Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash puppets already and wanted to get the other two to complete “The Highwaymen” for her husband. Thinking about Kris and Waylon, it was clear that they would make excellent puppets– Waylon with a big, dark cowboy hat and Kris with his signature hair and squinty eyes.

Since it was such a fun set, I thought I’d walk through the process of creating custom puppets, from concept to piecing to the puppet’s completion.I start any puppet by gathering images of the character for research and listing out the details to be included in the puppet. For custom orders, I ask the customer to list details that they’d definitely like to see, and note what jumps out to me as being really characteristic of that person. For this set, I found that the bottom of Waylon and Kris’ jawline/beard would be important in capturing them– Kris with a rounded beard and Waylon’s coming to more of a point. Though finger puppets don’t have chins, these sort of details hint at it and help distinguish the character.After the sketch, I’ll begin to cut out felt shapes and piece them together until I have a set that seems to be capturing the subject pretty well. I generally cut all the felt elements at once, so as I lay them out I imagine how the embroidered details will fit into the overall look of the puppet. Above is Kris with that wispy, wing-y hairdo that just screams 70’s singer-songwriter right after I added the first stitches.Most puppets tend to come together pretty quickly once everything is cut out, but Waylon’s cowboy hat took an usual bit of felt engineering to get just right. The hat sits on top of the puppet, and had to be stitched decoratively on top without revealing the stitches underneath holding it on, and the puppet itself together.Here are the completed Kris and Waylon along with a Willie and Johnny for the completed”The Highwaymen.” Who knew felt could make for such perfect outlaws, right?

Got a brilliant idea for a custom puppet? Get in touch and we can make it happen!

Jimmy McNulty, Where Have You Been All My Life?

I was working on a big custom order over the weekend that included a bunch of characters from The Wire and couldn’t help snapping this photo of the Jimmy McNulty puppet when I finished it up. I am in love with the smarmy grin, just the right amount of jerk and stud that was “McNutty.” It was five years ago that we watched the series from beginning to end and going through all the reference photos for this project has me jonesin’ for a trip back to Baltimore with the series.

Updates

A couple of quick updates to share with ya’ll!

Here’s a new pair of custom puppets I made a while back. They were a Valentine’s present from Puppet Guy to his girlfriend, Puppet Gal. The gift of felt– now that’s a good boyfriend, eh?

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Also, I meant to share this post from Mark of Wolf Gnards earlier– he was the recipient of my Moonrise Kingdom puppets and it’s a little crazy how much he looks like the kid on the movie, right?

Finally, have you seen the new photos in the shop? Almost done re-shooting all of my designs and I’m liking the new simpler backgrounds and natural light. Plus I got a good photo of Omar at long last! That’s been a long time coming.