Sunday, November 30, 2008

Getting There

So I had hoped to be done today with my little Zombie friend, but as I projected, I have to wait until tomorrow to get some of the work done on the head which is holding up the rest of the process.

I also had to take a trip to the fabric store today since this is my last day of Thanksgiving break.  That doesn't sound like something that would take too long, but when you live in the city with no car, it becomes a whole production just to get there.  

Lucky for me today, I only had to walk a couple blocks in freezing rain, wait 15 minutes for the bus, take that bus, transfer to another bus, wait another 15 minutes in the freezing rain, get on the next bus, get of that bus, walk another block in the freezing rain and there we go.  A small price to pay for a place with a pretty decent selection of faux fur...Their crafty selection isn't all that wonderful, but I did see a Michael's on the way back so I'll try there next time for that stuff.  AND, there is a Home Depot close by that DOES carry the right kind of Contact Cement (some don't I've found) so that's good too.

Back to baby.  I feel like I've put him in the corner...

Take a look at the wire coming out of his head in this picture, this is the basic idea for the hair.  

This right here, believe it or not, is what is holding up the process.  I have to spray it black and I can't do that in my building so when I go into work (building the sets as school) I can use the workshop to get that part finished.  Once that part is done, I can finish the work on the inside of the head.  I'm hoping that what I am using to secure the hair will double as more support for the hand relieving all tension for the puppeteer.  Then it's on to covering the head!

Here's a picture of the body being covered.  

So far I am really happy with this fleece.  Even before picking out the stitches, it hides the seams pretty well which is one of the big things I was worried about.

Above is the covered body.  I'm not sure how great the color shows but he's a pale green.  I found it a very fitting color for a baby AND it should help to bring out his cuddly side.

Speaking of sides, here is his back side.

What is great about this shot is how well you can see the off-kilter placement of the arms.  (Side note:  I think I say "off kilter" a lot because I worked across for the band Off Kilter in EPCOT for a month and a half a few years ago.  Great music, check them out on youtube.)  

I couldn't be happier about the seams...You can kinda make out the one there running down the underside of the arm on the left but I haven't picked it out yet so it may disappear completely.  I hid the body seams along the sides and at an angle that would be hard to see even if the fleece wasn't behaving so well.

The things we builders/perfectionists/(insert your craft here) go through...

I timed how long it took to sew just one foot.  With possibly 4 minutes of interruption to instant message Kyle, it took 65 minutes to sew this ONE foot!  The toes were such took all Saturday to complete both hands and feet, a task many people would skip and go straight to the sewing machine for.  A task that would take 10 minutes at most on a sewing machine.  (The same amount of time it took me to hand stitch one of the little toes.)  This folks is why I enjoy the foam part more.  However...I am very proud of the way they came out.  I haven't even picked out the stitches so when I've done that, the hours will really have been worth it.  That end result keeps me coming back to doing it by hand...Check out the Booties I found at Target too! 

So now with school starting up again, I'm really not sure when I'm going to be finishing this guy.  I was hoping tomorrow but unfortunately I have another sewing project that might have to cut in line.  This one is all sewing machine though and just a whole bunch of straight lines, so it shouldn't take very long at all. Hopefully no later than Thursday I'll have some great pictures of the finished baby but we'll if not, definitely by this weekend.  

There's that epic battle with time we've talked about on here, stopping by to say hello.  I can just say that I'm glad we do projects like this right now so that when the time (and money) comes to do the big projects, we'll know exactly how much time to budget.  

Wish me luck friends.  I can't wait to show you how he turns out.


P.S.  "Toby"  seems to be taking the lead both on here and with friend's who have commented verbally.  

Friday, November 28, 2008

Toby OR Edgar OR Jasper OR Boo Update...

So far I've got Toby, Edgar, Jasper and Boo for possible names. Any thoughts?

The foam work is DONE!

Take a look. I'm pretty happy with the way he is coming out. The compact look is exactly what I'm going for. I also decided to play around with the idea of making the limbs different lengths. The way he was originally conceived, the limbs were all off-kilter so I decided to give it a try.

It's funny, when you get to try not to make them look exactly the same, you still battle with the fact that you've got to make it right. I've dealt with that idea when building and painting sets or doing stage makeup where things are supposed to be disheveled or dirty. I think of it in terms of the way people view a Jackson Pollock original. Even though it looks like a mess, there is still an art to it that can't be matched by just splattering paint on a canvas. There is still a clarity in the chaos.
Here is a shot of just the body. I like that everything is attached right there already. I've never tried to cover something like this, but I'm ready to try.

Here's a shot of what he looks like from behind, in case you were wondering...

It's time now to cover him...I realized in constructing the body how much I like the foam work part of building the best. Maybe it's just that I've done more of it (I have so many started heads I can't even count) but I've noticed how easy it is to ruin a great foam work with...not so great stitching.

The fabric is always the biggest factor in how clean the final product will turn out. When it comes down to it, no one sees what you've done on the inside. I've battled some pretty awful fleece in the past which may be what scarred me from the covering process. The fleece I am about to try is new to me. It is quilting fleece rather than antron (which has just been too expensive to try yet) but I got it from a place I've never bought from before so I'll let you know how it goes...wish me luck.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Maybe a Toby...?

Toby came to mind as a possible name for the Zombie Baby. Now this may be because we watched a bit of the London launch of Sweeny Todd in class yesterday, but to me, the name Toby sounds like an eerie hug. A little random maybe but anyway...

I'm just about ready to attach his limbs! Here is a shot of what I've got so far.

I'm pretty happy with the size he is coming out. I'm a little nervous about covering him later on though, because I want as much mobility in the neck as I can get, yet I want a good flow between the neck and the body. Usually I'd just cover this up with a clothing item (I've thought briefly about using a bib) or I'd build it without foam to support the chest which allows the fleece that connects from the head to the belly to act as a neck and an upper body. In this case though, I really wanted a solid support for the arms, especially since the design involves the limbs being slightly out of place.

Here is what the hands will look like.

I made them pliable so he can suck his thumb, make different gestures, or even hang onto a "binky." I may actually have one lying around...I used to play Mr. Noodle at Sesame Place in "Elmo's World Live", so when people would leave their stuff behind (bottles, shirts, hats, sunglasses, etc...) I was told I could keep the lost items after they'd sit unclaimed for more than a week or so. Needless to say, I have a good amount of random prop/costumes for puppets now.

The rest of the limbs are almost ready. I'll post them soon.

Feel free to suggest some names still, I'm not sold on Toby just yet.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Making Babies...or shall I say...a Zombie Baby...

Here is a sketch I made from the design before the original made it's way through the laundry cycle.  It is very close to the sketch my friend had made with a few modifications...the ripped booties and the outie belly button were a couple of my touches.   I've been toying around with the idea to do a single tooth in the front on top but didn't add it to this sketch.

This is where I was heading with my comment in the recent post about having been inspired by the Puppet Heap dog. I love the compact look he has. It's so cute, and while I definitely wanted to stray from a carbon copy, I thought it was the perfect chance to mix a style I'd been wanting to try with the design I received (and a few thoughts of my own) to get the right look. It works so well with traits my friend was looking for...a cuddly yet morbid little friend.

I am also trying to figure out a good name for him.  Of course once he's out of my hands I'm sure he'll get a new one, but I'd love to call him something other than "Zombie Baby" during the build process.  If you have any good suggestions, feel free to leave a comment...I'd love to here some that I haven't thought of.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Body Building...

Here is how the belly and upper body came out.

I kept going back and forth trying to figure out if I wanted the belly to be larger, equal to, or smaller than the head of the baby. I ended up with a smaller belly than I thought I might try originally because I had just recently had a conversation about head size to body ratio in actual human development. Basically, your head as a baby takes up more of the length of your body than when you are a fully grown human...a clear observation to be made, yet an easy one to slip the mind when analyzing a design.

As far as the construction goes, I decided again on the same wedge concept as the head but made the pieces smaller which took eight instead of six to complete the sphere.  The top piece isn't anything fancy, just two pieces put together and shaped slightly.

I also drew out where I may be placing certain features once I start to cover him. I did this with the head as well. I feel like it really helps you get a chance to see how your ideas will fit on the same canvas, but the element of surprise is still there when you get started placing the features in 3D. The features of course help bring your creation to life...

Speaking of which, I realize I haven't made any "baby making" jokes just yet...

More pics to come...and you can be sure the bad jokes are on their way as well...


Sunday, November 23, 2008

So that's what a Zombie Baby's head looks like...

My show closed today and with Thanksgiving break on it's way, that means a little more build time.  So as I mentioned earlier, I am in the process of building a "Zombie Baby" for a friend in class.  Here is what the head looks like so far.  

The method I used for the foam work is pretty much the same technique Philip Hatter of Thistledown Puppets used in the videos for the Red Panda puppet he put out last summer-ish on youtube.  I'm not sure if that is exactly where we learned it, but the way he is able to explain it can help a great deal if you are unfamiliar with it.  If you haven't (or even if you have) checked that whole slew of videos out, go for it.   There is something to be learned no matter how many times you go through the same resources.  It may spark a creative genius of your own.  As you can see, I went more for a sphere, and if you play around with the concept, I'm sure there are many more interesting shapes to be found.

I ordered the plastic dome eyes from the company I mentioned in an earlier blog post.  They can really give a great clean look to your puppets, and to me that is very important. 

I'm not sure if it would be considered an OCD tendency, but I definitely obsess over the clarity of line when I design and build.  It's a challenge, especially when you are piecing together your unofficial certificate of build training from online sources and DVD special features.  So much of this line of work is trial and error which is tough on a nonexistent budget, but when it's important for you, you find a way.  

Stay tuned...more to come.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lack of Time and a Zombie Baby

So you may have noticed the lack of posts this week, and there is a reason for that...

...unfortunately it's not any cool reason like, "we were busy shooting the coolest new puppet video that is sure to blow your mind!" Actually for me, building has been pretty much out of the question as I'm opening a show this weekend. (Completely unrelated to puppets though...I'm playing Tiny Tom in Urinetown)

OK, I lied a little. In my procrastination from homework and housework, I was able to start a puppet for a friend. He drew up the design on a scrap piece of paper in class (which I would show here had it not gone through the wash in a pair of my jeans). Never fear, I expanded on the sketch he made and will be posting the progress shortly so stay tuned.

I'll be trying some new techniques on this one as his original design for a "Zombie Baby" fits into a similar style that I've been wanting to try after having been inspired by a puppet that Puppet Heap just made.

A little side note...if you haven't checked out Puppet Heap in the past, go there now...I'll wait...I don't mind, really. It's good stuff that we all can learn from...

...Ok, now that you've checked them out and are probably confused as to what a dog puppet has to do with a baby puppet...I'll just say, check back soon to see the beginning stages of the "Zombie Baby" to find out, along with anything else we may post in the mean time. I hear Kyle's puppet is almost finished.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Take Two: A Big Success

So I wasn't able to go to the Muppets, Music & Magic showing Saturday night, but I must say I am very glad to have been among the lucky ones to get to join in the fun on Sunday! As I said in the previous post, David Rudman was there as the guest host for the event which was a real treat. He brought along a friend you might all know...who does in fact still love guessed it, COOKIE MONSTER! And in case you were wondering, Cookie, will forever love his cookies...none of this Veggie Monster hub-bub that's been going around for the last few years.

The event showcased Jim Henson's early work as a film maker. Not only did it include some of his extremely rare commercials (as well as some you might have caught on youtube) but some of his even lesser known works which did not include puppets at all. What was great about some of these videos, is that you can really see Henson's artistic genius in a whole new light, and while many of you who may read this blog would already consider the works you have seen to fit in a category such as that, I'm sure it helped convince some of the people in the theater that his work was not just for children.

In case you were wondering what question I decided to ask him, here it may not consider it to be the most original question, but not only is it an important one to us here are Puppetfix, but possibly to you...

"What advice do you have for puppet builders/puppeteers who seriously want to make the transition from amateur to professional?"

To which he replied, and I don't quote (because my inner-monologue was speaking simultaneously; unfortunately downing out some of these words of wisdom)...

Really get yourself out there. Find the people who are doing it and get your foot in the door. Find as much work as you can and get as much training as you can find...

Of course I'm sure there was much more but the inner-monologue was saying..."Wow, you just asked David Rudman a question. Why did you start the question looking at the popcorn box and not at him. He's going to think you lack all confidence in the world to actually be able to be a great puppeteer. Make eye contact. Good. Wow, David Rudman is answering my question. That's pretty cool...Wait, what was that? Crap, I missed that...see he can make good eye contact, why can't I when I asking a question?"

Something to the effect at least.

Afterwards, I was able to talk to him with my girlfriend. We both worked at Sesame Place where she had been "great friends" (wink wink) with Baby Bear, and I with Cookie Monster so we were able to share that with him. He was great to talk to and I really hope we have the chance to meet him again in the future.

I'm waiting for conformation from him to see if I can post any of the pictures I took. I don't want to get your hopes up, but you can understand my want for doing things the right way. Until then, enjoy this totally random picture I'll post instead...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This is why...

This morning, a schoolbus of children happened to be driving by as Elmo and Cookie Monster came outside the arena for a newscast.

From over 100 yards away you could hear the cheers and screams of delight as the kids realized that they were actually seeing some of their best friends live and in person.  The newscasters had to hold off taping until the bus pulled far enough away and the sounds of elation could no longer be heard.

Making dreams come true can be a daily thing... so why shouldn't it be?
This is why we do what we do... and we look forward to doing it for the rest of our lives.


Monday, November 10, 2008

So... I didn't quite make it...


It was a noble attempt... But due to me forgetting about our three-show Saturday and the fact that I have to pack - I was not able to complete the newest puppet...

BUT CHECK HIM OUT!  I like him a lot!

Today is a travel day, so I may be able to do some more on the bus to San Antonio.  Upon our arrival, I will likely find food first - but then I have a hot date with finishing this little fella.

Let me know what you think and keep an eye out for the final product!


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Muppets, Music & Magic at the Gene Siskel Film Center

Last night, I tried to go to the Muppets, Music & Magic event at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. Having missed it in NYC, even though I was coincidentally in the city for a mini vacation on the same day (long story, I'm still not over it yet)...I was excited to find out there would be an opportunity here in Chicago! With David Rudman (Cookie Monster/Baby Bear and more) here to kick off the festivities, I definitely wanted to go, especially since I live right down the street!'s not fun when the one thing you've been looking forward to for all of your loooooong week of school and work and rehearsals is SOLD OUT!

I got there and they were already having to turn people away. The venue is not the largest, but since I hadn't seen too much about it around town, I didn't think there should be much of a problem getting in.

Not-so-long story short: I have tickets now for today (where he will be hosting once again) and now all I have to do is figure out what I'm going to say when I get to meet him...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Challenge Update 1.1

As you can tell by the limited number of posts here thus far, 
this blog is Brand Spankin' New!

According to the previous post, I felt extremely ambitious and tricked myself into this present challenge... and thus sparking the idea for many challenges to come (more on that stuff later)!

If I can get this video thing to work, I made a short video to show you some of my progress... It may look like a step back from some of the pictures you may have seen - but as you may have guessed, these things take planning... and there are a lot of layers!

So, if there is NO video... I'm working on it.

If there IS... Grab your favorite snack, person, animal (real or stuffed), and ENJOY!

  ... although its very short so maybe you should just grab a small one.
                        ... Snack, that is... Unless you prefer smaller people?

I guess what I'm trying to say is - 

[Post edited - For some reason I can't load the video I actually wanted... I'll try at the next hotel]

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Self-Induced Challenge!

      Here's the deal.  I travel for a living - limiting my life to two suitcases, a backpack, and a messenger bag - BUT I'M ADDICTED (hence the title of our blog).  I NEED to be able to work on my craft while traveling, but its not easy!  Essentially I travel with a mobile puppet workshop so that I can get my fix on the road -

Which brings me to the point of this post...

I started this week with just a head - then challenged myself to finish a puppet by the end of the weekend.

So keep your eyes open and strap yourself in - I wouldn't want you to fall off the edge of your seat in anticipation... 
               ...unless you tape it so we can all laugh about it later.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The New Old Couple

Here are the newest puppets we've created at Fisticuff Puppet Productions.  Happy and Ethel were built for a client who performed a risque show all about sex.  Through the beauty of song they addressed the common misconception that as you age, your libido wanes...  
In case  you were wondering

Try getting those images out of your head!  At least now you can imagine this fantastic-looking duo instead of people you know...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Take One, Pass it On

We're the kind of people that believe that, when something great happens to you, you should pass it on...So we're doing just that.

Today we received a shipment of white dome eyes from  The order had been placed a few weeks ago but hadn't seemed to come in nearly as fast as it had when we ordered from them a couple summers ago.  Only a few days ago, we got an email explaining that the order had made it's way into their spam folder instead of to their regular emails.  Today when I opened the overflowing box, there was a little message saying, "I threw in a few extra pair.  I hope this makes up for the delay."  Some may say that's just good business.  To us however, it is a wonderful example of an act of great kindness, an act that can and will easily be passed on.

If anyone has seen the movie Pay it Forward, the concept is not foreign to you.  But for those who haven't (and if you haven't please check it out asap) I'll explain.  One person does something great for three people who do something great for three more, and so on and so forth.  The way we see it, those are not just a couple pairs of extra eyes.  They will become great puppets that will be built for a company, puppet troupe or church group that will share their show with families, children, or anyone who may then be inspired to share something they love with the rest of the world.  

It's the butterfly effect (which is not as good a movie so you don't have to check it out if you don't want to).  Something so small can create something bigger than we'll ever know, and what's better than a little reminder to spread some creative energy?

Good luck with whatever it is that you choose to share with someone else today, and if you need some great eyes for your next project, don't hesitate to look them up.