Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Music

Here's a little Melody for whichever Holiday you choose to celebrate this season.  

Melody is the finished product from what I posted a week ago.  She only took me two nights to finish.  Of course, by "nights" I mean from midnight to 7 in the morning, but since school is out for the winter I figured, why not?

Melody- as I've named her since she is a music note- was built for my friend as a Christmas present.  She works in a correctional facility where one of her jobs is to conduct a class that utilizes music therapy techniques.  She thought it might be nice to see how the guys would react to the puppet.  

It is my belief that you can appeal to any audience so long as you find what it is that they've come to see.  

One of my favorite things as a performer is getting to do the same show multiple times a day with a completely different audience each time.  I love the challenge of changing things up ever so slightly, in order to find the point where the audience and the performers all connect.  Now I know Melody's use will be a little different, but I'm anxious to see how my friend will be able to use her in class.  

As for the construction side of Melody...

I started off with no idea of what I wanted the finished product to look like...except for that I wanted it to look like a female music note.  As for the shape of her head...I played.  I thought I'd try a slight overbite, but nothing too drastic.

I considered lips but couldn't find the right color fabric that could avoid clashing with the inside of the mouth.  At the last moment, I found the right color for the eye lashes.  The pictures don't pick it up as well as I'd hoped they would, but I used a sky blue that really pops against the black.

My friend loved it and is excited to show it to her class.  I'm pretty happy with the results, especially since the whole project only took about 15 hours (with a few hours of playing with shapes). 

On my next project, I think I'm going to stray from the using the same dome eyes.  I love them, but I don't want to get into the habit of producing the same work every time.

Let me know if you think our puppets all look to much alike.  I'd be interested to know how they come across.    

Sunday, December 21, 2008


It's been a few days...Toby is with his new daddy, who took to him immediately upon introduction, Kyle is on break from tour now for Christmas and in route to our hometown by way of Pittsburgh, and I am getting ready to go home too!

Before I get going though, I have a little goal set for myself.  When my friend was in town visiting, she mentioned wanting a puppet of her own.  She works in a prison where she teaches a music therapy and appreciation class, and thought that a music note might be a fun way to go over some of the material with her inmates...so for her Christmas present, I've decided to take on her idea and hammer out a MUSIC NOTE puppet in a couple days.

I've sketched up some designs, but I think I might leave this one up to trial and error.  Sometimes I find it nice to be able to play.  I haven't settled on a specific style or shape to start out with, but I'm thinking about trying to find something new.  Originally I thought about using the same template I used for Toby's belly, which I may still end up modifying, but not until I get a chance to play around with some new shapes.

I'll post whatever I have as soon as I have it.  Now, it's time to go play!   

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Toby is Born!!!


Toby the Zombie Baby is now complete!

Here's a little video intro:

Here are a couple last photos of him too...

I used a black elastic for the stitches.  I didn't have a thick enough needle that was also sharp enough to sew the stitching in, so I had to improvise.  I had to individually poke, pull, and cut the holes so that the elastic could then be threaded through.  We talked about giving him a poopy diaper, but that would have probably had to take the place of the patch, and we decided that the patch helps give him more of a zombie look.  

I wasn't sure if I wanted to do stitches or scars.  I was worried about the fleece stretching if I cut into it and I almost tried it, but after seeing how well it covered to begin with, I couldn't chance it.  I think going this way was a better idea anyway, and it ended up closer to the original concept.

There is also a ring of stitches around his brain! 

Thanks for following the process.  I've got a couple puppets to finish up in the next couple weeks so stay tuned for more to come.  

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ping Pong Ball Eyes: A 10 Minute Tutorial

Here's a quick project I've been meaning to do for a long time. I made two pairs for a "mock audition" I just did at school after getting a "mock call back" for Paul in Carnival the musical. You may or may not be familiar with this method of training, but it can really be great for improving different puppetry techniques.  This is how the beginner workshops were taught when I started learning how to puppeteer in Disney World.  

First, you start off with a couple of ping pong balls.  I had a few sitting in among the box o' eyes, but haven't ever used them for a puppet.  Grab two ping pong balls and make sure the logo is facing the back.  Check for the darker line of white where the two sides have been fused together. Drilling into the line will give your eyes a cleaner look around the edges.  It also turned out that the logo was only on one hemisphere. (You can always scratch off the logo. To do this, use a razor blade... very carefully) Take a Dremel or a drill and go ahead and make two holes on the line. The first will be where the ping pong balls will meet when touching side to side. (see the last picture)  Follow the line down, and just slightly over a quarter of the way around make the second hole (see the small bit of elastic between the pointer and middle finger). This will make more sense in a moment.

With a piece of wire, make a hook at the end that is narrow enough to go in to the hole and come back out without getting stuck. Feed through a bit of elastic. I'm sure that string or yarn will do the trick too, but I like the snug fit of the elastic best.

Once the elastic has been fed into one of the holes, you may find it hard to get back out the next. Have no fear. This is why we made the hook! Stick the hook in and find your way around a center point in the elastic.  It's a good idea to feed in 3 inches or so. Once you pull it out, and have figured out which eye you'd like that one to be, match up the holes (the ones that meet in the center of the insides of the eyes) and repeat the pulling through action again with the same piece of elastic.

Once you've got extra elastic sticking out the bottom of the eyes, tie them around the middle and ring finger on your puppeteering hand of choice. Now give him (or her) a couple of pupils.  You can use anything from Sharpie to craft eyes.   Important to note: the bigger the pupils, the easier it is to learn how to focus with your puppet.  And... important for good focus is the placement of the pupils.  Aim them slightly towards where the nose would be so that they seem to point towards the same object.  Feel free to give him (or her) some hair or eye lashes.  

Now for the fun part:  Crank up some music and "lip sync" to your favorite tunes in front of the bathroom mirror.

Warning: I did this one night at three in the morning for about 40 minutes (one on each hand) and I was SO SORE the next day. It was great!

Let me know if any of this is unclear.  

Toby work is nearing an end!  Look for the finished product very soon...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Toby Time

So I did what I thought I'd do...I hooked up the old computer and without further ado, here are some new shots-

Check out the hair that held up the process...

It's just sprayed wire, but in the future, I may try some acrylic paint to see how well that works if I'm going for a similar look.

Here are a couple of how he looked prior to adding the mouth fabric-

I like that he looks as though he is pondering life's theories.

Once the mouth fabric was sewn in, Toby started to smile. Actually, we discussed whether or not to go with smile lines or without. I had started getting used to the roundness of the uncovered head, but now that everything is in place, I really like the way it's coming along.

Here's a close up of the eye. It's not all fixed into place yet, so things may look a bit cleaner as I go, but this is roughly where I want it to end up.

Sorry for the delay. He's getting closer. I've got to cover the ears, add the neck fabric, the belly button, and start on the scars.

(random side note related to scars: I did joker make-up for a friend today, and having never tried it before AND a time limit of about an hour to figure it all out, I'd say it went well. Drop a comment if you are interested in seeing it. I'll ask him if it would be ok to show on here. I also realize you have come for PUPPETS, not stage make-up, so I understand if there's little interest)

Keep checking back this week for more updates. We've got some great stuff in store for the near future.


Sick Computer

Hey guys. I've gotten a few steps further with Toby the Zombie Baby but...my computer is sick (I'm writing this on my girlfriend's). It wont start up and the Apple Store is booked straight for as many days as they have available to sign up for appointments. I got by for a few weeks with letting it go a couple days, then trying to turn it on again, but for the past week+ it's decided on being done with working. This means I haven't been able to upload any of the pictures yet...(it also means I may loose half of this build process, but at least I backed some of the beginning, along with the rest of the files on my computer)

So instead, for your viewing pleasure...

Enjoy this very cute, very perplexing picture of a monkey wearing glasses! YAY!

I think what I'm going to do is bust out my old desktop, move it across the apartment to a spot where I can hook it up to the internet, and see if I can get things posted that way.

He's so close to done, and if it weren't for the fact that this week is pretty much finals week (the conservatory likes to get things done early) I'd be posting the finished product by the end of the night.

"School comes first..." Bah. I'm definitely in a place both mentally and physically where I am ready to be done with the school part so that life as a starving artist can start happening, but as I realized last night while responding to a blog on Puppet Hub- I'm pretty glad I changed majors a few years ago and went for the training in theater.

While being a little too infatuated with the art of movement and the inanimate may be a great jumping off point into a career in this kind of work; I find the involvement in acting/dance/music/clowning and BEYOND to serve well as a means of standing out as a performer. As is the case in most fields, the more well rounded you are the better chance you have at success. What I love though, is recognizing the connections between the things that make me who I am, and working to highlight them.

Bob Fosse did that with his choreography, although interesting to note, he did it with the elements of himself that others considered to be weaknesses. The fact that he had poor turn out, rounded shoulders, and premature baldness, revolutionized the dance world forever.

When I started this post I didn't realize I'd be discussing my dreams like this but hey, since I don't have any Toby pictures, I might as well...

One of my biggest dreams has always been to help other people realize their own dreams. That may sound quite a bit mushy...that's because it kind of is...BUT it's true. Since I have been lucky enough to have as many positive influences in my life, telling me that I can do the things I dream, I guess I've been inspired to continue promoting that campaign. (that word is spelled so funny)

You wanna know where I'd like to be in 10 years?
...if you don't, click away because I'm going to tell you anyway.

Along side the group of artists here at Fisticuff, I want to have television shows, films, and web media reaching the masses, that will positively contribute to the change people want to see in the world and themselves. I want to help children of all ages to hang on to their imaginations, and I want to create programs where students who's dreams have been disregarded or who have been forced to grow up too quickly, can discover their creative passions...free of charge!

I wouldn't mind a lot of money either so I can pay back all the student loans and spoil my parents rotten since they've always deserved but never been blessed with a lifestyle of such luxuries.

Wow, so yeah...there's more to all that, but that's probably enough to read right now. I'll get the new pictures of Toby posted soon.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Little More Official

Well I haven't had much time for "Baby Making" but I did receive my business cards.

We decided it would be another jolt of organizational energy and motivation to make things more official, so we jumped on Vista Print and snagged some proof that we have a company. We decided to go with one of their pre-made designs from the premium business card selection and after searching through I believe a couple thousand, we narrowed it down to this one.

It's a great sight to check out and while I'm sure there are many good ones out there, I know for a fact this one loves their sales...long time! Check them out if you've been wondering about cards or any other type of tangible business STUFF. Sign up for an account (free) and make sure you get the emails...they send one just about everyday, but it's always about the sales. I suggest you go through the bajillion designs, bookmark your favorites and test your text on a few. Then once you have the one you want, keep it in your "shopping cart" or whatever they call it and keep checking your email until it says either 80% off or free premium business cards. You pay for shipping, and anything extra (glossy finish, color image on back). If you've got the change, it's not a bad idea to go for the color image on the back because as I've found today- people love to see if there is something on the other side of a business card, and when they see that there is, they get this giddy little excitement that makes it worth the extra money.

Sometime down the line, I'm sure we'll get the chance to incorporate a logo and design of our own into our literature to hand out, but while we wait for the day to come when rich people will want nothing more than to throw money our way, we hope these will do the trick. They really jumped out to us and I'm sure there will be plenty of good ones that will jump out for you, no matter what line of work you are in.

Kyle's are in the mail and should find him shortly (provided they find the right hotel, AHH!) Something you may notice is the lack of address...the lone "Chicago,IL" there in the bottom corner. Kyle's wont even get that since he's "found a life on the highway", but "movin' right along..."

...ok, that one was bad...and I'm not going to lie...I just did a search and read through all the lyrics to find anything I could use to punch up the joke...

Anyway, let us know what you think.

And I promise I'm practicing my Lamaze techniques so I can push this baby out a little faster.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

He DOES exist!

HOORAY!!!  The internet here in Virginia is modern!

So, you've probably noticed a complete lack of my presence these past few weeks.  Tour got a little crazy... enough said.  Things are still moving forward on the blue guy - albeit slowly due to the nature of working and traveling.  I could not have anticipated the difficulty of building on the road.

We are taking steps forward in the development of several web-based productions, talking with fellow puppeteers and consulting with other writers, etc...  Some of them likely will not be able to come to fruition until we can assemble our team in one place.  Even in this, the age of technology, it is so unbelievably difficult to virtually assemble a team considering the variety of schedules and stupid internet connections...  Anyway...

I hope you all had an amazing family and friend-filled Thanksgiving.  I won't inundate you with a long story - but suffice it to say I learned a few lessons this year about what is important.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for caring.