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Tom the Penguphant

Tom is finished! I was really happy with his trunk and ears, which were influenced by observing elephants at the zoo while I was working there.

And, for those of you who wonder, here is a photo of the highly technical design for Tom’s head


Evolution of an idea

Come with us on a visual journey, watching a new show grow from a seed.

The first step is Chuck Norris, the Dort’s pet bunny from Owl In Spotlight. This photo is Chuck in both his forms, big and small. Friends of ours came with their 2 year old daughter to see the show, and she was transfixed by Chuck. At one point in the show when he disappeared off stage, she said “Bye Rabbit!” and once she got home, she spent the next week carrying around a small toy rabbit that she was given at birth but had ignored since then. Clearly she was taken by Chuck. So I decided to knit her a Chuck Norris for Christmas. Then only problem was that neither Chucks had legs and I wanted the toy I knitted to have legs. So I asked people who had seen the show what they imagined Chuck’s legs to look like. The little girl’s father said that he’d envisioned them as long and paisley.

So that’s what I knitted.

When she grows up, I’ll explain to her that this was her dad’s fault.

We were gazing upon the finished paisley Chuck Norris and it occurred to us that it looked like he had bird legs. So I knitted another one, with super long legs in a good birdy orangey-yellow

His name is Aaron.

I had been knitting octopuses for friends and decided that since Aaron was a birdbunny, that I wanted to knit a guy with octopus tentacles and something else on top. Rob suggested a yak. So I knitted a yaktopus.
This is Steven.

By this stage, we had the idea for the new show titled Things That Shouldn’t Be. There are two more main characters, Tom the Penguphant, created while working with children at the zoo and almost finished (he just needs little penguin feet and he’ll be done) and Elise, the monkeyfish, based on the idea of the FeeGee mermaid. which I’ve knitted a prototype but we want the tail to be longer and more eel like for the finished guy.

So that’s the story. From puppet to present to weird idea that makes us smile to show.


Puppets out in the world of art

I’ve found puppets in education, obviously, and puppets in mental health and I’m currently focused on trying to find artists who build puppets. It seems blindingly obvious to me that puppets are these incredible works of 3d art/craft and yet no one seems to have noticed.

So at the moment, my artist list runs to four.

There’s a photo somewhere of Frida Kahlo performing marionettes for a child. I haven;t been able to find it yet, but it was mentioned in a book I’m reading (The Puppet Show by Ingrid Schaffner and Carin Kuoni. I’ll review it once I’ve finished reading it). Interestingly enough if you do a search of “frida kahlo puppet” you find heaps of people out there that have made puppets or dolls of Kahlo. Again it’s a example of fans making dolls and puppets out of the things they adore. Weird and worth looking into it further… But I digress.

IN that same book it talks about one of Jackson Pollack’s paintings has a figure cut out of it, he made a marionette and then cut a covering for it out of the painting. You can see a copy here.

There’s also Paul Klee, who made around 50 hand puppets for his son Felix over about a 9 year period, also Klee never thought of them as art and never included them in any catalog of his work. There’s a photo from the exhibition here and you can see the self portrait puppet Klee made here.

And I went to the Mirka Mora exhibition at Heide which had a couple of newspaper articles included and one mentioned her love of dolls and puppets. It’s very hard to find anything else about it on the net though. Her love of dolls is mentioned as fact but I can’t find interviews with her or anything talking about either. But then I find this site saying “For the 1988 Bicentennial festivities at the Sydney opera House, she designed 85 five-foot-high puppets on plywood, all painted with oil for the opera, “Bennelong,” about the Aboriginal man of the same name who befriended Captain Phillip” . I can’t find any photos of them though. However I did find this gorgeous photo of her clutching dolls she made in her studio with more behind her. I suspect since I can’t find anything else that she didn’t make a lot of puppets as her work, but nice to know she did make some.

That’s my list so far. But I look forward to adding to it further. Love the detective work!

Book review – Paul Klee Hand Puppets

The artist Paul Klee made around 50 hand puppets for his son, Felix, between 1916 to 1925. He started by making a couple of the traditional German Kasperl (Punch and Judy) puppets after Felix saw them in a show in a market and wanted his own. Over the years Paul made other characters based on Felix’s suggestions. The puppets themselves were created mainly out of scraps of material and plaster of paris, however Klee also used electric sockets, bone, buttons and anything else he could find that fit his vision.

Klee never considered these puppets as part of his serious work, in all catalogs he never listed them (although he did agonize over this decision).

Paul Klee Hand Puppets (ISBN 3 7757 1740 4) is filled with 86 colour photographs of the remaining 30 puppets as well as numerous black and white photographs and a number of essays about the puppets including one from Felix and one from Felix’s son, Aljoscha. The detail and level of art that has been harnessed to create these fragile puppets is extraordinary and this book captures them beautifully.

Monster Attacks

Monster Attacks

Originally uploaded by multivac11

This was created by a friend of ours and we thought it was extremely good.

review – Street Gang

Street Gang, Michael Davis

Street Gang is a comprehensive look at the creation of Sesame Street by journalist Michael Davis. I had no knowledge of how Sesame Street had begun before opening this book and it is an epic, unfolding tale. Before the show was even dreamed of, Joan Ganz Cooney, the driving force behind Sesame Street, was commissioned to do a study on whether television could be used to educate children. Having grown up in a world in that children’s television was saturated with education and moralising, the idea that people had to be convinced that TV could be used for purposes other than just entertainment was pretty incredible to me.

The book looks at the decades of children’s television before Sesame Street and examines both the shows and the performers of this era. Although it is written for an audience clearly more familiar with these shows than I am, it was easy enough to follow the creative talent as they flowed from show to show, and there was only the occasional reference that I didn’t understand. The book also looks at Jim Henson’s early career, but not in any more depth than any of the other creatives, and certainly less than Joan Ganz Cooney. That was something that I didn’t expect in the book, that not only was Jim Henson, pretty much the only name most people associates with Sesame Street, not the founding father of the show, he didn’t come on board until quite late in the creation process. Surprisingly for those not in the know, the show was years in the making before Henson became a part.

The book doesn’t focus on the puppet side of things, and this is because as a comprehensive history of the show the book examines all aspects of the show, of which the puppets are only one part. Each episode is discussed with a panel of educators and child psychologists, they get seen by test audiences and there is a massive pedagogical machine behind it all.

The writing itself does tend to the emotional and flowery occasionally, there were a few times I rolled my eyes at Davis’ turn of phrase, but on the whole this was a really interesting book documenting a fascinating time in television’s history.


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