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Archive for puppets in popular culture

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!

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Puppets out in the world

Ok, I admit it. I’m obsessed with knowing what people use puppets for. So I’ve started in on doing some research. I started with posting to our friends on our Facebook page, asking people if they have puppets at home and if so, what they use them for.

I got a number of responses that were all really interesting. A number of our artists contributed, which was great to read. One said she had finger puppets purchased as souvenirs of her travels around central America, and a marionette from her sister as a gift when her sister visited Mexico. Puppets as souvenirs was something that I’d never considered, but so that was interesting to know.

Another of our artists said she has a number of finger puppets that have been gifts from friends and family. She keeps them with her stuffed toys and use them occasionally when she’s baby sitting.

Another of our artists is a puppeteer and a mum, so she has heaps of puppets around the house, some from stores but most made by her. She had a puppet show in the works a few years ago and made a number of types of puppets for that, but the show didn’t happen due to a family illness and so her son plays with the puppets now instead.

The fourth respondent is a teacher and a mum, she says that she has a number of store bought puppets but that her kids don’t really play with them.

That was all really interesting to learn, and thank you to those that participated! I had a look around our adopted puppet collection and this is what I came up with.

HANDPUPPETS:
1 lion – given to me by one of my students, used in the classroom
1 Max (Where The Wild Things Are) – bought and used in the classroom
12 assorted animals – bought for but not used in the classroom

FINGERPUPPETS:
24 assorted knitted animals – bought and used in the classroom

SHADOWPUPPETS:
2 bought as a gift by a friend from Bali

MARIONETTES:
1 dragon bought as a gift by a friend from China, hanging as decoration in the loungeroom

But that wasn’t enough. I know my adopted puppets, I know some of our friends adopted puppets, but I want to know more. I want to know what the world uses their puppets for.

So I started a Flickr group called Puppets We Own to see what other Flickr users have lying around. I went off and did a search on PUPPETS to find people to invite to contribute, and in doing so I found out a bit more about people’s puppet habit. There were a number of fans of things, star wars, transformers, George Lucas, that had made puppets of their obsessions. This wasn’t something that I’d put together as uses for making puppets before this search.

I found that very interesting too.

Love learning things!

So I’ve been thinking…

If you’re reading this post, feel free to answer any of these questions via the comments section…

I’ve been thinking about puppets out in the world. Who makes puppets? Who uses puppets? Where do they appear in the real world?

If you do a search on google images, you’ll get a bunch of photographs of teenage girls bent over in awkward positions with badly photoshoped strings coning from their wrists and ankles. Clearly puppets are a popular idea and being manipulated from outside resonates with artistic youth. But what else will you find? There’s tiny felt finger puppets with big stitching and at the other end there’s photos of beautifully created professional hand and mouth puppets. Who are the people making them? The puppets that you can find seem to fall into three categories – made for children by parents/ friends of their parents, puppet companies making their own guys and people claiming to be professional and offering to sell you their hand and mouth puppets.

Are these the only types of people that make puppets? And since type 2 and 3 can make their own puppets to use, is the only people buying puppets people who are buying gifts for children?

The 2 other types of puppet that appear over and over in a google search is a hand puppet of Angel from Buffy (and, erm, Angel) and Christian Ministry puppets. I haven’t seen the episode where Angel turns into a puppet but it was a great merchandising moment for Joss Wheadon, but I can’t help wondering that if the puppet hadn’t appeared in the show, would all those people out there simply buy puppets of Buffy, Angel, Spike and the rest of them? I have my doubts that they would have been so popular as the Angel one. The Christian Ministry puppets is an interesting one, although I can find lots of Christian Puppet Ministry sites out there, most of which include great resources to make your own puppets as well as buy ones premade, I can’t find anywhere a place that talks about WHY puppets are used in Christian Ministry.

I know that kids love puppets, I’ve seen that in my classroom as well as on tv. What I want to know is WHY children love puppets so much. For that matter, why do adults love puppetry as much as they seem to do? What is it about puppets that capture people’s imaginations and hearts?

That’s my current quest. To try and find these things out. Who is out there making puppets, apart from puppet companies and parents. Does anyone else make them? Who owns puppets? Again, is it just the companies and the families? A friend of mine went to Bali and bought me back some beautifully painted shadow puppets and another friend went to China and bought me back a dragon marionette, so people must be out there buying them, for decoration? For interior design? Does the general public have a use for puppets? And if so, what is it?

Lots and lots of questions to hunt out the answers for…

(S)

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