I’ve started making puppets. I’m learning to make the muppet kind of puppet with the wide open mouth and I’m slowly making progress.
A few weeks ago I had a sort of creative turning point. Although my love for three-dimensional design in fabric hasn’t wavered over the last 13 years, it’s been important to let myself shift from one area of exploration to another. For years I made nothing but fabric birds with wire legs and then there was the fleece stuffed animals period. And while I still like both of those things, I suddenly felt like it was time to pivot and explore something new. One of the things I promised myself long ago was to follow my own curiosity.
After talking it out with my family I realized that puppets are the right direction, at least for a little while. I’ve always been fascinated by puppets and wondered how to make them. I made a structured foam puppet at sleep away camp when I was nine, but haven’t tried since. So here we are.
To get started I created a new Pinterest board dedicated to puppets of all kinds. I’ve spent many hours on YouTube (this channel has been especially good). For my birthday I asked my sister to buy me this kit and then I ordered some eyes to try. I’ve also got some other puppet-making tutorials in mind for the blog that are easy and kid-friendly and use household objects like clothespins (hoping to build a little SEO for the search term “puppet” over time).
I’ve learned about all kinds of new materials including contact cement and high density foam. After finishing the puppet from the kit I made a second one and then thought about how I would improve upon it. I bought 2.5 yards of 1/2″ foam at JoAnn because, as I said to my daughter, I need enough to fail with.
One of the things that’s really important when creating something new is allowing yourself to fail a whole lot along the way. If the materials are too precious that process is painful (guilt over wasted supplies or wasted time is enough to make anyone stop midstream). I bought 2.5 yards of 1/2″ foam at JoAnn so I have enough to fail with and there have been plenty of failures so far.
Figuring out the best way to make hair has been a challenge. I just ordered some super bulky chenille yarn so let’s hope that presents a workable solution. And sourcing giant eyes that are cute and not creepy is another.
My goal in the long-term is to design an original pattern and source a set of supplies that makes puppet-making easily accessible and affordable to the regular crafty person. I’d like to market this to parents and grandparents who enjoy sewing, but also to teachers, therapists, and librarians who could create a customized puppet for the kids they work with (I’m looking at TeachersPayTeachers as a marketplace for this). I also think I could teach a puppet-making workshop down the road. They’re surprisingly fast to make and so incredibly satisfying! What’s better than a creature that comes to life and can talk to you and give you a hug!
I love being a beginner. Everything is a new discovery (oh, you can use a blow dryer to make the contact cement dry faster!). At the same time I reminded by how intimidating it is, too (oh, that guy’s been doing this forever and he’s already got patterns and videos so why should I even try?). I’m plowing forward, making a huge mess in my studio and enjoying all the small victories as I go along.