I'm a puppet maker with a degree in theatre. A former lighting techie, stage manager and producer. And I like to think that with puppetry, the only limit is your imagination. More...
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Last year I started handing out website awards to fab puppetry sites I liked and thought worth singling out for a mention. (Here’s last year’s list) Then I decided to split my website in two, and the monthly awards fell to the wayside. However, I think it’s very much worth continuing, but in a slightly better manner; a top five list of puppetry sites that have inspired me over the past year.
The criteria aren’t set in stone, but basically the sites have to: post regularly and recently; be full of useful or interesting information; or are fabulous for other reasons. You’ll also want to check out last year’s list of winners, because they have continued to produce wonderful new blog posts and behind-the-scenes stuff over the past year; especially PuppetVision, who is an eternal favourite.
There’s no prize: just a little award icon people can put on their websites. Those people who get an award: feel free to download it and use it on your website. I’d appreciate it if you could link the image back to this website.
This year I wanted to capture a mix of puppet sites, and so I have: there’s everything from animatronics to stop motion, from water puppetry to foam puppets. There’s a bit of Aussie greatness, and a lot of wonderful international puppeteers. All are worth bookmarking, subscribing to, or reading over the upcoming holidays. The below is my top five, in no particular order.
Joshua and Nathan Flynn are Welsh stop-motion animators. Joshua’s and Nathan’s blogs detail the making of their latest work, a short film entitled Opening Night. Normally I’d link to a few examples of why the site is so great, but the whole thing is awesome-sauce. From the very first post to the latest ones, they display excellently-taken photos of the puppets, sets and designs. The first post on Joshua’s blog has a show reel of the film. What really drew my eyes to these blogs though was the incredible honesty and in-depth discussion about the work processes. Lots of photos show how the puppets work (it’s claymation) from inside and out, the sets and the way in which filming is done, props, facial mechanisms, armatures, the whole lot. Joshua and Nathan take us step-by-step through the building and filming process, and for any fan of claymation, this is a worthy site to visit.
Not many people out there talk or write about Vietnamese water puppetry. Books are hard to come by, and certainly very few blogs or puppetry sites discuss it. So it was a great pleasure to meet @VietWaterPuppet on Twitter. The blog, Vietnam, Water & Puppets, is a diary of an Italian student living in Hanoi in order to make a documentary about the art of water puppetry. There are videos on the making of the puppets, info about the culture and local customs, maps, music and more. For anyone interested in learning more about water puppetry, this is an excellent site to visit. Make sure you check this post out - A Day in a Vietnamese Village - which not only shows the villagers at work, but the puppetry as it turns to night. It really gives you a sense of what it’s like in a Vietnamese town; this is no home movie, the camerawork is quite professional.
Tom Haney’s blog is a thing of beauty. He makes automata, the original robotics: before electrical components came along, people used to make wooden automatons - hence the name - which moved when you turned a crank (and other nefariously simple schemes, like with steam or water). These days automata are sort of relegated to second best compared to animatronics, but Haney shows why this shouldn’t be the case. Automata are complex, requiring lots of mechanical know-how, sculpting skills, sewing skills, scavenging, and detail. His blog is a wonderful showcase behind his work, with diagrams and plans, step-by-step photos of his builds (including some of the inner mechanisms), video demonstrations, and insights into how each automaton comes to life. One of the first things you’ll see when you visit the blog - in his latest entries - are shots of an anglerfish (think Finding Nemo and the fish with the ‘lightbulb’) being made. And for those of you who like art mimicking life, this automaton is of a marionette performer. As you go through the pictures you’ll notice something interesting. A lot of the automata are made using similar techniques that marionette makers use: cloth and nail joints, sculpted wood, detailed clothing. The major difference seems to be that automata includes wires, cranks and electrical components, instead of string and wooden controls. Fascinating, especially if you don’t know much about this particular craft.
This one isn’t strictly puppetry, but it is amazing. Eric Hart is a prop maker, and on his blog Prop Agenda he not only talks about his work, but also gives a lot of how-to’s, and info on the history of prop making (who knew there was info about that!) and the theory behind it all. While a lot of what he writes is specific to props, Eric does discuss a lot of design theory that is useful and interesting to puppeteers. Plus, he does have interests in puppetry and toys, meaning that on occasion you will actually find things that are specifically relevant. … And then you have items like A Case Against Metric, which can be enjoyed by one and all. Hart is also writing a book on props to be published in 2013, so if you’re into props, then you should be visiting his site anyway.
Normally I don’t include a site that hasn’t been updated recently, but when I was thinking about Australian puppetry sites I wanted to include, I immediately thought of Marianne Mettes. (I’m mainly awarding this for her blog, so click the ‘B’ icon on her homepage) Marianne followed in my footsteps in that she attended the American National Puppetry Festival last year, as I did in 2009. Her blog details her trip, including a surprise opportunity to perform on Transylvania TV, her attendance at Puppetfest Midwest, and of course, lots of sightseeing. Like me, she also posts her experiences and thoughts on the workshops and shows she attended. As an Aussie, it’s nice to see a comparison between what I experienced and what she experienced; more than that, I like the fact that she makes the handful of people who have blogged diaries of puppetry festivals. It may be old posts, but it’s still worth a read.
… Ok, I know I said five sites made the cut. But in typing up this list I thought of one more person who really does deserve a lot of credit for his work over the year.
Not strictly a website, since Daryl doesn’t seem to have one… but Stiqpuppets Live has given some of the best online puppetry of the year. Although there’s been a lot of chaos with the scheduling, his live puppetry workshops have given a lot of puppeteers a shot in the arm. It’s shown us that we’re not just limited to posting patterns or tutorials, or having discussions via email or forums. His tips and build-alongs have been an excellent resource for information, as well as allowing a number of us puppeteers to chime in and present our own workshops. His work on BlogTV events extend beyond that, and many other puppeteers have now gotten their own shows on the BlogTV platform. If you’re looking for ways to improve your muppet-type puppet builds, then Stiqpuppets has a lot of great info for you.send feedback / have a question?
Australians may want to buy locally. Where? I explain here.