For those that don’t know. Grey Seal Puppets has been a part of the Holy Grail of amateur puppet builders with their widely acclaimed book “The Foam Book” which delves into a huge variety of puppetry. I’m beyond honored that Drew, someone whom I consider an inspiration for my own love and learning of puppetry replied to my email and is here for you as a part of 4 Foam Fingers.
From supplies to techniques and inspirations, The Foam Book has it all. It was my first puppet book and I still have it in my office close by to this day. It’s always a good read or re-read to just reinforce ideas and how you can get something done.
Without further adieu, Grey Seal Puppets
1 – Where did you get your start in Puppetry? Was there a moment where you knew puppets would consume your life?
When I was 11 my parents gave me the book Making Marionettes by Helen Fling. While this type of puppet wasn’t the course I followed, this book was a pivotal moment for me. It was at that point, receiving that book for Christmas, that puppets became a passion for me.
Another benchmark for me was while in college at UNC-Wilmington. One of my theatre professors, Doug Swink, mentored me and helped me so much. He also gave me a space to work in the entire time I was in school there. He changed the way I thought about theatre and puppets and I’m forever grateful to him.
2 – Do you have a favorite moment in your career, or a project that you feel defines your body of work?
I don’t know that I have a particular moment; for me it has been a slow realization of how lucky I am to work at something that I have so much fun doing and feel so strongly about. I think when I was younger I took that for granted and now I am much more cognizant of how fortunate I am to do what I do. I think lately I’ve realized too that I have so much to learn when I used to think I knew it all.
I now know I don’t know a damn thing and I have an eagerness to see other work and see other puppeteers and try to learn and grow from them.
3 – Where do you draw character inspiration from? Do you have a set way of creating or do you allow spontaneity to take over?
I draw character inspiration in different ways, depending on the project. Often we are bound to a particular design or a set of design parameters if we are building a character for someone else. Other times a piece of music will be the catalyst. Or an idea for a character will become a springboard for a performance piece.
From an economical standpoint, the title of a piece is very important and can serve as inspiration when it comes to the inherent characters that the title involves.
4 – Name one tip you would give an aspiring puppet builder / performer?
I believe that the fascination of puppetry comes from movement, not dialogue. Whenever possible we keep dialogue to a minimum. So the intrigue for me, and I think an audience as well, is to find out what non-verbal movements a particular puppet is capable of. So, when I watch someone else pick up a puppet for the first time, I think it’s important to see what they do with it.
It says a lot about what sort of puppeteer they are. Do they pick it up and immediately start “talking” with the puppet? Or do they explore what the puppet is capable of through movement. The latter, for me, leads to good puppet character and therefore good puppetry.
For more information on Grey Seal Puppets you can contact Drew Allison here:
drew [at] greysealpuppets.com
Grey Seal Puppets
PO Box 11902
Charlotte, NC 28220