It all began around 2004-2005, give or take a few months. Honestly I never put a pin down on the exact date when I was starting in puppetry, maybe I needed to mark my calendar and celebrate it as an anniversary. In the middle of the night surfing the internet like we all did back then I stumbled down to a site called Puppets and Stuff. I don’t remember why or how, it just appeared on my screen.
A calling of sorts.
That night was totally wasted. I must have read 1,000 pages of content, tutorials, images of peoples WIP, the works. By the end of the night I was online ordering what I would consider the bible for anyone getting into puppetry. Grey Seal Puppets book, The Foam Book.
It arrived a weeks later in all its spiral bound glory and I was off to the races. Buying supplies like a crazy person, things I’ve never ever used before in my life. It was fun, and exciting, and driving my wife pretty f’n crazy. Hey, she married me right, she knew exactly what she was getting with me 🙂
This snowballed into my starting in puppetry both feet in.
I started making puppets a week or two later. The first one was Larry the Lizard and he was cardboard with some discount shiny green curly fabric haphazardly glued with a hot glue gun I found in my toolbox. BUT IT WAS SOMETHING I MADE. My hands. 100% and that was insanely exciting for me.
Growing up more as a techie and not an artist this was way outside my comfort zone. My wife with a full art background and education was supportive because it was amusing to her watching me learn all these new things, the wonderment. She always wondered aloud, “Where are you going with this” and then a dream was born.
I came up with a YouTube channel, brutally bad website, and started producing videos with green screen recordings and mashing them together on a shiny new HP quad core machine that at the time cost me a bundle but it was worth it. I was in my element. Working by day, making puppets by night like a mad scientist. The channel took some early notoriety and a forum was spawned from it for a year or two as well. My “fans” which really seemed to just be a lot of crazy people from sites like General Mayhem on the old tech site [H]ardOCP (for overclocking geeks) and other “general forums” which actually was its own bizarro category back then.
It filled the site and YouTube with people, and I made a few bucks here and there from the views. Back when 1,000 views put $ in your pocket. Long before “influencers” and vloggers were a thing. Sold a bunch of t-shirts, it was a fun time. I felt on top of the world even though I was barely scratching the surface.
After a while 2 things happened. I lost interest in “making dirty puppet movies” and then a year or so later we were expecting our first and only child. The puppets started going into storage bins instead of hanging on the walls. The supplies started getting backed away, and the tools in containers in the garage.
The domain I had I stopped paying for and let some China based domain hoarder company take over, and I didn’t care.
6 years later I had a resurgence one night that lasted a few weeks. I got my domain name back. Started re-cutting old video clips into promo pieces. Setup social media accounts at all the new places. Quickly realizing, “How am I going to do my known style of puppetry with a kid around. God I’m an asshole.”
So, I did what anyone would do, I involved my kid. We started making hand and rod puppets again, including her making her very own puppet (with my help on the needle and thread + hot glue gun) by her design. She even was able to bring it into school in Kindergarten and show it off to her friends and I hosted a puppet building workshop on World Puppetry Day in March.
That summer came, the puppets went away, and have mostly been away since.
We started making 2D foam puppets with exacto blades and a Cricut machine. It started with me making “dirty” puppets once again. Like I said, I can’t help myself. Then we were playing the board game Dungeon and the idea was born of a 2D adventure of a lifetime where the characters basically “live” like it’s a never-ending D&D module. We have spent a good amount of time working on it for fun and it’s more a labor of love than anything.
To be honest, I miss making hand and rod puppets. Mascots. Working with a needle and thread, the sewing machine, and Antron fleece (or whatever they’re calling it now) and getting foam deliveries that expand from tiny boxes to huge piles of foam.
My problem is I just lack the direction after all of these years. The love is always there in my heart. But with a career that takes up a ton of my time and headspace, a shared office / craft area due to COVID, and generally having more ideas and dreams than time, I’m often stuck picking one thing over the next.
Who knows? Maybe writing about this more and making this page will inspire me once again. I wouldn’t be mad about that at all.