Day off today! Touring around this town enjoying amazing art.
Before opening up the spreadsheet there are a few questions I want you to ask yourself:
1) How much does it cost (in materials) to build one puppet?
2) How long does it take to build a puppet?
3) Do you know what your overhead is?
I hope you answered those questions and if you don’t know the answer to at least one of them, then you have some work ahead of you.
I’ve noticed over the last couple of years puppets- beautiful, gorgeous puppets- being sold for pennies online. This makes me believe that a majority of people building and selling their wares are not costing their work appropriately. Now I’m not a numbers guy; in fact I try to stay away from anything numbers/math and quite frankly, any work dealing with budgets. But money it is a part of being in business and it’s important to know how much it costs for you (the puppet builder) to pattern, buy the materials, fabricate and market your work. Every time you sell a puppet for less than it costs to build, you are hurting yourself and (I believe) cheapening the art form as a whole.
In pricing a puppet there needs to be a lot of soul searching and being honest with yourself. Asking how much one of your puppets is worth can essentially be translated to how much am I worth? But lets put all emotions aside and look at just the math- you will find that things like materials and time won’t lie to you. The cost of fabric is the cost of fabric- this spreadsheet doesn’t lie, the numbers are the numbers and the first time I filled it out I had to recheck the math…but again, the numbers don’t lie. It made me actually realise that I needed to re-look at how I charge and what I charge.
This spreadsheet is pretty basic, I try to stay away from profit margins etc.- not only for ease of use, but so that I can quickly fill in the numbers and “spit” out a cost for a client. I believe it is a good starting point. If I am missing anything, or you have any suggestions comment below. Here is also a video on how to use the spreadsheet!
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE SPREADSHEET
Please Note: Thanks to Shawn Sorrell for providing a .ods version of the form so it works with all formats.
I use to be proud of the fact that every puppet I built I made by hand. Vacuum forming eyes, stripping feathers for individual hairs, cutting foam and dyeing fleece; I knew every square inch of that puppet before it was shipped. I had time …then I had kids.
Having kids totally changed my perception of puppet building. I have to be efficient, cost effective and schedule time wisely. Not to say I wasn’t doing all those things before my kids arrived, but now I am “hyper sensitive” to what I spend time on.
With three kids under the age of 6 I don’t have time for some of the practises I’ve adopted over the years. One being the dyeing of Antron Fleece.
When I dyed fleece I always felt like I was hand crafting something special. A piece of art that everyone took for granted and never noticed. I envisioned Don Sahlin and the rest of the Henson builders putting in hundreds of hours perfecting the dyeing method I now use. LOL However, I always had nightmares when dyeing fleece and no matter how well I planned, or how slow I took to come out with that perfectly dyed piece of fleece; it always never came out the way I intended.
Time and time again I would dye fleece before bed, hanging it up to dry overnight, then spending the rest of the night tossing and turning praying and hoping the dye job looked fine in the morning. The next day the fleece was never what I hoped it would be. It was patchy and/or two shades lighter/darker, it usually ended with me having to re-dye the fleece-or having to start over and dye a new piece of fleece. The whole time being frustrated with the process and wishing this task on someone else’s shoulders.
On one particular puppet rush build, I had decided I would forego personally dyeing fleece and called Puppet Pelts ; Laurie and Cindy were able to rush me the order. I worked on other aspects of the puppet while the shipment took a day (or two) to arrive here in Canada. The fleece was perfectly dyed! No stress, no mess, and it saved me hours of heartache that would have ultimately ended in wasted time and dye colour hands for weeks after. I completed the puppet and still had time (that day) to spent with my kids. That night I spent looking at the pros and cons of ordering fleece…
– You get consistent coloured fleece. Run out of a colour? No problem. Have to remake a character and need the same coloured Antron a year later? No problem. Re-order more and they match perfectly.
– The colour is perfectly even throughout. No patchiness, streaks or discolouration.
– No need to buy dye.
– No mess- no dyed wooden spoons, clothes, counters and hands.
– You get the colour you want.
– One less thing to worry about. You can focus on other aspects of the puppet instead of the dye process.
– Cost- Some may argue this point, but if you add up the amount you’d spend on actual dye, utensils, huge pots or bins, the cost of white fleece, plus the time it takes to dye and dry. The price is somewhat comparable or a tad higher.
– Send the customer to the Puppet Pelts website. I had a customer that was particular when it came to the colours they wanted for their character. Having the customer go to the website and choose the colours they want is so convenient. It saves time from having to going back and fourth with swatches and/or try to match what colour they pick from a Rite Dye website.
– Puppet Pelts has a huge selection of colours.
– Shipping. Depending on where you live and the time of year, it could take some time for the fleece to get to you.
– Cost. Why would I make this a con if I had it as a pro? Because in some instances it may be more expensive for some people- shipping, exchange rate and customs charges could be factors as to the final cost.
– You have some control over what colour you get if you DIY.
– If you’re like me you already have white fleece on standby. Why spend $ on fleece when I already have it?
After coming up with this list it was quite clear to me that I was no longer going to dye fleece ever again. Sure the cost is a factor, but it is well worth it in the end for me. Time with my kids is worth the $20 I would ultimately (may) save in the end if I dyed the fleece myself. I know some of you are great at dyeing fleece and it makes more practical sense in doing it yourself but for me and my family I just can’t justify it. We all have to make decisions and for me this was pretty easy.
I met Kristi Ann Holt and her daughter yesterday on a Puppet/Fleece exchange 🙂 Kristi has her own studio –Anarkiti and builds amazing hand crafted puppets. It was a joy to chat and exchange horror/fun stories of puppet building.
So I managed to integrate the old Puppeteers Unite! Blog on my personal blog. It would be a shame to have years of blog posts be obliterated.
This Blog will be a little more personal and not only dabble in other topics but also showcase more of the behind the scenes projects we work on here at the Creature Works Studio.
Today is our 10th Anniversary and the day I am announcing the closing of the Puppeteers Unite! Blog.
First thing I want to address is that this is a personal decision. My children, wife and two full time jobs have made it harder and harder for me to put the time and energy (I feel) needs to go into the blog.
Times have also changed– when I first started the blog in 2005 there was only a few other puppetry blogs and resources out there and social media was at it’s infancy. My goal was to bring like minded puppet people together and help those beginner puppet builders find the information they were looking for.
Now, there are many social groups and easily accessible information that people can turn to a few key strokes.
What made this decision harder…
December 13 marks exactly ten years since I started this blog. I never revealed to anyone the reason why I started the blog on December 13th until now…My brother had Leukaemia since infancy and up until the age of 15 (after relentless treatments and 8 relapses) he died (that was 22 years ago). His Birthday was December 13th and in honour of him I started the blog. When we were younger, my brother and I would spend countless hours listening to Sesame Street Records, watching the Muppet Show and doing puppet shows in our front window for the pedestrians walking by our house- his love for Puppetry and zest for life was truly inspirational. Puppeteers Unite! was to be a personal tribute to him from me…so the decision to close the blog also came with some serious soul searching.
So now what?
I will let the blog stand for a while as a resource. Then I will re-directed the web address to my company website. My “How to videos” section will also be posted to my company site. I will be doing a personal blog on my website; at that time will transfer all the past posts from Puppeteers Unite! to that blog.
I know many of you loved the blog and maybe a bit displeased that I am closing it down…I am truly sorry for this.
Thanks again for everything you folks have done for me and Puppeteers Unite! I loved every minute of it and am just as sad as you to say goodbye.
I officially close this blog with the amazing words of Jim Henson (aka Kermit the Frog)
“Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.”
A Podcast for those who are Mascots characters or have ever dreamed of becoming one! The Unsuited Podcast is hosted by Matt, John and Morgan and is a great resource for anyone interested in Mascot work. They cover latest news, teach what they have learned as Mascots and have hilarious stories when in character. An amazing podcast that needs to be heard! Check it out HERE!
I love listening to podcasts; especially those that deal with practical effects, puppetry and industry leaders! Monsters and Microphones is a new Podcast by Dead Panic Studios featuring hosts Christopher Vaughan (Dead Panic Studios- Co-Owner/Executive Producer) and Nick Callow (2d/3d Artist). Their first podcast includes none other than special effects veteran Shannon Shea! Shannon discusses his 30 years in the movie business creating such amazing characters for Aliens, Predator, Jurassic Park and many more! Please give a listen, subscribe and add a review on iTunes! Also, buy Shannon’s book: “I’m Rubber, You’re Glue: The True Story of an 80s Monster Maker”.
Its great to see puppets still being being used in Jurassic World. It reminds me of the triceratops in the first movie.
Posted by Dallin Blankenship
The Stan Winston School of Character Arts announced they are running a 2 day web course on Marionette building by none other than Scott Land!! I’ve signed up immediately for the course and hope to see you all there! SIGN UP NOW!!