Blog : My Work

Starting anew…

Starting anew…

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.

Farewell. It was a great Ten Years!

Farewell. It was a great Ten Years!

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.”


Now You Know

Now You Know - Chris Hadfield

Here is Howie and Baboo with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield! I build Howie and Baboo for a new show by Little Engine Moving Pictures and Sinking Ship Entertainment called “Now You Know”. This picture was taken by Giordano Ciampini during an episode called “How do Astronauts Float in Space?”  Howie and Baboo were puppeteered by Frank Meschkuleit and Marty Stelnick.

I was very honoured to be a part of this show, everyone in the production were awesome to work with! I can’t wait for the premier of the show in end of Feb, early March!
Stay Tuned!

Taking Some Time Off

Hey everyone,
So it has been a very long time since I’ve posted last. I’m very sorry, but since the birth of my son last August my priorities have changed and bit and I wanted to focus on my family for a while. Since August 2012 I have made a conscience effort to drop back my workload in some areas and take time to reassess what I am taking on in life.

At the time my son was born I was working a 9-5 job, working on 3 different puppet builds, developing and working on two other projects- not to mention putting the nursery together, attend Prenatal classes and attend a local lodge that I am a member in…whew! I found I was working myself to the bone and my focus was scattered! When my son finally arrived I found no time at all to do anything! LOL I was staying up till 2am working on puppet builds then getting up for 7am for work. This went on for weeks until I finally decided I needed to stop and prioritize things before I burn out and am no help to anyone. I completed the puppet contracts I had and stopped taking future orders until I was able to reassess EVERYTHING.

This Blog started in 2005. I am very proud that it has lasted this long… but not proud as to the content it sometimes consists of. My blogs postings are often rushed and I feel my focus isn’t 100%. My goal for “Puppeteers Unite!” was (as stated on my ABOUT page) to  fostered relationships, support, empowered present and future puppeteers by providing and promoting information detailing puppet performances, building techniques, and positive business practices. I feel that in order for “Puppeteers Unite! to truly reach this goal and provide the best service possible, I must set “Puppeteers Unite!” free.

It is time to allow Puppeteers from all over the world to Unite and contribute their unique voice on this blog. I have contacted Puppeteers (some old, some new) to join me on this blog and begin writing and posting their work and news findings. The caliber of artists is extraordinary and  I can’t wait to have them join “Puppeteers Unite!”

Over 3-4 months you will see a new design for Puppeteers Unite! and a new cast of writers.

I know this decision is for the best and that “Puppeteers Unite!” will be a better blog for it. So please forgive the lack of posts and be ready for big changes to happen here.

I do occasionally post puppet related news on Facebook so if you want to follow us there:  CLICK HERE !

Workshop still being built…whew!

Being sick really set me back in regards to completing my workshop. Since I last spoke here about it I managed to put up the dry wall, plaster, sand and put in the flooring. My dad, who is a carpenter, was integral in making certain we (my wife and I) did the work right. I decided to go with a laminate flooring since we are in a basement and used the right padding. After putting in the flooring my dad put in the baseboard and even scribed them to the uneven basement floor. The workbench was next- I went with a oak as it was only ten cents more a foot. I went with a stain that would match the floor and am varnishing it about 5 times to get a strong surface that can withstand some abuse LOL I also drilled holes into the workbench for cords and such to pass through and plug into outlets below. I purchased two cabinets to hang- great for all my glues etc.  I still have to do some touch up painting/varnishing and put in the door hardware.

I noticed all the pictures I’ve posted are from one end of my workshop and doesn’t show the rest of the room. The room is 10ft by 16ft and should be adequate for what I need. I created a “window” that I can look out of into our rec room which is beside the workshop. I’m very pleased as to how it is coming along. I’m hoping by the end of this week I’ll be ready to make the big move into the new space- more photos to come as I move in and hopefully show you the finish room.

The End…

Here are the last two Episode’s of my Beginner Puppet Building Course. 🙁

Thanks goes out to all of you who waited so patiently for me to complete the series. Enjoy!

New Workshop!

My workshop is right beside my master bedroom. I stay up late working on puppets and I guess (according to my wife) I make a lot of noise. She can hear my drill, sander, and other tools I use to accomplish my tasks. So after much debate I’m moving my workshop to our basement…I have a fairly large basement- one part is finished and the other part hasn’t been touched. Both my wife and I looked at both options and figured that the unfinished basement would be expensive and wouldn’t provide me much room. We looked at the finished basement and realized we don’t really use it all that much so cutting it by 1/3 wouldn’t be so bad.

I used a drafting program and came up with these “rough” plans. I wanted to incorporate one of the windows for ventilation purposes and also a “window” in the wall so I could build and still be able to watch TV or converse with people if they were hanging out in the other room. I have rounded edges and corners in my basement so I also wanted the corners of the window to match. For the workshop itself- the space will provide me the area I need to work comfortably, have good lighting, and ventilation. I also will be building a “L shaped” work bench along the back and side walls. One workbench will be about 3feet wide so I can use it for sewing etc. and the other bench will be about 2feet wide for my sewing machine and other tools of the trade.

After the plans were drawn and a budget made, I decided to contact my dad who is a carpenter and who has all the tools needed for the job. We manage to build the wall and put drywall up in about 6hours.

Here are the before and “somewhat” after shot of the same space.

The wall went up pretty easy. Lucky for us the everything was fairly plum and squared off pretty good so tying into the studs and joists was a piece of cake.

I’ll post my workshop progress here sporadically throughout the next week and a bit.

Why puppets cost so much…

This year has already been super busy in regards to puppet orders. I think the new Muppets movie has really started a resurgence in puppetry. But sometimes the price of a custom made puppet will surprise (and scare) potential customers.

After providing a quote, I had one customer say that they could go to a Scholar’s Choice store and pick up a puppet for a fraction of what I quoted them. Another customer asked me why my puppets are so cheap compared to other puppeteers they asked quotes from. In this day in age of mass manufacturing and the culture of “something for nothing” I believe it is our role as puppet builders to educate the client as to why our puppet cost “X” amount of dollars…here are my reasons:

1) The Design of the character- Am I building a 7 foot ape or a 14inch mouse puppet? Do you want blinking eyes? Is the character furry? Do I have to build a unique wardrobe for the character? The design of the character will define (to some degree) the overall price.

2) Materials- This one is a biggie. Some people don’t understand why I don’t sell puppets under $50. Here is my breakdown of how much materials cost:
-Reticulated Foam- $260 per bolt (tac on $60 for shipping)
-Poly Foam- $17-$25 per metre
-Faux Fur- $17-$45 per metre (depending on length and quality)
-Antron Fleece- $17-$24 per metre (including shipping)
-Incidentals- Doll eyes ($4 per pack), half globes ($25 for a pack of 8), latex gloves ($25 per box), contact cement ($45 Barge after shipping), thread ($3), wood dowel ($5), brass rods ($8 each, usually need 2), soddering wire ($15), electrical shrink wrap ($10), Fabric for mouth ($5-$10 per metre), sharpies, razorblades, cutting board, gasket rubber, wood, rivets, hammer, pliers, vice…coffee 🙂

Obviously I don’t charge the full amount for incidentials but I add a small percentage in to cover the cost of these materials.

3) Deadline- Do you need the puppet in a day? If you do, it’ll cost you.

4) Labor- Yes, I need to get paid too 🙂 It usually takes me 3 days (30 hours or more) to build a custom puppet. Even if I was to charge (bare minimum) $15 per hour, you are looking at paying at least $450 just in labor costs to start. The art of hand crafting has been lost. Many people don’t realize the amount of time and effort it takes to hand sew an entire puppet by hand, hand dye fabrics, and basically create a memorable character from a bunch of supplies.

5) Other underlining issues- I inform customers that I work at a fulltime job, thus allowing me the flexibility to pick and choose the projects I want to work on and the ability to cut some of the price down. Other puppeteers rely on puppetry to put food on their table, thus they may need to charge a little more for their work. I relate Puppet Building to any other trade- some contractors will charge more than others for the same job.

6) Experience- A puppeteer who has been in the industry for 30 years, and has an amazing portfolio may charge more for a custom built puppet compared to a first time builder who’s trying to break into the business.

Customers are also very confused as to why some prices vary from puppet builder to puppet builder. The art of puppet building doesn’t follow any regulatory rules. There are many different materials, methods and stylings to get the end result the client wants. When a customer asks me what to look for in a puppet builder I tell them that each puppet builder differs in regards of the final product and that one puppet builders standards of the finish product maybe different then my standards; not to say that my standards are “higher” or better, just different. So it is important for the customer to educate themselves on the puppet builders style and see which one suits their needs.

Usually once I explain these points to a customer they are a little bit less stressed about the whole process.

I wrote this post a week ago and was scheduled to post it today. Yesterday, (ironically) Frank Cesario- a young puppeteer, addressed these issues in a recent video. He seemed very frustrated with the whole process and the fact that customers don’t understanding why puppets cost so much. It was great to see how open he was about the topic and that his issues are echoed by many puppeteers, including this one. 🙂