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Puppet Budgeting 101

Puppet Budgeting 101

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!

Please Note: Thanks to Shawn Sorrell for providing a .ods version of the form so it works with all formats.

Done SWSCA B.J. Guyer Class puppet

So here is my finished puppet. He’s a cute lil’ cat- but don’t let his outer exterior fool you. He is part of an elite force that call themselves “Extinction Force 5”. Street performers by day, assassins by night- EF5 tour the world in search of extinct animals to save by eliminating their threat using the latest high tech weapons.

The puppet has adjustable hands and tail that is basically armature wire. The tail is supported inside by L200. His tongue is carved/dyed foam and his eyes are vacuum formed with dremeled (so they match the curve of the eye ball) buttons for pupils . The Fur was patterned in multiple pieces to provide me the grain direction I needed and I used a hair dryer/comb technique in some areas to blend or change some grain direction. The ears also have armature wire so I can adjust their position if I need. The nose is Crayola Model Magic-dried and covered with dyed Antron. The time consuming part was hand stitching the stripes and grey palm on his hands and othe fur work such as trimmimg. I also modified the body a bit so it has more of a cat like look- a bit more longer and curvy 🙂

All the armor and the goggles weigh next to nothing as they are L200 craft foam or PVC. The gun is a Nerf water gun which I opened and gutted/modified, then affixed it to a rod. The long sleeve shirt I distressed and ripped in a couple of areas. If this was an actual show I would have also made a couple of more character heads that would be weathered and dirty to reflect the the costume but for this class I decided to not weather the character so I could use him in other projects. I referred to the tutorial by Rob Ramsdell on metallic painting techniques for paining the armor. For flexible L200 I had to prep for painting by coating it with 7 layers of pva glue and 2 coats of black plasti-dip so the paint won’t crack after I put it on. I also added decals to the armor for more realism. There is some actual leather work on the belt and goggles as I felt L200 wouldn’t provide me the look I wanted. There are leather looking pieces on the back armor that is actually L200 painted to look like the leather I used in the other pieces.The eyes were an issue for me as I wanted to add a black “liner” around the eye because I felt it got lost a bit against the white fur. But after some trials I found the black made him look older and or Gothic, which didn’t lend to the character, so I decided to go with the original look of white on white.

I’ve included some shots without the armor and with his mouth closed.

All in all I learned some amazing techniques from this class which I will definitely use for future projects and would love to thank BJ Guyer for his support and for the pattern this character is based on- funny how much a pattern  head can change just by adding a muzzle 🙂 Thanks also to my other classmates that helped with their suggestions and offered their knowledge to make parts of this build easier.

PS- Yes I use toilet plungers as puppet stands LOL Don’t worry they weren’t used prior. LOL


Hand Puppet Design and Fabrication with B.J. Guyer

Hello Everyone,
Sorry I haven’t posted in quite a long time. My wife and I welcomed our newest member to our family on June 5th- our son Elliott and since then not only have I been focusing on the family but I also been busy building a puppet for the Stan Winston School of Character Arts Hand Puppet Design and Fabrication course with B.J. Guyer.

So far the course has been fantastic! B.J. is such a wealth of knowledge and he even provided us with a pattern to work with. Even though this is a introduction to puppet building course I have learned a lot of techniques I will definitely use for future puppet builds.  The other people who signed up for the course are all very talented and as they post their work I am always in awe of the calibre of talent they possess.

We have one more class then two weeks to finish the puppet and submit it for grading.  Here are some pictures of the puppet and costuming I have been busy trying to complete before the deadline- my goal is to make a Puppet that is camera ready. I will post regular updates here on PuppeteersUnite! as I build the character to completion.
Tiger concept sketch Battlebelt fb59bb3ea635d101edd27cd78afd37 Goggles Done Goggles SWSCA Puppet (1) SWSCA Puppet (13) SWSCA Puppet (15) Tiger

Atomic Puppet!

A new animated children’s series ‘Atomic Puppet’ is currently under production with Canada’s Mercury Filmworks and France’s Gaumont Animation. Atomic Puppet will premiere in Canada on TELETOON and in France on Disney XD.

Atomic Puppet is about a Superhero who recently is turned into a powerless puppet but who’s powers are transferred to a boy named Joey Felt who becomes his puppeteer. Looks amazing and should be one to watch!


Large Scale Puppetry at Sochi Closing Ceremony

Here is some of the best large scale puppetry I’ve seen! It looks to me like it is a huge animatronic puppet remotely controlled. I’ve been trying to figure out how much each cost and who built them but to no avail. If anyone knows please let me know.

Stan Winston School of Character Arts


Stan Winston School of Character Arts posted my review on Jordu Schell’s maquette sculpting and painting tutorials!

Read my review and then check out these tutorials- they really helped me in my sculpting and painting techniques and great for beginners learning the technique of maquette making.