Morning Coffee Blog: Shortcomings

Recently I had a request that got me reflecting on my working methodology and revealed something of a shortcoming in my puppet building process.

When I decided to start the shop, I established a few fundamental parameters, the most important of which was I need to keep my puppets affordable. If you’ve been around the pro-puppet world you know that these things can take a great deal of time and skill to make, and therefore don’t come cheap. I wanted to find a way to be able to produce similar results but at a lower cost, so more folks could find an on-ramp to puppetry.

One of the ways I do that is by having quite simple, basic standard “models” that are very flexible in terms of design. Greeblees, Smols, furry monsters, etc., are all primary forms and relatively simple shapes all joined together. The magic happens in the build process. When crafting features for each build I never measure things, I eyeball everything. Even eyeballs.

This gives each build a slightly asymmetrical balance, which feels organic and life-like. Each build, even when made with the same patterns and materials as another, becomes it’s own character. No two are exactly alike, despite the fact that I’ve made hundreds of puppets.

Most of the time this is a huge advantage and selling point. However I occasionally get a client who asks for something very specific – a totally reasonable request – but not something I’m set up to do. To make something to exact specs or even reproduce another puppet I’ve made before, it would likely take a couple of tries before I get it, and that’s a huge drain on time. I usually can’t afford to do that. Those times when I’ve been asked to make a new version of an established character, I always make sure the client knows that this won’t be a 100% match for the old one (as in my rebuild of Comfy, in today’s logo).

In shops that have to make multiples of the same characters, like The Muppets, they’ll often have extremely detailed notes, patterns and measurements for reference, and even then they don’t always get it 100% right. How many times have you seen a new Fozzie and thought “hmm… seems a little different?” This is why.

It’s a bit of an Achilles Heel for me as it means I have to turn down some commissions I’d otherwise be happy to take, but it’s just a reality of working at this small scale.

It’s stream day, so lots of prep, starting with coffee.

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