Going to be a busy week around the puppet mines this week. Next week is extra short as I’m off on my first actual vacation since 2019, so I’m trying to do as much building this week as possible.
There’s a famous saying in production: “Good, Fast and Cheap. Pick two”. For me it’s more like one of those triangle sliders in video game character customization when you’re blending between three different points. I have a certain baseline for quality – that’s always top priority, but it also needs to come in under a certain price point. When I started the shop (at the time of this writing) three years ago I determined what I wanted to do was bring good quality pro-style puppets to more people. The sort of puppets you see on TV and such are often quite expensive, and for good reason, and that of course is cost prohibitive to many people who may be interested in the field, but not ready to invest the big bucks just yet.
I realized that’s where I could, theoretically, fill a gap. Could I make puppets using pro techniques, that look and feel good, but also bring them in at a price more people could afford? The answer is: yeah. Usually. Given some parameters.
The biggest cost in any puppet build is, of course, time. To design, prototype, test, fabricate, sew, and finish any individual puppet often takes days if not weeks, depending on the build. And some things that appear simple on the surface are complex once you break them down. My solution to this was to prototype standard “models” that would be flexible enough design-wise to create a variety of different characters, but simple enough in construction that they wouldn’t take a week each to build.
So far, it’s largely working out. Overall, I can do, say, two Smols in three days, same with Greeblees or Nurnees, while live hands monsters, goblins, and other things needing a lot of hand sewing often take three or even four. It’s not a bad turnaround all things considered, but even then, my “profit margins” are incredibly thin (and sometimes nonexistent). Plus material costs are skyrocketing, but that’s a whole other subject.
My baseline is: I want to make quality puppets at a price point that people can afford, and that also lets me keep the lights on to, that’s right, build more puppets that people can afford. It’s been three (nearing four) years now, and while there are of course rough spots, it’s been successful enough that I don’t see it going away any time soon.
I’m in this for the long haul, with all the weirdness and wonder that comes with it. All the media production, The Oracle, the podcast, the build streams, Frankie Play, all rest on the foundation of the shops.
So to work, Puppet Orc. The mines are calling. After coffee.