My parents loved Jim Henson and the Muppets. They had what I think was a similar vision regarding the use of puppets and the TV medium. And that was that they should first and foremost be entertaining and funny. If an educational goal or objective was reached so much the better, but engaging and entertaining the audience came first and I think that’s what Henson (and later my parents) did so well.
Ron and Mary Kay’s puppets were usually character or personality driven. Even if they came to me and said, “we need a chicken puppet,” after building the chicken it would develop a personality and voice all its own.
I made a lot of puppets over many years. Albert and Zelda were the main alter egos of my parents and were the featured puppets in live shows and on TV.
Zelda and Albert
I had many specific requests for certain characters, but I came up with many on my own too. We also did some custom puppets for specific advertising clients as well.
Owl, hyena, donkey and Joyce Ann (pronounced “Joyth Ann” with a lithp…I mean lisp)
I made the first puppet (Albert) after watching a show in the late 60s about how the Muppets were made. One of the big differences in my puppets compared to actual Muppets was the way the cloth “skin” attached to the mouths. Mine didn’t have the same look as the Muppets but they were easy to repair which was important for puppets used almost daily. Also due to that mouth design most of my puppets had mouths that were in a “normally closed” state rather than the more common “normally open” state (to use an electronic term). See little Glen on this page to see a puppet with a “normally open” mouth.
As I made more and more puppets I began to work on the ergonomics of the puppet so it would be easier on the puppeteer to operate and as a side benefit, so they’d move better and more fluidly. I’ve recently gone back through the puppets and there’s a big difference between the early ones and the later ones. Mom and dad never complained, they were happy to get a new puppet no matter what! But I know they appreciated the later, more ergonomic puppet designs.
Suzette and Daniel the dog
Back in the late 60s, early 70s, there was precious little information on puppets and puppet building. There was no internet, no muppetcentral.com forum or anything like that. You were really on your own and pretty much stuck with what the local fabric shops had in stock as far as materials went. I only recently found out what Antron fleece (a.k.a. “Muppet fleece”) was and where to get it.
Drac and a few monsters
A New Puppet!
As an experiment, just these past few weeks I tried making a new puppet. Sort of a memorial puppet so to speak. Now that we do have the internet and online forums and the like, I wanted to try a few new techniques. Clown Puppet Glen®™ is the result. He’s the first puppet I’ve made in almost 30 years. It was fun “going home again!”
This is Glen. He’s a clown, but he’s quick to point out that he’s a good clown, not one of those evil ones. He likes salami and rum raisin ice cream. His favorite joke is why do cannibals not eat clowns? Because they think they taste funny! This makes little Glen laugh so hard he pees his puppet pants. Well he would if he had pants!