Sunday, March 11, 2012

Marionette Making Workshop

As part of ArtsFest, Hannah Miller offered a free Marionette making workshop at Urban ReThink. I heard that this workshop was sold out quickly and tickets were limited. Thankfully, Hannah, AKA Thunder Hag, understands my sketching obsession and she was open to having me observe. On the white board, Hannah had written the names of two puppet masters who's work influenced the workshop. Albrecht Roser is a German puppeteer who believes that the puppet drives the motion, not the puppeteer. Robin Walsh had an affinity to using fabric, especially silk in the construction of her puppets. She explained that the puppets we would make today would be ugly but functional. Hannah pointed out that the puppets movements were based on a pendulum swing and each puppet would have its own way of moving depending on what it was made of.

Each participant had a bag of supplies. Inside was fabric, beads, string, and a control bar. The fabric was used as the body of the puppet. Beads were threaded onto the corners and became hands and feet. The head required special attention since three screws were positioned for mobility and control once the puppet was strung. April Tennyson was assisting Hannah. Both puppeteers once worked at Pinocchio's Marionette Theater in the Altimonte Mall. April asked me, "Where should I stand to get in the sketch?" "Well," I said, "The best place would be to stand behind Hannah." She stood behind Hannah and smiled broadly as she took a heroic pose, holding up some fabric. I laughed out loud and tried to ignore her until she "acted natural." I hope Hannah didn't think I was laughing at her lesson.

Jeff Ferree who is a puppeteer who had a show at Fringe last year in the smallest venue, a closet, sat next to Hannah and struggled with the head of his puppet. To me, he is a puppet master but even masters want to expand their horizons. The couple seated closest to me seemed like a married couple. They giggled like kids as their creations came to life. The woman was always two steps ahead of her partner, and she would step in and help out on occasion. Some folks arrived late and April tried to get them up to speed.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Hannah said...

FYI, I'm pretty positive that the video you posted for Albrecht Roser is actually just the work of his students under his direction... his work is hard to find without going to trade resources like the Puppeteers of America library. Here's a video of a film of his original work, with his famous character Glown Gustaf:

Thank you for your charming coverage of my workshop, Thor! Wish I could have convinced you to put down your pens and make a puppet instead. ;)

Thor said...

Puppet making looked like hard work. I might try making one on my own someday.