Monday, 29 October 2007

EPMF 2007

For those that don't know the EPMF (European Puppet Ministry Festival) is an annual Puppet Festival which happens in Reading, Berkshire. It's run by a company called One Way UK and is aimed at people who use puppets in the context of a Sunday school or school assemblies by and large - although not exclusively. It is an opportunity to network and attend workshops to help you improve your puppetry techniques and show. This year 600 people registered for the weekend... it was a lot of fun.

As this was the 15th annual puppet festival we were pleased to have a few special guests. Dale VonSeggen is the founder of One Way Street. Dale has played a significant role in my life as a puppeteer so it was great to meet up with him again. Dale with the help of Harry Barrett enabled me to take part in the puppetry Dream Team at I-Fest in 1998 and 1999. This was a great time of learning for me and it really stretched me as a performer.

Another American visitor who attended the festival this weekend was Debra Fader. Debra was the Dream Team director the second year I was on the team. Debra is a great director and puppet builder. She has a real talent for choreography and her workshops rightly attracted a lot of attention.

I enjoyed being back involved with the festival crowd, it's been a while since I was involved regularly with One Way UK - about 5 years to try and put a number on it.

Thanks for reading - all the best


Friday, 26 October 2007


It's just after 8.30 am and myself and Shelley are making our last minute preparations for the EPMF this weekend. I didn't get to be until 2am and i was up this morning at about 6.30am. Last night i took the opportunity to make sure i had got all the puppets and props i would need for my workshops, this morning i remembered we may need to pack clothes for the weekend as well :)

I will take my camera so i will post pictures up on here as soon as i am back home. I am looking forward to meeting Dale VonSeggen again, i haven't seen him for about 6 years but he was a key character in my getting serious about puppetry.

In life generally the mood is subdued at the moment. Spurs seem to have sacked Martin Jol last night. I know our results have been poor so far this season, but i think he should be given more of a chance as we have had two of our best seasons since the 60s under his leadership! (brief football reference for those who are wondering).

Have a great weekend folks, all the best.


Sunday, 21 October 2007

A trip down memory lane

Most of you will probably have come across me since I first got involved with Myspace a couple of years ago... or since last year since i started making videos on YouTube. Hellyer's Puppet Workshop was only thought of in 2005, but i have been involved with puppetry since about 1991.

Like a lot of children I was given a glove puppet when i was growing up. I remember it well... it was a little beaver called Chippy. I remember learning the basics of my puppetry from my days as a Sunday school performer. Schools, local authorities and Sunday schools provide great opportunities for people to learn and grow in their talent and ability. An organisation that has helped me over the years is One Way UK. You may have already noticed me mention them before as a company I have worked for... as well as the company that will be stocking some of my puppet designs in the future. (Well done you if you spotted the links). One Way UK provide training for puppeteers almost every weekend of the year, in the past I have both benefited form this training and been a trainer for them. That's the case next weekend, on the 26th and 27th October I will be working as a trainer at the EPMF. The weekend is aimed at puppeteers working in schools or Sunday schools, but would benefit anyone who wants to gain basic puppetry skills. If you are going I'll see you there... if you're not going, I'll let you know how it goes.

All this reminiscing has got me thinking back a few years and I found an old photo you may enjoy laughing at. Here's me in the USA 10 years ago, meeting my puppetry hero Dave Privett. It's hard to believe but I was once skinny with good legs! What can I say - I played a lot of football in those days and short shorts were in fashion. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) Dave is a great guy, If you check back to the first blog you will see that I met up with him last year for a puppet building tutorial day.

Below is another blast from the past. It is my old puppet team, the Unlimited Puppet Crew. This photo was taken just before a Christmas performance... we had just bought the lovely new shirts.

Thanks for visiting again folks... all the best


Saturday, 13 October 2007

Experiment Complete

As I told you before I have been experimenting with different glues and construction techniques recently. Late last night I put the finishing touches on an as yet un-named character.

It's funny how things work out isn't it... I bought the eyes used on this character almost exactly a year ago with a completely different character in mind, yet re-painted and with a small amount of trim they look completely at home on him. That's one of the reasons I tend not to throw anything away - you never know when it might come in handy!
Having reduced glueing times enourmously by using hot glue rather than contact adhesive, I am now waiting for the biggest time saver of all to arrive... the sewing machine! Well that's not strictly true, I have the sewing machine (those of you who watch my videos will know bizarrely I have 3) but I don't have the skills to use it yet. However I have promised myself that this was the last puppet I would hand sew! The arms on this particular character took an hour and a half each to sew and then stuff... that's too long, I will easily double my output when the machine is up and running.

Following feedback from the first pictures of Sketch he has been re-dressed and is looking much more "at home" as a cowboy. My brother commented this on the video that I first showed him in and grudgingly I have to say I think he was right :)

You can see in this picture much more clearly just how big a feature his nose is... it seems that with all my characters to date I have had an "all or nothing" approach to noses, this hasn't been intentional but it is quite amusing to look back through my pictures and see the trend.

Thanks again for checking out the blog - thanks especially to Adam, Mark and Lewis for your comments. Any name suggestions for the new character greatfully accepted, at the moment I am considering Roni... let me know your thoughts.

All the best - Dave

Friday, 12 October 2007

Germany - welcome to the party!

Across all the websites I keep active (youtube/myspace/etc) it's always great to get feedback from viewers and new friends. Out of curiosity I linked the Google Analytics application to the blog because it can show you how many people read it (just like myspace and youtube) but interestingly it also shows you what country people are reading the blog from! It's no secret that I'm a bit of a geek so this was fascinating... so far people from Australia, America. South Africa and Greenland have read this blog, as well as my fellow Brits. That's amazing to think that people on the other side of the world are having a quick look at this - I'd better make it interesting!

So what's going on in the workshop? For the last couple of days I have been working on an experiment. Following a conversation about the merits of different kinds of glue with a friend of mine I decided to change the glue i used when i made my next puppet to see what difference it made. Normally I use a contact adhesive (contact cement for our American cousins), however my friend uses hot glue. I had always been under the impression that hot glue wasn't as strong as contact adhesive but apparently that isn't the case. So I have made a puppet using (almost) only hot glue. I will post pictures later this weekend when he is finished... the head and body are done but I haven't made any arms yet. It's been great fun and quite liberating in a funny way. There is far more ceremony involved with using contact adhesive as you have to apply it in a certain way in order for it to work, this can sometimes slow you down. I found myself really getting on a creative roll with the hot glue because it I far more immediate.

So the big question is which glue will I use in future? simple - both!

So why was this post called "Germany - welcome to the party"?... yesterday I noticed that we had our first blog reader from Germany! Willkommen, wie geht es Dir?

thanks for reading folks I will post pics of the new character very soon.


Sunday, 7 October 2007

clearing out the cobWEBs

So it's almost exactly 1 year on from the launch of the website: ( they both point to the same site). I am excited to say I have been working with my brother Adam to design a new look for the site... something a bit more polished and future-proof. The boys at Vivid Broadcast have once again stepped up to the plate to build and host the website for me. I can't thank Rory and Stephen enough for their commitment and encouragement. It's also really cool how Adam, whilst living in South Africa is still able to read my mind and design something great despite my garbled instructions :)

The target for the launch of the new look website is the end of this month. I will doubtless make more of a song and a dance about it nearer the time. One of the very important features that will be added is the links to One Way UK's shop where from next year you will be able to purchase puppets I have designed!

I am really excited about all the changes, we hope to have "characters" and "gallery" pages. One will details all the different characters which have come out of the workshop, and the gallery will show you some behind the scenes photos and also performance shots. All in all it's going to be great fun to re-launch and hopefully it will be open for browsing very soon!

Take care

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Sketch is complete

Sketch by name, sketch by nature!
He was never intended to be more than a rough experiment with face... and it's changed quite a bit since Annie-Mae. I decided to really push the boat out in quite a different direction than Annie-Mae. Where Annie-Mae has no nose, Sketch has a huge one. Annie-Mae has oversized eyelids (which looked more like eyebrows), but Sketch has bags under his eyes. You can see Annie-Mae in the "Family" photo on the right hand side of the page.
It's great fun to play around like these blank canvass style puppets, in fact i'm looking forward to the next one!

Monday, 1 October 2007

it's picking up!

You know when you've been waiting for something for so long you're not sure what you're really waiting for? I'm reliably informed by tradition that "it is better to travel in anticipation than to arrive"... I'm not convinced!

Last week I had two really important meetings for the immediate future of HPW. Firstly after a meeting with One Way UK I am 99% certain that by the new year i will have my first puppet design in commercial reproduction. It's crazy, that's taken 2 years of hard work and its so close to becoming a reality i am getting nervous.

Also I met with Vivid Broadcast who host my official website. They're a great bunch of guys who really are switched on... they're going to re-launch the HPW website to improve the links between the main website and the various social network sites (as well as sites like this). If you look long and hard you may be able to spot me in some of the promo videos or pics on their site.

So two years after the initial concept by Christmas HPW will have puppets in production as well a professional website and lots of hope for the future.

On a personal note i went to London at the weekend to meet up with Phil Fletcher from the Gluvets. Phil is a great puppeteer and all round good bloke.
Thanks for your support