Wednesday, 28 November 2007

New Puppets!

Hello again folks!

So this past weekend i have the opportunity to see loads of great puppet characters which had been made by Phil from the Gluvets. You may have watched some of the videos of our meet-up which was a blast (as our American cousins would say).

I have not finished anything from the weekend yet - in fact i have just called the sewing machine repair man to get a quote for fixing my sewing machine. However as soon as that is fixed i will be posting pics of the new characters. One will be a wolf (that's an exclusive... you heard it here first) and the other i have only just started so even i don't know what it is yet!

Seeing loads of different characters opened up my mind's eye creatively and has really made me think about making characters i would have possibly not considered before. Hopefully you will see this reflected in the next few characters that i produce. As for now take a look at the many different characters that were on display this weekend. Some you will have seen before on my videos but many of them you will not.

All the best - Dave

Monday, 26 November 2007

Wonders in the workshop

This past weekend we have played host to our good friend Phil from the Gluvets. Phil is an expert puppeteer and puppet builder, and this was a wonderful oppurtunity to meet up and exchange ideas. Over the course of the weekend we worked on a brand new puppet project which you can see very soon. This puppet will be finished off shortly - as soon as the sewing machine recovers from its over active weekend!

One of my personal highlights of the weekend was getting to "meet" some of Phils great charaters. Here you can see me with a brilliant dragon puppet Phil made recently. I think you will agree that the character is very special!

I was also pleased to introduce Phil to Pierre and the crex81 crew. On the left you can see Phil meeting Moony for the first time. Phil and I made a couple of videos with Pierre and Lab Rat, but as i spent most of the time laughing it's hard to know how much of them will be useable. We did however get plenty of great photos which will doubtless find their way onto the Hellyer's myspace and The Gluvets' myspace.
Keep your eyes open over the next week or so as I try and get the best pics and videos online. Also there will be a brand new character getting a crex81 debut as soon as he is completed.
In the mean time check out this timelapse from the workshop. You can tell by the work - joke ratio that it was a productive, but very funny weekend!
All the best - Dave

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

The Muppetcast (lost in translation)

Many of you who are muppet fans will already be familiar with a weekly podcast called The MuppetCast. It's a great informative show put together and hosted by Steve Swanson. Last week i thought i would email Steve and let him know how much i have enjoyed listening to the podcast over the last month or so since i found it. I was then delighted to hear him read out my email on this weeks show!

I have been to the states 5 or 6 times and i have always got on well with pretty much everyone i have met. There is absolutely no doubting that there is a difference in world view between Americans and the British, but that is nothing compared to the difference between our vocabulary. I was reminded of this very quickly when i heard Steve read out my email. I had told him that i had "been a puppeteer since i could remember, and i had recently started designing puppets. At the moment i am majoring on puppet design".... that's where the problem occurred. I am often very naughty and type as i would speak (in a conversational style). Steve now thinks i am studying for my Major in Puppet Design - when in fact i have never even been to university! I guess i could have used any number of words to replace "major". I could have said i was focusing, or concentrating... but sadly i didn't. I would like to clear this up and apologise right here to anyone who thinks i may have been trying to "big myself up"... that really isn't the case, i'm just a little lazy when i type (how many capital "i's" have you spotted?).

George Bernard Shaw is credited with having said: "England and America are two countries separated by the same language".

This weekend i will be meeting up with Phil Fletcher from the Gluvets again, so watch this space for collaboration videos and new characters around the corner!

All the best - Dave

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Spam - but in a good way

Spam recieved his crex81 debut two days ago and I am glad to say has thus far been well recieved. I look forward to making some more videos with him... I think he has good potential. I learned a lot whilst making him, I definately have a few changes to make to the next character i make in his style. But that is what it's all about, building and learning. I have intentionally experimented with different styles of puppet, and very different shapes. I want to stretch myself to ensure I don't get stuck in a rut creatively. I think it's important to keep pushing forwards.

Below are Spam's first two appearances on YouTube, firstly on my vlog and secondly on crex81

all the best - Dave

Monday, 12 November 2007

I Hear With My Little Ear!

Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to introduce Spam! (Shelley chose the name) Spam has been made entirely out of off-cuts and fabric samples. This was more out of necessity than any big eco-friendly drive on my part.... but it did make me think a lot about how easy it is to throw something away which you can actually still use. Spam was an adventure from start to finish. Because of the confines of only using scraps (hence his working name of scrappy) Spam's shape and size was very much dictated by what odd bits of foam i had left. This was a nightmare at first, but as soon as i got into it i really enjoyed the challenge, in fact i am glad to say there is at least one more puppets worth of off-cuts laying around - watch this space!

This photo shows Spam's skull before it was covered in fabric. It was a great fun shape to cover, but not one i would choose again :)

You can see from the picture that the pieces of foam are not very large, one of the things i did to make this interesting for myself was try and cut the foam as little as possible. This pushed the design in a direction i would never have gone normally. All i did to trim them foam was to make the pattern symmetrical. As you can see here Spam gets his name from the vast expanse of forehead he has!

Despite the unusual head shape the mouth is very easy to use and is not restricted at all by the over sized forehead. Although at first this looks like a really unnatural shape... think for a minute about male Orangutan and they often have large folds of skin on their cheeks. I'm not sure if they get bigger with age... i'm not a zoologist (but i did want to be as a kid).

So this is what Spam looked at when i initially covered him with fabric. His face was a puzzle for me, it took me a long time to find eyes i was happy with... in this pic i have some half cut ping pong balls which i am using to experiment with eye placement. I basically finished Spam in 3 sittings. I made the skull and mouth in one sitting. The came back and worked out how to cover the head in a way which would give him a really nice unique look. Then finally this morning i completed his body and human hand.

I am very pleased with the outcome, i have experimented with some new techniques during the construction process. The most radical change to the construction process with this character would be the fact Spam is the first puppet i have ever made completely using a sewing machine! For most people this would not even be worth mentioning, but i have hand sewn everything in my puppet building career to date so it was a great relief to see the total build time decimated by the introduction of the Singer!

Let me know what you think of Spam, don't forget to check him out on the crex81 channel where he will be hosting a competition called "I Hear With My Little Ear".

all the best - Dave

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Tried and tested or old and boring?

I'm pleased to say that people have read this blog from all over the world now! From Thailand to Portugal, and Iceland to Spain people interested in puppetry are coming together. Thanks to those of you who have taken time to comment. It's great to get feedback from people! In honour of those reading along for whom English is not their 1st language:

Hallo und herzlich willkommen!
Olá e bem - vindo!
Hola y bienvenidos!
Salut et bienvenue!

OK i need to come clean about something, i don't really speak any of the above languages... but Google Translate does! Well i studied some Spanish at school and college, but i am nowhere near good enough to be fluent. My comprehension is quite good, but i really lack the vocabulary to enter into any meaningful conversation.

Language is a great tool, comedians often use it to brilliant effect. I love good wordplay in comedy. Mispronounced words that are normally dull or mundane can take on whole new meanings and overtones. I will always remember a comedy sketch with Ronnie Barker when he apologises for "piss-pronouncing my worms". People always said of Peter Sellers that if he hadn't had such a good grip on the English Language he wouldn't have been able to distort it so badly with his character Inspector Clouseau. I love the Pink Panther, i bought the 6 DVD box set a couple of years back. The pace of the comedy is a lot slower than it is nowadays, but that's not always a bad thing.

It strikes me that nowadays we have taken a very definite step back into the kind of slapstick comedy which was all the rage almost 100 years ago. Harold Lloyd and Jackie Chan both share a passion for real, big action stunts, all performed by the artist themselves (no stunt doubles needed). Both are masters of their surroundings and their spacial awareness enables them to make the most of the set/scene they are on. Harold Lloyd died aged 78 in 1971, Jackie Chan would have been just 17 and already making a name for himself in the film industry. Jackie directed his first film in 1980, Shi di chu ma aged only 26.

They always say that nothing under the sun is new. In which case does that make our modern comedy tried and tested or old and boring?

let me know your thoughts

take care - Dave

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The last day at 99?

For those of you that watch my YouTube videos on the crex81 channel you may have spotted a award on my page advertising the fact that i am on the most subscribed comedians list there. I have been for a while... a long while. I remember that i entered the list at number 21 (way back when it all first started). Inside a week i climbed to the heady heights of 19th most subscribed comedian of all time. Then gradually i began to slip. I haven't overall lost any subscribers, obviously some people decide to unsubscribe from time to time... but as they leave others find you, overall i have still been gaining subscribers. I have obviously been doing this at a slower rate than those around me. I also think there have been a lot of people who used to have directors accounts realise that there are more honours to be won if they switch to a less popular account style (comedian, guru, musician etc). Anyway i noticed at the beginning of this week i finally reached position 99! I thought i would celebrate my leaving of the most subscribed list rather than bemoan it. Thanks for everyone who has subscribed... it's been emotional :)

Yesterday i mentioned in my vlog that i am creating a puppet character for my the "I Hear With My Little Ear" feature on the crex81 channel. Well as soon i stopped the video i made 2 ears straight away and here they are! I've never started a character with the ears before but it just seemed to make sense with this one. Stay tuned to find out how the rest of him ends up. I am already calling him Scrappy due to the fact that i am using up lots of odds, ends and offcuts to make him from. He should be finished fairly soon, i'll post pics when i have them.
All the best - Dave

Monday, 5 November 2007

EPMF contd.

I must apologise for not posting more regularly on here, I have been a little under the weather over the past week. However feeling a lot better now i will show you a couple more photos and share some more about the EPMF. Sadly i can't share many more pictures with you for the simple fact i forgot to take more! I tend to do this when i enjoy myself... perhaps the numbers of photos i take is inversely proportional to the amount of fun I'm having?

Anyway this first (fairly terrible quality picture) is of one of my favourite performers of all time. It is Judy Buch. Judy Buch is an award winning ventriloquist and all round brilliant performer. She has an amazing ability to bring her puppet characters to life. She is a master of a wide variety of ventriloquist techniques. I am no expert on these techniques myself, but i have seen many ventriloquists in my time and she stands head and shoulders above most i have seen. I took the liberty of pinching a better photo of Judy off her web site so you can see a good photo of what she looks like. The character she is posing with is "Daisy", my wife's favourite puppet character. I think ventriloquists can be received by audiences like clowns and magicians sometimes... you either love them or hate them. I think it's one of those skills that when done badly it is very bad, but when done when it is breathtaking - just like magic. Judy is definitely one of the best vent acts I've ever seen.

This second photo shows the main auditorium. It is a fairly bizarre experience to get a group of puppeteers together... but to get 600 together is very strange. I have been fortunate enough to perform and lead workshops at the EPMF for the past 10 years. I remember vividly leading my first ever workshop aged 16. It was about performing with puppets on the streets (something i did a lot at the time). I love the festival atmosphere, the buzz of excitement surrounding the competitions and the rush to get to "that" workshop you've been looking forward to. I have started thinking already what workshops and performances i could offer next year. If you're going... I'll see you there!

All the best