Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Don’t put yourself at the top of the Christmas tree!

Both as an individual and as a puppet builder (or puppeteer) you should never put yourself at the top of your Christmas tree!

What do I mean by that? Simply this: you need heroes, role models… or at the least people you respect and look up to. If you live your life thinking that you are the “bee’s knees” and that you are untouchable you quickly develop a truly abhorrent arrogant streak in your personality. If you want to move forward as an individual or in your art you can never allow yourself to rest on your laurels safe in the knowledge “I am it”. The old phrase says “It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive” – you need to keep a goal ahead of you in order to move forward.

At Christmas time many people start to think about the holidays and some people even discuss what the reason for the season really is. I believe Christmas is a chance to take a look around and see what other people have done and allow ourselves to be inspired into action. Jesus was born in a stable, not a Hilton. He came to give his life for people who often despised and rejected him. He did not come for the rich and the wealthy – but rather associated with the broken and needy people. It’s inspirational stuff. It’s completely the opposite of what we would do if we were to plan how to “save the world”. I would remind you - don’t put yourself at the top of your Christmas tree. Always have someone to look up to!

Even if you’re not celebrating Christmas this year, the motto still rings true for you too! Look at the work of others that you admire… don’t allow yourself to become over-proud of your own achievements but instead prefer others. Look up to other people who inspire you and let them spur you on to greater things.

Do I have any puppetry heroes or people that inspire me to build better puppets? Of course! I know my limits and I am constantly seeing other people’s work and being amazed by it. Here are some neat links which will help blow the lid off your comfortable world of shop bought puppets!

Dave Privett – Fantastic puppet builder… first inspired me to build puppets over 10 years ago.
Phil Fletcher – Great puppet builder and performer! Helped me take some massive steps to improve my puppet building.
Philip Hatter – Another great puppet builder who keeps turning out puppets that make me say wow!

Lastly, I saw this video online last week from Furry Puppet Studio – it was a bit of an inspirational moment for me… so here it is (enjoy):

Take care – Dave
Happy Christmas!

Geoff the Parrot's view of The Great Adventure

Here's a quick back stage tour of The Great Adventure... This video isn't going to change the world, but you won't understand my next video unless I upload this one :)

Take care - Dave

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Geoff the Parrot puppet!

Regular readers will know that I have been working on a project called The Great Adventure... you will have seen already that I helped to design the cooker for the show, which I was responsible for animating. However the cooker was not my main reason for working on the show - no no... the main reason for me working on the show was Geoff the Parrot!

You can see here that Geoff is a friendly looking parrot who has movable wings. My challenge with Geoff was to build a parrot puppet whose wings could flap, but without any visible rods.
What I ended up doing was creating L shaped wire skeletons for the wings which pivoted at the edge of the foam body of the puppet. The short end of each L shape has a to rod attached to it which hangs down the inside of the puppet's body. This enables both wings to flap either together or individually depending on how you pull them down.

This is all made possible because the body is is quite simply huge! You can see from the photo of the cast below the size of the completed puppet. The puppet wasn't simply large to fit in all the mechanics, practically speaking it needed to be large as The Great Adventure was performed in a 600 seater auditorium stuck right at the back of the stage... Geoff needed to be large just to be seen!

I am pleased to say Geoff was a huge hit with the live audience - I hope you like him too!
Take care - Dave

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Great Adventure - cooker update

So last time I told you how my good friend Steve had built a cooker for our Christmas production called The Great Adventure. Here's a short video of the cooker at work. It worked a treat in the show... it looked really smart and got some good laughs!

take care - Dave

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Great Adventure

So i've been building the Parrot for The Great Adventure lately... and I also have to build a stove that is animated. Well I use the term "I" in the loosest possible sense here: Steve have actually built the thing, as I have been on Paternity leave for almost t
he entire construction process. I have however graced him with my presence to offer some friendly advice and cut the odd piece of wood here and there.
So here's the artists impression of what we had to build. A kind of "beauty and the beast - esque" cooker which we needed to bring to life with bubbling pots and pans etc. Steve has built the whole body of it and finished it off brilliantly - I am just tinkering with the finished product and giving it some visual interest by animating parts of it.

Here you can see our progress so far:
The window in the middle that you can see is the "wood burning" section of the cooker. This will have a false fire in it which I can show you when completed. The pots and pans on the top of the cooker will bubble and jostle on the top of the stove to indicate a real live cooker is on stage. The small rectangular shapes you see resting on the top on the cooker are the door fronts for the cooker... these will be loosely fixed so we can "leak" smoke out of the doors o show that it is working hard.

This photo shows you how much work we still have to do... we open next Thursday! However we are confident that this will be an excellent asset to the show ans we're looking forward to seeing it completed!

Take care - Dave

Thursday, 19 November 2009

I-Fest 2010 is ON!!!

OK, so regular readers of my blog will know that I love I-Fest and have been quite a few times before. This wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't for the fact that I-Fest is held in Bourbonnais, Illinois and according to's distance calculator... I live over 4,000 miles away!

Anyway - the good news is that after taking a break in 2009, I-Fest is back on the calendar for 2010! They have already announced some of their guest speakers and I can tell already that it's going to be good. Check the One Way Street Events fan page on Facebook for all the latest updates.

I can tell what some of you are thinking "that's a Christian puppet festival - why would I want to go to that?"... I would say that you would be in for a pleasant surprise! I find that the standard of teaching and performance by the pros at I-Fest is as good (and in many cases better) than that I have seen at other puppet festivals. Many of the teachers are experts in their own fields and can offer brilliant insights into how you can improve your puppet performance/construction skills. I have written before on here about how much I have enjoyed the festivals, i always associate I-Fest with inspiration and an opportunity to be stretched as a performer.

If you've never been - or never considered going... do it!
Take care - Dave

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Puppet Blog Recommendations

As my paternity leave looms large on the horizon I have taken a moment to skip around a few of the puppet sites that I try and check in on regularly. There are two that stand out for me as good ones to recommend... so if you're looking for good puppetry blogs - pay attention!
Puppeteers Unite was on of the first puppet blogs that ever really interested me enough to check back regularly. I have always found that there is a good variety to what is written on their and Tom seems to be one of the most interested people in all forms of puppetry. He is constantly linking to other sites and flagging up things for attention that I would definitely miss otherwise!
So if you have a moment - head on over to
Another blog which I check often is that of Thistledown Puppets. Philip Hatter is definitely one of the best puppet builders I know! Take a minute to check out the range of styles and characters on his site and you'll see what I mean. Some of my favourite characters that he has made come from a musical he wrote called "Bull a puppet musical": check out the video of these characters on this local news website.

So while I'm off learning how to be a dad... take a moment to read these blogs! You'll not regret it.
Take care - Dave

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Hellyer's Puppet Workshop is a NURSERY??!?1

OK so those of you who watched the short video series I made over the summer will be aware that in August we had to relocate the Workshop because my wife and I are expecting a baby at the end of October!

It's an exciting time for us as it's our first... hence why puppet related posts have been few and far between recently. I will return to puppet related posts once the impact of this life changing event has settled :)

Take care - Dave

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hellyer's Puppet Workshop - Relocation Project

Some of you who follow me on twitter and youtube will know that over the summer I relocated my Puppet Building Workshop. It was a massive move - but great fun to do! Below is the full playlist from the whole week... enjoy:

Hope you're all well. Take care - Dave

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Hellyer's Puppet Workshop Etsy Store now open!

I've been experimenting with Etsy recently with the project I'm leading called Spraid (the spray paint urban art for good causes)... and I've really enjoyed it. So much so I've launched today the HellyersPuppets Etsy store!
The store only has one item so far as it is brand new and I am still trying to work out how best to use it... but that one item is a HPW favourite: Moe.

Moe is a live-hand (or human arm) puppet who is 21" high and has a total arm span of 44". If you want to check him out in his legendary status of first ever item in our Etsy store please click this link :)

Take care - Dave

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Monster Puppet: the handover!

So today is the day of the handover! After a week of frantic building the Green Monster (as yet un-named) he is ready to be handed over to the J247 team! Dave (not me.. another Dave) is going to be performing him. It's Dave's first time performing a real puppet character so he is obviously a man ready for a challenge... it's not an easy task for sure!

So what is special about the Green Monster? It can swallow small objects - unlike the majority of hand puppets the back of its mouth is open rather than closed. This alteration enables the character to swallow objects rather than just chew them up and spit them out.

Initially this was not an easy build to get my head around... but once I realized how I should go about it it all fell into place reasonably quickly. I decided to build the body of the puppet first so I could get into the build rather than continually sketching out ideas. I worked backwards in some ways, I completed the whole body and head before I even built the mouth... If I had waited until I had it all figured out before starting I would probably still be here tapping my pencil on a blank sheet of paper!

The J247 team is going to use the Green Monster as a part of their summer program, and if they find he works well they will roll him out as part of a more regular performance. It was a fun challenge to build and I learnt a lot whilst building him. I look forward to making another character that swallows items now I've figured out how it all works :)

Take care - Dave

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Monster in the making!

Recently I've been fortunate enough to have been performing and making videos for clients so I haven't needed to build many puppets. But just recently I had two commissions come in which I am excited about so I thought I'd write about them. The first one is a big green monster for a Children's Church group called J247 it's going to be a fun character when it's finished... especially as it's going to be able to eat things (including swallowing them!).
Swallowing was the main challenge to this character as it cuts across (literally) many of the conventional building techniques used for this sort of character.
Normally I would have the fabric lining the mouth plate double up as a hinge so to make a mouth that didn't need that made the old grey matter work a little more than usual.
In this picture you can see him in his current unfinished state (no features or hands at present). I have lined his mouth in black to disguise what it really is... basically it's a chute which allows small objects down it. It's only a first attempt at making a character like this, but so far it's working out well.
I'll post completed pictures soon to keep you up to date with how it all works out in the end!
Take care - Dave
ps if you're interested, here's my twitter details: @hellyersonline

Monday, 27 April 2009

crex81: a simple explanation

OK so many of the regular readers of my blog (well done to both of you!) will know I run a couple of YouTube channels.

hellyersonline is my own vlogging channel… it is anything and everything that I see and do in everyday life. Some of this will be puppet building videos and some of it will be silly comedy ideas and other bits will be holiday and family days etc. This channel aims to please 1 person only – me . I know the quality is mixed and I really don’t mind, I do it for my own amusement… and it amuses me that other people watch.

crex81 is a collection of puppetry videos that I have uploaded. There are no people (real humans) featured on the channel as regulars. I have had human guests and puppet characters interacting with humans… but the star has always remained the puppet. I have never intentionally shown my dace on this channel (it has sneaked into shot once or twice… but that’s another story). One question I do get asked from time to time is - what is crex81 – what does it mean? As you will have picked up from my Spraid blog I wrote a short while ago, I am really into spraycan art. I used to travel a lot and take photos of graffiti all the time. When I first started designing my own tags etc I came up with a name: “Creative Explosion”. Very simply crex was already taken as a username… and I couldn't be bothered to write out CreativeExplosion as a username all the time so I shortened it to crex81.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the latest video offering – Pierre playing Tennis on Wii Sports… it was filmed live and I was genuinely playing it with him. I hope some of the fun of the game translates to the screen it was a real laugh.

Take care - Dave

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Horse Puppet for SALE!

It seems that the Horse Puppet I designed a couple of years back is still quite popular... I've put one up on Ebay this week, so if you're interested please do check it out.

If you can't bid on this auction but your interested in having a horse puppet like this made for you please email me on:

Take care- Dave

Monday, 9 March 2009


Some of you may know that I do more than just build puppets... I run a community youth work project called the united bus and I'm also a keen footballer & mountain bike rider in my spare time.

However today none of that is the subject of this blog. Today we talk about spray can art! Last summer my Sister-in-law, my wife and I painted up 63 canvases 59 of which we sold for charity raising over £350.00. Because we received such a positive feedback from the work Spraid was born. Nearly 9 months later I am busy preparing for this summer's big push. I am hoping to raise enough money to not only send it to one charity this year - but to three!

If this is the sort of thing that interests you and you'd like to see some of the work I have been doing over the last couple of months search for "spraid art" on facebook. On the Spraid Art profile you'll see lots of photos of some of the art that will go on sale this summer.

Take care - Dave

Friday, 27 February 2009

FRENZY 09 introduces it’s first ever intern: Freddie Frenzy!

It’s always nice to see real puppets win out over CGI characters… and Frenzy have joined the list of companies that see the benefit of having a “real life” puppet character on staff rather than a cartoon character or CGI. They are releasing videos on youtube in a series to promote their event starring their (Jamaican) purple highland cow called Freddie Frenzy. Check out their launch video for Freddie below:

Monday, 19 January 2009

Puppet Building Race!

This past weekend we had Phil Fletcher from the Gluvets visit for a weekend of puppet building and banter! Phil last visited in late 2007 and has been a good friend of David and Shelley over the past few years. You can see from the video below that we had quite a lot of fun. Check out some of the characters Phil brought with him on the visit.
Pierre even found time to hang out with Paul Potts… watch out for him on Britain’s Got Talent later this year!
Over the weekend we planned out a couple of new puppet characters… one of which was at risk of not getting finished until inspiration struck – let’s have a race!

The idea was simple; Phil lives at the other end of the country from Hellyer’s Puppet Workshop so it would take him 4 hours to get home. This was the time given to me (David) to finish off the monster puppet they had started to build. It is important to note at this point that the monster puppet we were building is the trademark Gluvets Monster. Phil has been building monsters like this for years and he is very experienced at making them… I on the other hand have never built a character quite like it. The challenge then was for me to finish building Phil’s puppet before he got home. For those of you, who don’t like building under pressure, do not attempt this challenge! However if you’re up for a laugh and you like a bit of pressure in your workshop – try it! It really was great fun and I’m pleased to say I’m happy with the final puppet too!

To find out how the challenge went please watch the video below:

Take care – Dave
Ps - Dave and the completed Patterson Monster: