This week’s artist’s spotlight is on @natemfpuppets
- Tell me a little about yourself.
“Hello world, I am Nate Puppets let’s see, I’m… 6.6, half black and half Jewish, use a wheelchair sometimes, love movies and spaghetti….. Wait wrong about you…….
Hello! I am an Artist from Cleveland OH. Okay well obviously I’m an artist, this is an artist spotlight after all. I guess this is more about what I do as an artist so, let me get into that a bit. I’m a puppeteer and a cartoonist although I’m sure other people in the respected fields might possibly disagree with me. For the last decade and a half I’ve been roaming the city and country with my funky, furry, fabulous brain children, creating a true blue genuine what the actual fuck am I watching kind of experience that makes people say, “Oh my God, Helen! Grab the kids I’ll start the car!”
2. What make you interested in pursuing puppets as an art form?
“I have always loved puppets, that is not an exaggeration I don’t remember a time I didn’t like puppets. My first puppet I got at 2 or 3 (maybe?) A lion ( more on him later) I even have a picture of me and him I sajd “Mommy I’m not taking a picture without my lion”. So ya know, I’m a true 90’s baby, I was a baby in the 90’s and man! Did they have a lot of puppet shows back then. We had Sesame Street, Barney (I fucking loved Barney and am no longer ashamed to admit it ) The Puzzle Place, Dudley The Dragon etc, etc but man, specifically Nick Jr those where my favorites. Eureeka’s Castle and Allegra’s Window are the two that really stick out to me. I mean, look at them, they where so cool. These bright, soft, colorful, friendly creations that you just wanna hug, amazing’s. It’s funny, a few years ago I was feeling rather uninspired and my friend had a tape with. an episode of Eureeka’s Castle and BOOM it was like I remembered exactly why I even picked this up in stuff the first place, they’re so cool, how could you not want to pursue this? The actual pursuit of puppetry starts at 11 with Ventriloquism of all things. I got really into ventriloquism at that age because of The Night Of The Living Dummy, I was in a really bad situation at the point (Oh the tragedy of it all! ) and was reading super heavy, I read two and a half of the original three and just said, that’s it I’m becoming a ventriloquist. I did ventriloquism for a few years and got really good at it, then suddenly I see something from my childhood in the library…
The Muppet Christmas Carol
It’s been a good long while since I caught this flick so I grab it and HO-LEE SHIT I am blown away, that was it I no longer wanted to be a ventriloquist, I wanted to do that. I wanted to be a puppeteer (yes they’re different) so come hell or high water that’s what I was gonna do. I built my first puppets at the end of my sophomore year of high school, the rest as they say is history.”
3. What are some of your favorite puppets that you created and why?
“Oh God it’s hard to choose without worrying that I’m gonna hurt feelings
There’s Lion who’s really my lion from childhood who’s now grown up and a successful actor in the world of experimental underground theater. I lost at an early age like 10, it really seemed like my life started falling apart at that time. So Lion is officially “The Long Lost Lion” we were separated for years and now we’ve reunited. Lion is still very much the same soul he was when I was a little kid, it’s like having my buddy back in my life.
There is Rickety Rat a true fan favorite. The paranoid, bipolar conspiracy slinging, rat and his cryptic slogan VOTE RICKETY RAT. I designed him the day Disney announced they were buying Fox (Man that makes me angry) I was doing a lot of cardboard art at that time, so I’m at the old job getting angry that another conglomerate is growing bigger so I’m just thinking Mickey with a bullet in his brain. I come home, draw that up, cut it out and think wow, that’d be a sick puppet. I hadn’t made a puppet in years and at that point was actually back on Ventriloquism. Something took over and the rat was born
Winkleperry the psychedelic Pegasus pony ( NSFW) who’s Rickety’s best friend, who’s a generally kinda slurry fella. Winkleperry is love with Rickety Rat, Rickety Rat is not in love with Winkleperry but, will willingly have sex with Winkleperry (even though he is straight) for two reasons, one he’s his best friend and two Winkleperry has a very specialized ability. Winkleperry’s species produce a highly pyschoactive chemical to give them a better orgasm. This chemical leaks from the nose , mouth and genitals for the most amazing trip of your entire life. Rickety is one of the few living beings that knows this.
There’s Tubby who’s a shitty kid with a sandwich sticking out of bis mouth, that he speaks through. Tubby is the face of a of a terrible sandwich franchise that openly violates the health code. I love Tubby because his design is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever come up with and I really don’t know any other puppet like him.
Finally my newest creation is Petey The Puppet. Petey is a marionette who cut his own strings so no one could Last year was rather crazy, I had a mental breakdown and the beginning of that I attended and participated in a black puppetry festival at UCONN. At this festival we learned that the first true original American puppets were blackface minstrels. Fun fact, I’ve been studying blackface since I was 9, and had dealt with seeing blackface puppets my whole puppeteering life and they had been dealt with in a very shitty way “it was history” I ended up rabbit holing into blackface and even wrote a full very intense play. So a year goes that I’m working on by now I need healing and relief because this year is fucking NUTS already. I really start to think about black puppets again, and how few there really truly are. Then I think of all the black children back in the day and how they couldn’t see themselves in shows like Howdy Doody and other puppets on TV. Then I start to what black puppets did I actually see on TV myself? I came up with Cousin Skeeter and Leon from The Puzzle Place (also Clifford from Muppets Tonight) I also remembered the multiple hours I would spend on the internet looking for a black puppet of my own and not finding a single one I liked. Enter Petey, a huge wave pf relief from this long struggle of identity within the puppet world and myself I felt like a kid all over again when he was done, I’m really looking forward to his future.”
4. What is “The Underground World”?
“The Underground World? The Underground World is The Nate Puppets extended universe!
This is where all my puppets coexist even of they are not aware of it. There’s the two cities (at the moment) There’s ClEVE-Land where Rickety and Company live and theirs Rauppetsburg where The Slack Pack live (my Ventriloquist dummies) I could never truly give them up so I gave them territory. There is also the holy council which Lion actually sits on. The world itself exist both within the puppets and my cartoon work.
CLEVE-Land is like the city of Cleveland on 100, a super fast bright colorful never ending landscape of chaos and silliness.
The Current residents are Rickety Rat, Winkleperry, Peanut Butta an Elephant pinup and superstar, Odd Cat a singing Alley Cat, Chester Cheese a large corporate figure head , King Danny a monstrous murderous circus gorilla, Hoggie a Miss Piggy, Divinesque madame, Tubby, DJ Octoid an octopus DJ, and Petey The Puppet .
Rauppetsburg is The home of The Slack Pack. Rauppetsburg is like Cleveland loud and bright but a new drug has hit the streets called Liquid Sugar. Liquid Sugar is there when life gets you down, the city is so chaotic and noisey it can actually bore you of it’s your everyday life and liquid sugar can take off that edge. Rauppetsburg is also infested with Clowns. Goblin creatures that are harmless scavengers that communicate with garbage and are actually what inspired the human Clown performers of today.
The Slack Pack consists of
Skylar who is a young aspiring film documentary maker and modern vaudevillian out to expose the truth of liquid sugar once in for all
Chipper who at 9 years old, is the worlds greatest juvenile delinquent and Rauppetsburg public enemy number 1. A child of two of the world’s greatest crime lords Chipper has established himself as the true Kingpin of Liquid Sugar, wanna stop him ? You can’t, you probably never will and if you try, good luck it ain’t ending pretty. One quick rummage through the toy chest and your ass is grass
Then there’s Bendy, the sweetest, nicest, most vomit inducing little Clown you ever want to meet. Bendy spends his time with the garbage and couldn’t be happier. He just needs to look out for The Clown Squad, luckily Skylar’s got his back and gets him out of harms way when needed.
Skylar and Chipper hate each other’s guts. Skylar and Bendy are friends, but Chipper can’t stand Bendy, but Bendy is so sweet and kind he has no idea, so it’s up to Skylar to keep Bendy close to him and keep him safe.
The Council consist of the most powerful beings.
As was said, Lion is part of the council
We also have Lobo who is my first real character. A large, rude, loud mouth party monster.
Sunshine Tea who is part of the aforementioned play is also part of the council. Sunshine is a Mammy figure that I created to put blackface in a proper context. She serves as an early seed in black American puppetry and spiritually as an earth mother figure. (I wonder about the La Madama spirit) *She really does not appear often in my work and never in my shows outside of the play , she is there as a reminder of a dark and painful past and how far black Americans and citizens of the world have come, and to fight and keep pushing forward
And Brer Rabbit, a traditional character within story telling and puppetry. Stories that helped slaves survive Brer Rabbit belonged nowhere but the council.
It’s still developing, but man I love it. I want it to go further, there’s so much in my head about it that I’ve gotta do something with it.
5. If you had a chance to work with your top 3 icons in a puppet show: Who would they be and why? (Be as descriptive as possible)
Ugh this is hard!!!!
Okay, okay George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic.
I think it would be amazing to create some kind of crazy bright, colorful, furry puppet world for them. I love Parliament one of my favorite bands ever
A Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Underground World crossover!!! Ahhh!!! I mean c’mon, it’s PeeWee’s Playhouse one of the most artistic shows on television, it clearly had some kind of deep psychological impact on me. Even working with Wayne White on something would be a dream come true, I LOVE his puppet work, hell all of it but, c’mon, puppets.
The last on my mind is Kara Walker. I got super into her work last year when I wrote my play, there’s supposed to be shadow puppets in it and in all honesty if she wanted to help, I would lose my mind. Her shadow and if I had the opportunity to work with her on the shadow portion of the play and staging and tone, ugh so good
This section was a little tough honestly, I didn’t want to leave it blank but, honestly I’m not sure I fully know anymore. I’ve had some real incredible opportunities to meet and work with some of my absolute heroes in puppetry. At this point I don’t know who I would want to work with because my work has become so much of it’s own thing. I love seeing what gets made and what they’re coming up with but this is so personal it’s actually really hard to think who I want to include
(You can do what you want with that 🙂 )
5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to share
“Unfortunately due to the current COVID19 Pandemic I don’t have much to announce at the moment, but boy do I hope to in the future. I have a lot of projects in the pipeline that I’m ready to work on and produce, I’m ready full Spongebob mode “I’M READY!” If you’d clime to hear more please follow me on my social medias
I’m Nate Puppets, thanks for having me! GOODNIGHT! “
If you like to learn more about Nate and his puppets the following contact information is below: