This week’s artist’s spotlight is on @yourfriendopal !
- How did you become a puppeter?
“hmmm good question, I guess I became one when I first got into a Snuff Puppet, they’re an organisation I idolise and now work for. I remember the first time putting one of their really scary skeleton puppets, and when I took it off I was a different person. I first saw the snuffles at Footscray station, and seeing these massive puppets, the Boom family, I knew it was something I had to peruse.
I struggled most of my young adulthood not really knowing what my medium was but knowing I was an artist. I grew up with friends who were incredibly talented painters, illustrators, film makers, my sister is a special effects make up artist and my grandparents were, amongst many other things, theatre makers. There are so many barriers to puppetry, especially the kind I work in which are full body giant puppets, they’re very expensive and time consuming to make, and once they’re built they live in my bedroom with me, watching and scaring people who’ve come back to mine.
I think I started calling myself a puppeteer after my first show in a festival, but have found that across mediums, not just puppetry, there can be a lot of imposter syndrome, sometimes I ask myself, “am I really a puppeteer? This is not my beautiful wife, how did I get here?”
And I remember that the most important thing to do is to believe in my work, because if you don’t believe in your work, why should anyone else?
That imposter syndrome keeps me present and in awe of how lucky I am that people trust me to bring horrible incredible things into the world. Who’d have thought this freak would be supported in doing this? I didn’t, until I did.”
2. How do you create a persona for every puppet you do? What is the process?
It really depends what they’re for!
They definitely all have their own personas, but I find he most interesting thing is other people putting on the puppets and seeing who’s persona comes out then!
Bringing a puppet to life is the wildest, funniest most experimental part of the whole thing.
The first big one I made was OOZLUM, a massive glittery bird from space. As time has gone on OOZLUM has really showed his true colours, she’s a bit of a party puppet and loves bashing down hallway on the way to the dance floor. It’s quite impractical being 7ft tall and about a meter wide but I guess that’s just the kinda bird they wanted to be. I love that bird a lot, their face makes me laugh often.
I’d create a puppet with an intention, but it isn’t until the puppeteer shares their heartbeat with it that it shows you who they really are.
I made a small horrible muppet style puppet for a show a few years ago called War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, these days you’re more likely to find him being used by me to lipsync Carpenters songs. you can really never tell who they’ll grow up to be.”
3. Who are your top 3 favorite puppets and why?
My puppets or other peoples? I’ll go with other peoples, my puppet-idols
I think the first time I was shaken to my core by a puppet was Slappy from the Goosebumps show, or was it a movie? I recently watched night of the living dummy 2 for the first time since I was little and damn, that little puppet is equally hilarious and terrifying. I remember why it scared me so much when I was a wee baby
A puppet that makes me laugh the most would be the Snuff Puppet’s Magpie. I’ve mostly seen my friend and puppet sibling Olivia (@sausagewoman) in it. Magpies have such funny creepy little movements anyway, seeing it sized up to larger than a human and watching it swoop and skip around makes me laugh a lot (not to mention how unhinged and hilarious it is when you just put the head on and run around with human legs poking out the bottom of a magpies head!)
And I think a lot of puppeteers have a soft spot for Punch and Judy, I grew up on a small island near the UK so I spent a lot of time at the beach or a place called “The Living Legend” that told the story of the island with puppets and horrific animatronics. It’s a tragedy that it closed down. The story is super hyper-violent, Punch playing a kind of squeaky voiced Ned Kelly, constant run ins and escapes from the law and sometimes features super hectic inter-spousal abuse and even infanticide.
It’s a super old show, it’s roots are in the 16th century. I wonder what it looks like now, and if they’re still doing such an unhinged show.
Puppetry has a superpower to be able to show things that if you showed with human actors would be a lot more “unacceptable”. I like being able to explore that boundary with them and audiences. “
4. What is the creative process for making a puppet?
“I usually start with a sketch, and decide if I’m going for a muppet style glove puppet or a giant one, or somewhere in between. Sometimes really big puppets still have glove mouths, like muppets, except you control their arms with pulleys instead of rods.
Big ones use things like cane to build their structures attached to a backpack with ropes and pulleys inside, and the smaller ones are felt and foam and ping pong balls for eyes.
I like creating a bit of a backstory for them and naming them, but they don’t really come to life until you’re able to put it on and, like I said earlier, share your heartbeat with them. Without the beating of your heart, they’re just objects and it’s only when you share your life force with them, do they become sacred objects that we ca use to better understand ourselves, by figuring out who they are, how they make audiences feel, and how they react to the world around them.”
5. Do you have any exciting events or news that you would like to share?
“Yes! I JUST this week received a grant and a space to create my first major work. it’s called HELLMOUTH22, and I’ll be working over the next few months to build a whole cast of new characters to tell the story of the last humans, the descendants of modern day billionaires who escaped into a pocket dimension when they realised the couldn’t get to mars to run away from climate change. It’s a show about loneliness, shortsightedness and the ways we recreate what we’ve been taught unless we make the decision to be different from the people that came before us.
It’ll be at The Bluestone Church Art Space in Footscray for Melbourne’s Frimge Festival 2022. See you there, maybe for the final late night Saturday showing??
And on July 8th at Collingwood Yards, Liang Luscombe will be showing Malamadre, a film I helped out on as Daphne, an intergalactic parasite who’s simply divine darling. If you’re around come check it out!
can’t wait to show you!”
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