It has been a week where I have thought a lot about the process of manipulating a puppet. Trying to take photographs of puppets looking for new homes, made me realise that the personality of each puppet is tricky to capture in a photograph aimed at attracting a new puppeteer. I wanted to hold each puppet in a way that expressed the essence of its character. I hoped it would make the right new owner feel touched in some way and then compelled to take the new friend home.
Of course, what I didn't think about is that the special relationship between the puppet and puppeteer is personal and unique to that union. I once saw a famous puppet being manipulated by someone other than his creator. You could see the new puppeteer's skill and knowledge of the character, but something special was missing. He hadn't made and developed the character himself, or didn't properly relate to him and it looked like a poor look-alike agency act. I think that same magic was missing from my photos. I was trying to push my interpretation onto something that would be better as a blank canvass, new and ready for someone else to pick up and create between the two of them - puppet and puppeteer.
When I introduce my puppets during a workshop, I make it clear that certain puppets are just for me to handle. These are defined character puppets and it would ruin the whole feel of the work if their magic was broken by another's hand. However, the puppets that are given out are totally up to each puppeteer to discover. We spend time looking into the puppet's faces, time moving our hands to find the best form of manipulation, time to ask our puppet what it likes to eat, what makes a good friend and what it likes about us? I see the relationship build quickly as the puppet becomes a friend and someone to express parts of the puppeteer that relate to the subject at hand. I love that moment when the puppet is cheeky, or naughty, or sensitive and funny as I see a part of the puppeteer expressed in such a safe way.
I am about to retake the photos for our website with more neutral puppet poses. I hope that a future puppeteer will see the potential and start the magical process of creating a bond as soon as the puppet arrives on their doorstep.