PROFESSIONAL PUPPET MAKERS
MORE THAN 20 YEARS’ OF PUPPETRY DESIGN FOR THEATRE, FILM AND TV
The best puppets seem as real to an audience as a flesh and blood actor. Their gestures, their facial expressions, their movements all grab hold of the imagination and make us suspend disbelief. We can make puppets that achieve this for you.
Over the years, we’ve created puppets of every conceivable shape, size and mechanism. We’ve worked with national touring theatre companies, TV production teams, educational organisations and global pop tours.
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PROFESSIONAL PUPPET MAKERS- CREATING YOUR PUPPET’S PERSONA
We’ll work closely with you to understand how each puppet will be used and to pinpoint the best materials and techniques to bring your creative vision to life. We think about the puppet’s personality and how they will connect and interact with audiences.
Every aspect is designed to suit your individual requirements. Nothing is too big or small. No idea unachievable. If you can imagine a puppet, we can create it. We can also provide spare parts, costume changes, custom-made props and bespoke scenery.
If you’re not sure what you need, we can advise you based on our practical experience as touring puppetry performers and studio artists.
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“We asked for a Bear we got an AWESOME Bear!!”
Dancing bear costume | Denise Quail | Minstrel players
SOME OF OUR CLIENTS
Walkers Crisps | Nestle | Innocent Muller | Cadburys | Pepsi Co | Specsavers | Tayto Crisps | Water Aid | Wildlife trust | Sainsbury | Simon and Schuster publishers | Science Museum
OUR PUPPET MASTER
Our lead designer and company owner Liz Johnson specialised in puppetry and walkabout costumes during her degree in Costume Design. She joined a puppetry company for a few years after graduation and became known for her talent in creating big scale puppetry.
In 2000, she established Promotional Props and Costumes, and has been creating puppets and costumes ever since. She is also a sessional lecturer in Costume Design and Making BA(HONS) at Nottingham Trent University.
Liz’s experience in and love of the theatre is never more evident than in the creation of puppets.
The Power of Puppets
Puppets have been entertaining the British public for hundreds of years. Manuscripts from the 14th Century include pictures of glove puppets performing in a booth.
As society developed and more people had leisure time, puppet shows became popular. This led to performers and puppet makers establishing troupes to travel around with touring plays.
In the 18th Century, puppet theatre became the most fashionable adult entertainment. Puppets on strings known as marionettes were the performing style of choice.
Theatres were established and plays featuring Punch and Judy launched the historical characters that we still know today.
The entertainment value and role of puppets has evolved throughout history. In modern times puppets are often perceived as children’s entertainment, but their use in stage shows continues to broaden their appeal.
As with many types of entertainment, people want variety and to see something new. This is one of the many reasons that puppet performances are so popular.
Puppets allow the creation of a character from any material available. From the traditional wooden marionette to the modern plush ventriloquist dummies, the options for a performer are unlimited. It can make the job of puppet makers challenging as they need to know how to work with a wide range of materials.
Here are some examples of the most popular types of puppet:
Glove / Hand puppets
Along with finger puppets, these are one of the simplest forms of puppets. With some simple craft skills, it is easy to make your own hand puppet.
Hand puppets are great for a single puppeteer to work with two characters, one on each hand. A famous example is how Mathew Corbett performed with Sooty and Sweep.
In the early days of puppet theatre, hand puppets were easy to transport and set up for performances. The well-known Punch and Judy show often featured hand puppets with papier mache heads that were painted with classic details.
A marionette (string) puppet is the classic example of a puppet. The skill required by the puppet makers and performers was well respected in the 18th Century. It was considered an impressive talent to create and perform life-like characters in an amusing way.
As entertainment choices grew in the 19th Century, the costs involved with marionette puppets reduced their popularity. Therefore, we now know the traditional Punch and Judy show with hand puppets and not marionettes.
Surprisingly, it was the television industry in the 1950s that sparked a resurgence for marionette puppet makers. It was a mule marionette puppet made in the 1930s that started the trend.
First aired in 1946, Muffin the Mule was the first programme devised especially for BBC television. The dancing mule on the piano captured the attention of a nation of children and parents.
The success of Muffin the Mule paved the way for other popular marionette TV shows such as ‘Bill and Ben’ and ‘Thunderbirds’.
The origins of shadow puppets are found in Asia. In China and Indonesia, shadow puppets were used to tell historical stories, and the technique has been passed down through generations.
In Europe, as other puppet performances became popular in the 18th Century, so did shadow puppets. The materials and set requirements made it an easy to access form of theatre.
Traditionally shadow puppets were made of leather, but cheaper materials like paper and wood are just as effective. The shadow puppets are controlled by long rods and moved behind a white translucent screen made of fabric or paper.
The shadows are created by a source of light behind the puppeteer. Details on the puppets are created by cutting out of shapes to let the light shine through.
Life-Size / Giant Puppets
The impressive presence of a life-size or giant puppet makes them great for catching the attention of large crowds or in theatrical performances.
Large puppets are created by puppet makers to be worn by actors or performers. The War Horse stage show puppet has three performers to manipulate all the movements required.
Giant puppets are created for promotional events and celebrations like parades. They are used to tell a story or to be part of an entertaining performance.
The Role of Puppet Makers
The creation of a character puppet for performance and entertainment needs to consider a wide range of requirements.
If the puppet is required for regular performances, the materials used for construction need to be durable. Puppet makers need to understand all the movements required by the puppet, so they must know about every element of the performance, from setting up to packing away.
To ensure good manoeuvrability, the materials need to be lightweight. The expressions and actions that the puppet needs to do are carefully planned.
As explained by puppet maker Bob Flanagan ‘even the slightest hand gesture or a tilt of the head can speak volumes that actors or lines can’t always get across.’
At promotional props and costumes, we really enjoy working on bringing a puppet character to life. As shown by the famous puppets in history, they really can be the star of the show.