File puptcrit/puptcrit.0509, message 79

Date: Wed, 7 Sep 2005 20:34:43 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Dwiggins/ wooden marionettes

It seems to me that the whole point of Dwiggins'
contribution to Puppetry has been missed, and this
discussion has turned into a pissing match about the
merits of carving a marionette from wood. 

 It isn't like Dwiggins invented wood, he just used it
as the best available material of the time that worked
for him. Heck, he made rubber hands, because that
seemed like a better idea at the time. His
contribution was his theory of the balanced
marionette, and his particular way of jointing his

I think we all agree that his sculptures were
beautiful--no one said they weren't. While Jim's tone
may sound a little derogatory to some, his point was
simply that someone starting out to do touring shows
should not be too slavish to the Dwiggins design,
using it as a reference. 

After all, Dwiggins didn't tour (least not as far as I

For puppeteers, there is always the tension between
the practical problems of a show and the artistic
desires of the creators. Where we draw the lines
between the two is what shapes us as creators. But
lets show a little respect for both.

Greg Ballora

--- wrote:

> I think it's reasonable to assume that Jim Gamble's
> career is unique.  He is 
> one of the few puppeteers here who travels
> extensively abroad. The 
> circumstances of 9/11 have impacted us all, but
> especially those who travel for a living. 
> Weight and spacial considerations are critical when
> it comes to travel. And, 
> too, the financial bottom line....
> Albrect Roser and Phillip Huber both have been
> affected by these same 
> considerations. 
> Albrecht, because of new restrictions and logistics,
> and partly due to age, 
> has suggested that he will not perform here again.
> (His marionettes are 
> relativly light.) Our loss. 
> Phillip has mentioned weight as well. Though I do
> believe that some of his 
> marionettes are made using some wood. In his last
> note he mentioned that he was 
> trying to keep the weight down on a marionette he
> was working on. He travels a 
> lot as well....
> So the point concerning weight is well made - for
> those who plan to make a 
> living with puppets by traveling abroad.  
> Just a couple of points to put this into
> perspective:  
> Puppeteers can still make a living in this country
> using marionettes made 
> mostly of wood or a combination of wood and other
> materials. The travel/wieght 
> restrictions are almost non exsistant. (Except for
> gas, now.)  It depends more 
> on what you are willing to do to perform a
> satisfactory show. 
> Granted, that after a while, one does examine how
> one might make it easier on 
> one's self, especially as one gets older and for one
> whose stamina isn't what 
> it used to be...As Jim observed a few weeks back
> here on Puptcrit, I am a few 
> years older than he is and it shows. But I still
> choose to continue. I 
> certainly do not now maintain the performing
> schedule Jim  does... But I am 
> acquainted with the realities of touring. I, too,
> can say 'been there  - done that.'
> My marionettes are made mostly of wood and other
> materials and are around 29" 
> tall on average. NONE weighs in at more than FIVE
> pounds. No kidding. I just 
> did a test. My heaviest - Pierott - weighs exactly
> five pounds.  29" tall. All 
> wood except the head....
> David Syrotiak's marionettes are still made mostly
> of wood and (I think) 
> Neoprene heads. Same size. He and his company are
> still going strong. I believe he 
> has done some travel abroad in recent years.
> I have studied with Albrecht and like some of his
> methods of fabricating a 
> marionette with aircraft ply (birch ply) and (for
> want of a better word) light 
> wood skeletons. I also like some of his methods for
> using light weight 
> materials to fill out a form. 
> While I have not totally embraced his methods, I
> have used modified versions 
> with some success. I have learned much from
> Albrecht... But when I want a 
> special look or feeling and feel that only carved
> wood can give me what I want, I 
> use wood.
> Neoprene is something I have never used. But I have
> seen it in use and choose 
> NOT to use it. While it may be the 'material du
> jour' for some (many, 
> actually,) I prefer the natural qualities of natural
> materials. Yet not all of my 
> materials of choice are natural. I use what allows
> me to achieve the look and 
> feel and effect I want.
> One other consideration, though  I doubt that any of
> my stuff will end up in 
> anyone's collection, is that I KNOW from experience
> and observation that many 
> marionettes made of wood, fabric and Plastic Wood
> have lasted for at least 70 
> years and many of those are still in working order. 
> I don't know that I can 
> say that about Neoprene. Who can???
> I know that latex and foam have very short lives as
> puppet building 
> materials... Hands that Rufus made in the 50s of
> latex have not stood the test of time. 
> So I am a little suspect of some synthetics. 
> I still make my hands of wood. 
> Rather than dismiss ANY methods or materials as
> being out dated or 'antique,' 
> I think it more reasonable to suggest that these
> methods no longer hold any 
> interest or use for you.  I hate to prolong this
> diatribe, but since Jim used 
> the analogy of the Victrola  and the quality (or
> lack of) of that sound - I 
> want to say that despite the so-called
> 'improvements' in sound reproduction since 
> the radio days, many folks are returning to TUBE
> amplifiers through which to 
> play their vinyl recordings, because of the warmer
> tones one can achieve.) So 
> much for progress... Sorry. 
> I have to say that for me, I still find inspiration
> and instruction from 
> studying Dwiggins' sculpts, (WONDERFUL sculpts,) his
> construction ideas and  
> stringing.  
> I always use Rufus as my prime example, but I would
> challenge anyone to study 
> Rufus' innovative control designs or stringing
> methods and say that THEY were 
> outmoded. We have made some advances and I don't
> deny that.  But to REALLY 
> UNDERSTAND just how brilliant Rufus was as a
> designer and puppeteer would humble 
> us all. Even now....50 years later...Or some of us,
> maybe...
> When I teach workshops, I always mention that THIS
> is the way ---> I <--- 
> choose to build.  This is NOT the ONLY way. But this
> way works for ME. I always 
> hope that those in my classes will take what I've
> shared with them and use that 
> information to go far beyond what I have done.  I
> like to think that I also 
> show them WHY rather than just HOW.
> So Dwiggins, Rose, Roser, and others for me, rather
> than being outdated or 
> outmoded are TIMELESS in that they continue to teach
> those willing and open to 
> learn.
> Some of us sadly, have stopped learning....
> Thanks,
> Best,
> Fred Thompson...
> In a message dated 9/7/05 8:52:55 PM,
> writes:   My remarks 
> were for those who might want to actually make a
> living with 
> puppetry today.   Go ahead and make heavy wood
> carved marionettes that weight 
> 10-12 pounds each.   It's your choice.    Then try
> to tour with them. 
>  I did it in my 20s, but it tears up the back after
> a few years...   And 
> touring the world via airlines is different today,
> or haven't you noticed?   
> FWIW..Jim Gamble >>
> writes:
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