ThePuppetForge

Quality puppets for beginners to professionals!

Minneapolis, Minnesota | 106 Sales

ThePuppetForge

Quality puppets for beginners to professionals!

Minneapolis, Minnesota 106 Sales On Etsy since 2013

5 out of 5 stars
(29)

Announcement   The Puppet Forge creates unique, professional puppets for your puppet show, stage production, television show, commercial or web series!

Announcement

The Puppet Forge creates unique, professional puppets for your puppet show, stage production, television show, commercial or web series!

Gordon Smuder

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Gordon Smuder

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5 out of 5 stars
(29)
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About

Ordering Custom Puppets

I've been getting many inquiries about building custom puppets. So I've decided to put some information here to help folks understand my process.

The flat out facts:

The puppets you see in my etsy store are what I call "stock puppets". They are all made from existing patterns in multiples. And they are priced accordingly.

Please do not base your custom puppet budget on the prices you see in my etsy storefront. You will be disappointed and shocked when we discuss your custom project.

When I am engaged to create a custom puppet, the typical time involved is usually between 40 and 60 hours, depending on the detail and quality level desired by the client.

I charge $20 an hour to make custom puppets. Plus materials costs and shipping.

So it is not uncommon for a custom puppet to cost between $800 and $1500.

I do not hold it against anyone when they are surprised at this cost. Most people do not have experience with commissioning a custom puppet, so it is commonplace to underestimate. And that is not a crime nor does it offend me. There are many things about making a custom puppet that most people just don't know. So I try every day to help educate folks.

The process of creating a custom puppet isn't just sitting down to a sewing machine and stitching one up. The process begins with the design, typically a character drawing provided by the client.

I carefully examine that drawing taking into consideration the proportions, details, overall size, colors, and movements of the puppet. Typically I will provide the clients with a design drawing to let them have a better understanding of what I can build for them.

I create the understructure of most puppets out of foam which is usually a custom pattern. Starting by carving the main shapes from a hard foam over which I make the first pattern.
That pattern is used to make a soft foam test body. This is necessary when accuracy is needed in the shapes comprising the puppet. It also allows me to test-fit the head and the body and make adjustments to size and contour.

That test pattern is altered and finalized and re-constructed in quality foam to serve as the final head and body forms for the puppet.
This process can take up to 16 hours by itself. But it assures a quality result.

Patterning the skin is the next task. Not only do the head and body need to be covered, but patterns for arms and other appendages like ears, noses, legs, feet, tails and the like need to be generated. Part of this process is called "draping" and it requires fitting test fabric to the head and body to make the base pattern to cover them. If that "skin" needs to be of more than one variety of fabric (say fleece and fur together) that's when those seam lines are added. The fabric pattern is transferred to paper for stability, and the final fabric parts are cut from the "hero" fabric(s).

Some seams are engineered to be sewn by machine, and some seams are stitched by hand.

All the details must then be created to match the character design. The most labor intensive detail being the character's eyes. I make custom vacuum-formed plastic eyes for most of the custom puppets I do. Matching a character's eyes is vital and the only way to do it is from scratch in most cases. The vacuum forming process is technical and labor-intensive. A hard mold must be created to form the plastic over. That's a whole specialty in itself.

Detailing out the puppet might mean adding individual warts or bumps or spots by the hundreds. Is it a dragon? Then it gets a spiny ridge down its back. Is it a bunny? Then it needs long ears that support themselves or are posable. Is it a hairy monster? Then all the pattern parts need to be trimmed on the stitching edges by hand to avoid trapping fur in the seam.

Consideration is given though the entire process to how the puppet will be performed. Does it have arm rods? Should they be permanent or removable? Does the puppeteer put her hand in through the bottom or through the back of the head or body? Does the puppet need legs and should they be removable for flexibility in performances? Will the character require clothing and how will the clothing be changed if necessary?

And the list goes on.

I hope this summary will help you understand the process of making a custom puppet.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!

Shop members

  • Gordon

    Owner

    I am the owner of the hands that make the puppets. I retired from a 25 year career in special effects and advertising to build and perform puppets full-time. If you'd like to see more of my work, visit www.thepuppetforge.com

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