May 27th, 2009


Balticon Review: The Mur Lafferty & J.C. Hutchins Puppets

Jared and I love making puppets. It's the only sculptural form of art that I do. I rarely sew, paint or sculpt unless I'm in a class specifically for sewing, painting or sculpting.

But I do love to make puppets. This year, we've made six, including these two puppets, who are made in the likeness of our friends, Mur Lafferty and J.C. Hutchins. Mur and J.C. are novelists, podcasters and new media professionals. They also make great puppets.

Though the process was largely collaborative, I made the Mur puppet and Jared made the J.C. puppet. I made Mur because I like Mur and because she is very distinctive - she often has purple hair and at conventions can often be found wearing one of her t-shirts from her podcast novels. Distinctive qualities are important to puppet making.

We unveiled the J.C. puppet at one of J.C.'s readings, where J.C. walked into the room where he was supposed to do a reading only to find a little version of himself at the front of the room. His smile made it all worthwhile. Puppet Mur was unveiled at the New Media costume party, where this photo was taken.

Later in the weekend, Jared and I got asked if we are going to make more people puppets. I think it's likely. We enjoyed making the Mur and J.C. puppets because we really like Mur and J.C. and we thought they would enjoy little versions of themselves.

As to who we are going to make puppets of, well, that depends on our complex puppet making matrix, which consists of such factors as "Do we like you?" and "Do we already have your color hair in our supplies" and "Do we feel like making a puppet of you?"

Each puppet takes from four to five hours to complete. The Mur puppet took five hours – cutting the thick foam for the body structure, dying the flesh tone fabric, cutting out fabric for the arms and face, cutting t-shirt fabric, constructing the foam, building on the detail pieces –nose, hair, eyelashes, ears – hand sewing the flesh, stuffing the puppet, all of that takes time and concentration. To put in that much effort, I have to be interested in the look of the puppet I am creating, or have some fondness for the person I’m making it for, or most likely, both.

Each puppet costs - well, a difficult to determine amount -with parts and labor, I would say roughly about $400 a puppet. Foam is cheap, sure, but the felt only comes from one place in the US and the detailing adds up. It's something you do for love really, not money.

So I promise nothing on this front. Jared and I are toying with the idea of creating some puppets of other podcasters and writers that we know and love in order to have an entire panel of puppets at a convention, likely the puppet-friendly Balticon- but that all depends on time and money.

It's lots of fun though - we love our puppets and our friends and this is a way to celebrate them both.

Mur Lafferty & J.C. Hutchins by Jared Axelrod. puppet form.
Photo by William Hoffacker

More puppet pictures: