Which Gyre & Gimble productions have you worked on?
The Elephantom was our first collaboration with Gyre & Gimble in 2014, creating the head sculpts for all of the puppets. Then a few years ago we created the the chimpanzee for their UK tour of The Hartlepool Monkey, designed by Toby and Finn. Prior to them founding Gyre & Gimble, Paul first collaborated with Toby and Finn to produce puppets for Tori Amos’s musical The Light Princess, at the National Theatre in 2013.
What other projects have you been working on recently?
We’re very fortunate to have worked across various entertainment platforms creating puppets for theatre, television and film, projects include the last four Star Wars movies and Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance series. In children’s television we have worked on Moon and Me, Teletubbies and In the Night Garden. We have also worked on a variety of stage shows from War Horse and The Lion King to In the Night Garden Live and the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. We are currently relishing the challenge of designing and making puppets for a production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid in Helsinki.
What training have you had?
Paul’s degree in illustration, specialising in character design combined with Becky’s degree in technical effects for the performing arts has provided the backbone of our knowledge. From there we’ve been fortunate to assist talented and inspiring artists and supervisors, who have furthered our learning.
How did you find your way into puppet making?
Following on from making puppets and short films during our degrees, we both did our fair share of work experience and working in trainee positions. This has helped us gain the wide variety of skills required to further our making knowledge. It’s been hard work but it’s important to embrace, improve and broaden your skill set.
What are the joys and challenges of making a puppet?
Every puppet is different, bringing its own set of challenges. Puppet making incorporates a multitude of skills, which is why we love it so much. We strive to find the perfect combination of technical sophistication with great design, every effort goes into finding the best solutions to create the perfect performance. The weight, usability and durability of the puppet is tested throughout our making process.
What career ambitions do you have for the future?
We’ve been so fortunate to work on some incredible projects, I guess all we can ask for is for that to continue into the years ahead.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into puppet-making?
Be prepared to work extremely hard and embrace learning new techniques. Experiment and explore with materials and manufacturing processes – the best way of learning is through doing.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, Paul was obsessed with being a medieval knight. He has fond memories of creating knight helmets out of cardboard boxes and making dragons with his grandparents. Both our childhoods were filled with watching films like ET, Labyrinth, Willow, Dark Crystal, Time Bandits, The Never Ending Story and Little Shop of Horrors which is probably the reason why we’ve ending up with careers making creatures!
Which five people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
1. Tom Hanks – we both grew up watching him on screen and would love to have the opportunity to have a chat about his career, who he is and how he finds so many lonely gloves!
2. The Queen – I mean, who better to have at a dinner party! We’re obsessed with Netflix series The Crown, and we both wonder what it would be like to be born into royalty. It would be amazing to find out what she enjoys doing at the weekends when not on official royal duties, if she likes red or white and how she actually feels about Brexit.
3. Paul’s Nanny Randall, who is no longer with us – she was a huge inspiration to Paul growing up and encouraged him to follow his dreams. It would be great to catch up with her and tell her all about what we’ve been up too.
4. Freddie Mercury – we both grew up listening to a lot of Queen, we’d like to know if the stories we’ve heard are true!
5. David Attenborough – he is the grandfather of everything, we adore him, just to listen to his voice makes our hearts warm.
What in your opinion makes a great puppet?
Great design that’s packed with character both visually and technically. Sometimes the most simplistic puppets have an incredible amount of charm.
Gyre & Gimble’s new puppet making course Creating Characters is running from 08 – 10 April in London. For more information and to apply, click HERE