Which Gyre & Gimble productions have you worked on?
Running Wild was my first Gyre & Gimble experience, back in 2015. We spent a very lovely summer in Chichester, creating a tiger, an elephant and a whole family of orangutans …among others! This was followed by The Grinning Man, and most recently I was involved in the fabrication of The Hartlepool Monkey puppet, working at Stitches & Glue.
What other projects have you been working on recently?
Alongside my puppet making work, I have also worked in creature fabrication for film and TV. I was lucky enough to be involved in three of the recent Star Wars films. Other major projects include Moon and Me, a new children’s TV series for CBBC. Most recently, a real dream come true, I spent a year working on the new Dark Crystal series for Netflix.
What training have you had?
I completed the Art Foundation course at Wimbledon and then studied Theatre Design at Nottingham Trent.
How did you find your way into puppet making?
I always knew I wanted to make things and found myself being most satisfied when making something that has a sense of character or a story to tell. I started specialising in puppetry at university not only because it was the most fun, but it allowed me to use a range of different practical skills too.
What are the joys and challenges of making a puppet?
I love the early stages of making a puppet, when it suddenly becomes a thing you can manipulate – that’s always quite exciting. There’s also a lot of problem solving from beginning to end, which is both a joy and a challenge! Another challenge might be getting the movement for a specific character just right, but the main one is usually keeping the weight down for the puppeteer.
What career ambitions do you have for the future?
Continuing to do what I love, whilst working alongside the people that inspire me. So far, I have managed to do a nice mix of theatre, film and TV work, which I hope to keep up. They are all very different so having that balance is perfect.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into puppet-making?
Talk to and meet as many people in the field as possible. You never know what opportunities it can lead to. I did a lot of work experience, not all of it puppet specific. And generally just lending a hand in art departments – that allowed me to make a lot of different contacts when I was first starting out.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had the standard childhood dream of becoming a vet. My mum however told everyone I was going to be an engineer…maybe in some ways being a puppet maker is a funny mish-mash of both of those things?!?
Which five people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
1. Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, who wrote The Edge Chronicles – Beyond the Deepwoods was probably the first thing that got me into the world of creatures.
2. Charles Fréger – I imagine he’s got some amazing stories from photographing the Wilder Mann series.
3. Louis Theroux – because I think he’d be a lovely dinner party guest, keeping the conversation at an appropriate level of being both awkward and interesting.
4. Felicity Cloake, the Guardian food writer – because I could literally talk about food, in detail, all evening.
5. Jan Švankmajer, surrealist filmmaker – because his work is bizarre and amazing. I think he’d be a lot of fun.
What in your opinion makes a great puppet?
This is a hard one to answer! I think it depends on so many different factors. One of my favourite performances ever was L’Après Midi d’un Foehn, by theatre company Non Nova. They transformed plastic bags into ballet dancers through the use of electric fans: probably some of the simplest puppets I have ever seen and yet completely magical. So I guess maybe what makes a great puppet is one that offers the appropriate range of movement, expresses a strong sense of character, and is sensitive to its environment. But I’m always learning new things about what makes a great puppet, and never want that to stop. That’s the joy of puppet making!
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