I have a YouTube channel that’s all about puppets and puppetry. To make videos, I need to have puppets to work with, and more and more often, I’ve been making newer characters a lot faster than I used to. When I first started working with puppets, I didn’t know much about making custom puppets or sewing or making a pattern or any of it, so it would often take me weeks to several months to create a puppet that I liked.
Now I can reliably make a puppet that I’m happy with within a week, and if it’s something that I can make by simplifying the process by a lot, I can put it together in a day or less. Most of the time, when I make a quick puppet, I cut a lot of corners that don’t bother me because I can hide the flaws on camera (or go back and fix them later), but it’s not something I’d like to show people in person.
First and foremost, I’m a video maker and a puppet performer, and making new puppets is, to me, a means to an end where I get to play the characters I make. I’m never quite satisfied with the puppets as puppets, because I’ve seen and performed with professional-grade puppets made by artists of the craft, and I’m not at that level yet.
Lately, I’ve been getting requests from friends and viewers to make puppets for them. It’s flattering, for sure, having the things I’ve made be seen as so well-made as to motivate someone to want to commission me to build something for them. However, I’m not a custom puppet maker. As I mentioned above, I’m a puppeteer who performs with the things he makes, but I’m not someone who wants to make a living sewing or building puppets for other people.
This brings up an interesting subject to me. Often, we’ll see artists doing something that impresses us and want part of that for ourselves. A painter who likes to make landscapes may be able to paint you a portrait, but it’s up to the individual artist to determine whether or not they wish to divert themselves away from the things they’re currently making in order to make something especially for you.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t ask, if you’re really interested in getting something handmade by the person you like. However, realize that often the art you want to see from someone is something they may not be interested in making, so it’s very important to respect that creative path. And if you can, support the art that the person is making. A lot of the people who have asked me for custom puppets have never shown any interest in watching the videos I make with the puppets I’ve built, and while I can’t force their hands (or eyes and ears) to do that, it would really mean a lot if the people who said, “Could you make me a puppet?” knew enough about what I’ve made and what they’ve done in my primary creative outlet to say something about it.
This is a little rambling and personal, but it’s important to me. I always try to approach artists in the way that is respectful of the work they’re doing and present my commission request as a fan and not just someone who sees an opportunity to use the closest (or cheapest) set of talented hands to make the thing I have in my own head, so I encourage others to do the same.
Support the art that artists are making, rather than the art you necessarily think they should be making. You may be surprised at how much you like it!