Welcome Back!

Hello, fellow readers! So sorry for the long time away, but hopefully with a new semester of classes and teaching starting, I’ll have some more wonderful posts for you!

Just wanted to share a few photos of the wonderful fur I’ve ordered from Mendel’s in California.  They are the only supplier I use to buy my puppet fur, because they are AMAZING! I have been beyond thrilled with their customer service, their quality of materials and shipping, and their vast inventory of fur textures, colors and patterns.  Plus they do so much more than just fur!! Go to their website and check it out. You won’t regret it. PLUS from now until September 5, 2012, everything in your order is 25% off!  WOOHOO!! 🙂

I ordered these furs for my advanced puppet class this fall.  They use them with the Mostro pattern from Project Puppet.com.  The results are wonderful! (and hopefully I’ll be able to upload photos of their creations this summer as well in the next few weeks!) Again, this is the only supplier I use for my patterns, as they are wonderfully designed, easy to follow, and practically foolproof!! (To date, I’ve used all their patterns in the monster and simple series, with students aged 7 to 17, and no one has failed to finish a puppet yet!)

Enjoy the photos below, and check back soon for more updates!

Monster Hair Plug fur – lime green base with teal “plugs”

Monster Hair Plug fur – teal base with green “plugs”

Monster Hair Plug fur — Orange base, pink “plugs”

Back to Melty Goodness… Part 2

Having finally figured out where my photos go to when I sync my phone, I was able to recover some more photos of the melted crayon art I posted in Melty Goodness.  So, for those of you who were wondering what happened to the rest of that post… here it is!

So. When last we’d left you, I’d pointed out the importance of using a new glue gun and not one that had already had glue in.  I’m going to assume you’ve procured such a glue gun.  Now, a note on temperatures:  Low temp glue guns will work, but the process will be slow. You will have to wait for the gun to melt the crayon and then apply it to the canvas.  This is the “hurry up and wait” method, because once melted, a crayon goes really quickly.  But you have to wait to melt it. When these crayons come out of the glue gun, they are *just* melted.  They will drip and run a bit, but overall they keep a decent amount of viscosity.

Hot temp glue guns will work just fine too, but they will be extremely quick.  The crayons practically liquify in it, and that makes for almost an ink-like consistency of the crayon coming out of the glue gun, to the point that if you’re not careful, you’re going to be flinging hot wax where you don’t want it.  However, hot temp glue guns will make the project go much more quickly.

Which is better? I have used both, and it just depends on what kind of mood I’m in.  For the project pictured here, I mostly used the hot-temp setting on my glue gun, because I’m impatient. 🙂

On my project, I used a Cricut to cut out letters to spell the word “CREATE” and stuck them on the vinyl prior to using the crayons.  They acted as a mask, so after the crayons cooled, I used an Xacto knife to cut around the letters, peel them off, and voila! Negative space focal points, ready made.

So now you’re ready to melt some crayons!  This process is really simple.  Insert peeled crayon into glue gun, wait for it to melt.  Prop your canvas up at an angle, so the crayon will run down it.  (You can also draw with the glue gun, have the canvas on a turn-table and spin it while you drip wax… use your imagination.)  Apply the tip of the glue gun close to the top of the canvas and hold it there while using the trigger to let the melted crayon out of the gun.  Keep it in the same spot, and the crayon will run down itself.

and after a while, you’re going to have this.  This shows the vinyl letters after half of them have been peeled away.

Keep in mind when you’re switching colors between crayons that it’s easier to go from lighter to darker than from darker to lighter.  A little bit of the melted crayon from the past color will mix with the current color at the beginning, so while it’s interested to get a yellow to an orange, going from a orange to a purple might not work so well. 

But feel free to experiment! You really can’t mess this up.

Inspiration Station: “WWJD: What Would Jim Do?”

As I checked my inbox this morning, I was reminded by a blog post that today is an anniversary.  Danny the Puppet posted a great video blog about Remembering Jim Henson.

You see, twenty-two years ago today, the world lost one of the greatest artistic visionaries that has ever graced our planet.  Multiple biographies have been written about Jim Henson, his vision, his puppets, his life, so I’m not going to bore you here by rehashing the highlights.  You know he’s the Man behind the Muppets, Sesame Street, the Fraggles, the Creature Shop, and the lot. 

Instead, I’m going to write a bit about how Jim’s inspired me, and how I look at my life through frog-tinted glasses: What Would Jim Do?

I can’t believe I’m sitting here crying while I’m writing this.  Perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic.  It’s hard to put into words just exactly what I’ve learned from Jim, even though I was only 7 when he passed away, and I never had any direct contact with him personally. I only know of him what I’ve seen through the television and what I’ve read in books. 

Still, I can see his influence in my life every day:

“I have a dream, too.  It’s about singing, and dancing, and making people happy — the Kind of dream that just gets better the more people you share it with.” — A quote from Kermit/Jim that hangs on computer in my office and on my wall in my studio.  They’re not huge framed posters.  Just those powerful words scrawled across a post-it note.  It reminds me to not get caught up in the hustle and bustle, and that more people than just me really do like to sing and dance and just be happy.

I’ve developed a curricula of puppet classes – construction and performance techinque – that I teach three times a year at a local arts center with continually sold out classes.  This will be my third year of teaching it, and in every class, I use You Tube footage of Jim and the Muppets to teach the next generation about puppetry and acting.  So far, the two crowning moments of my puppet class are that a) a young man who was turning 11 asked his mom to get him a Jo Ann Fabrics gift card for his birthday so he could buy puppet making supplies and b) my kids last semester made, completely on their own, Sesame-Street inspired videos teaching kids about letters.  I’m working with a local school to get those videos used in their kindergarten and first grade classes.  I credit the fact that I’ve been able to teach these classes with such passion to Jim, who inspired me first.

When I first watched the new Muppets movie, I completely identified with the character of Walter:  “But then… I found them.”  And again, with my melodramatic side, I cried buckets at the end (you can ask my best friend who went to the movie with me. I think I embarrassed her), when Walter is faced with the choice of joining Kermit as one of them and going back to Smalltown with Gary and Mary.  I could completely put myself in that position and see the other Muppeteers saying, “Come with us, Candice. You’re one of us!”  And my heart aches because really, when it comes right down to it, that’s what I want to do with my life, and I don’t see how I would ever get there: an impossible dream, to work with the Jim Henson Company, but I don’t see why I can’t dream it.

I cry every time I hear “Rainbow Connection.”  And some days it seems “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green” is my personal theme song. I have worn out my completely dog-eared-falling-apart-highlighted-and-doodled copy of “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green: And Other Things to Consider” that I scrounged from a bargain bin at the local Goodwill. And while I know there are plenty of others out there who are much more talented than me in puppet performance and who are much more skilled than me in puppet construction, I know that no one else has the same fire that burns inside my heart when it comes to watching the joy that puppets can bring to people. 

So thank you, Jim.  Thank you for my childhood.  Thank you for your visions.  Thank you for your legacy, but most of all, thank you for giving me fire and purpose and drive and a means to share the third greatest gift in the world: Laughter.

THANK YOU. From the lovers, the dreamers, and Me.