From Small-Scale to Large-Scale

For the past three years I've worked as a puppet fabricator for Michael Curry Design just north of Portland, Oregon. Although stop-motion has been my primary puppet passion for many years, building large-scale puppets, costumes and visual effects has been an absolutely incredible experience. The puppets I work on now can be seen all over the world; on stage, in theme parks, and featured in many opening & closing athletic ceremonies. I'm humbled by this new work I get to create, the team of incredible artists I work with, and by HOW MUCH I've learned about fabrication in just three years. Take a look at some of the most recent work I've been a part of...


Frozen on Broadway

At MCD, we create two puppets for Disney's Frozen, now open on Broadway. Our Sven puppet is unique because the actors perform with stilts on their legs AND arms to transform into this cute quadruped. They perform for about 40 minutes on stage using only their own body strength to make Sven come alive! Incredible. The New York Times article, "The Secret Life of Sven," gives really great insight into how we build the puppet as well as how he is performed. The article also has a lot wonderful photos! Give it a read here: 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/theater/frozen-sven-reindeer-broadway.html

 "Supporting characters get their moments, too: Jelani Alladin, left, as Kristoff and Andrew Pirozzi as the reindeer Sven." Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

"Supporting characters get their moments, too: Jelani Alladin, left, as Kristoff and Andrew Pirozzi as the reindeer Sven." Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

As part of the Crafts Department at MCD, I create the front and rear feet for Sven. The front feet are built on 11-inch stilts, which the performer wears on his hands (image below). The front stilts also contain finger-pull triggers for eye-blink and ear wiggles. Talk about coordination! The back feet are built on 5-inch custom curved steel stilts. I sculpt the hooves and hand-carve Scandinavian designs into them, then hand stitch fabric "fur" to each foot. The performer does not touch the ground with his own body during his performance. Well, except for the scene in which he lays down and gets back up - an incredible feat (feet?) in this costume! ;)

 Photo: "The Secret Life of Sven," Michael Paulson, The New York Times.

Photo: "The Secret Life of Sven," Michael Paulson, The New York Times.

We also create the lovable character Olaf. Seen here with his performer Greg Hildreth, Olaf is manipulated from behind. The performer uses one hand to pull triggers in the head for talking and blinking, and the other hand to manipulate the arms. His feet are attached directly to the puppet, as performer and puppet become one. My favorite part is sculpting that carrot nose! A truly magical and impressive performance! Click the link below to read more about Greg and Olaf:

 https://nypost.com/2018/02/22/meet-the-guy-behind-olaf-in-broadways-frozen/

 "Greg Hildreth gives voice and movement to Olaf, the puppet he calls 'my new best friend.'" Credit: Michael Reidel/The New York Post, Entertainment.

"Greg Hildreth gives voice and movement to Olaf, the puppet he calls 'my new best friend.'" Credit: Michael Reidel/The New York Post, Entertainment.


Raptor Encounter at Universal Studios

I have loved the Jurassic franchise since the original film premiered in 1993. I was 10 and dinosaurs were the coolest. They still are! MCD has been making raptors for a long time, and they can be found at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California, Orlando, Florida and Universal Singapore. I've been building raptors since I started at MCD three years ago, as if my ten year old self willed it to be! They are very intricate puppets with eye blinks, sound effects and those infamous deadly claws. Each year we improve our dinos with the release of the newest film, and this year we focused on Blue. She is the star of the Jurassic World films, and my favorite version of our raptor costumes. She is beautiful and terrifying! Visit her at all three parks, and read a little more about Blue here:

 http://www.insideuniversal.net/2018/06/blue-the-raptor-debuts-at-universal-orlando-and-universal-studios-hollywood/

blue_1.jpg
blue_2.jpg
 All photos: Universal Studios

All photos: Universal Studios


Personalized Wedding Cake Toppers

This year I've made wedding cake toppers for two of my very dearest friends. I used paper-mâché, wire, epoxy clay, fabric and various other materials to create these personalized little sculptures. As I quickly learned, TINY paper-mâché is MUCH more challenging than large scale paper-mâché! These vignettes were incredibly fun to make, and brought back a flood of wonderful memories in the process. Congratulations Moriah & Jeff, and Jeanette & Keith. I love you guys.


Moriah & Jeff

These lovebirds got hitched on April 1st, 2016! Jeff has collected vintage pinball machines for years, and I could see from the start of their relationship that his fun-loving spirit and wit was a perfect match for Moriah's natural optimism and playfulness. I wish them a lifetime of happiness, passion, and prosperity!


Jeanette & Keith

This dashing pair tied the knot June 27th, 2016! I met Jeanette in fifth grade, we've been friends for 23 years. She is smart, beautiful, kind, giving, and one of the funniest people I've ever known. This woman has a heart of gold, and Keith brings so much joy and love to my best friend's life! I wish them health, happiness, and a lifetime of adventure.

Pages from my Sketchbook

A small collection of pen & ink and pencil drawings...

Feeling heavy.

Wolfboy. Detail of an unfinished mixed media piece.

An almost-true-tale of morning cat-napping.

Focus. 

A stream-of-consciousness drawing, ink only. Inspired by moments with my husband Jack and the song "The Very Old Man" by Hum. Specific lyrics: "Another drink my love and make it tall enough so I can stand on it and see, all you've done for me." Skål!

Mandala. Meditation for weary hands and a weary mind.

A study from Sverd i fjell in Stavanger, Norway. These incredible sculptures tower 10 meters above your head as you stand under them on the rocky shore. 

Mask sketches for the two black, curving sheep horns I have in my collection.

Logo for Heretic Flicks LLC. www.hereticflicks.com

Robot Chicken Puppet Department

Last season (season 7) the entire studio was in high spirits and feeling playful. The animators were posting Instagram photos of themselves with the signature Robot Chicken puppet sticker-mouths in perfect perspective, magically giving themselves giant black and white cartoonish grins! 

I thought ... the Puppet Department can do that too! We've got personalized heads for most of the puppet fabricators, many that I hand sculpted myself. Like the sticker mouths, the puppet heads in perspective proved to be MOST amusing. 

So here we are, the Stoopid Buddy Stoodios Puppet Department. Lookin' good! 

Taken 3 - Adult Swim promotional commercial

Puppets are not just for kids, and you'll agree once you see puppet-Liam Neeson kick some serious ass in this this fantastic promo-commercial created by Cat Solen, Artery Industries and Adult Swim!

I tell ya, sculpting Liam Neeson's face ain't a bad gig! On this project I also sculpted Maggie Grace and a "generic cop head." I created silicone molds for each sculpt, cast them in urethane, then painted and prepped them for bodies and costumes. Artist Ben Bayouth fabricated the puppet bodies as well as the incredibly intricate facial and head mechanisms, while Costume Artist Valerie Keiser created the amazing miniature costumes you see on each character. 

Liam Neeson head sculpt

Maggie Grace head sculpt

Liam Neeson mold with urethane cast

Maggie Grace taking a nap before she gets her wig and costume.

Puppet wigs

There's something so satisfying about cutting expensive wigs into tiny pieces. I really love making puppet wigs and fur-covered creatures. The patterning process is fun for me because I like the challenge of precise seam lines, which allow the nap to look as life-like as possible. It's all in the detail!

Process: Liam Neeson's hair.

Liam's hair was created from four separate sections, perfectly fitted to the shape of the head and the natural hairline of the actor. I had to laugh at how much this puppet resembled Mel Gibson circa Lethal Weapon 1987, before I trimmed his wig! 

Here I am painting Liam...

Still, Taken 3 commercial spot