Organize It!

By Genna Beth Davidson

When it comes to building puppets, you must bring together many different crafting skills: sewing, woodworking, papier mache, foam construction, painting, etc. I dream of one day having a huge studio capable of housing all the different arts that come together to create my puppets. But for the time being, I’m making do with a tiny space. It’s amazing what you can do with a small space if organized well.

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I have my work table on wheels so that I can easily move it around and away from the wall for sewing. My fabric is stored by color in a closet along with foam and batting. I have a power tools and hand tools section (which is slowly out-growing the space), my woodpile corner, a shelf for projects I’m working on, a shelf for papier mache paper, and a file drawer with deep, short drawers for flat artwork and pattern storage. I keep my sewing machine stowed under my work table, even though it’s a bit annoying having to pull it out every time I want to use it. If I had the ultimate studio, I would have a large, high table for laying out patterns and a dedicated table for sewing. Right now I often have to use the floor for laying out large patterns. I also have the ultimate junk drawer because you never know what you might need.

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I quickly outgrew this small space so now some of my materials take up bookshelf space in the hallway. That’s where I keep my paint supplies, beads, elastic, and assorted other adornments for the puppets. And I’m lucky that I have a back porch off the studio. My friend made me a big wooden table that I use as a workbench out there. In the winter it’s a little cold, but I manage.

Finally it’s really important to have boxes, pegboard, and other inventive ways of separating materials. I use a shoe organizer on the back of a door for feathers, leather, foam scraps, rope, plastic bag storage, etc. I use lots of large tupperware bins too, and a pegboard is great for easy access to tools.

20170904_110647If you are thinking about setting up a space for your crafting habit, a great place to look for organization ideas is Pinterest of course! But I recommend taking time to let things get organized as you go. It can be good to invest in top of the line organization, but you don’t have to. Sometimes things just find their way into a nook without you intentionally putting them there, or you come upon some organizational device that was intended for one thing but works perfectly for the storage of something else like my shoe organizer.

For me, organizing is fun! I think I’m lucky in that I inherited my mom’s need to organize and my dad’s habit for recycling and storing materials that could be useful at a later date. Thanks Mom and Dad!

 

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Summer Days at the Studio

IMG_4225It’s been four years since we started Wit’s End Puppets and for all that time, we’ve been operating primarily out of a house in the southwest quadrant of Washington DC. Each person on the team had her own workspace at home, but meetings and large building projects, from covering flats with recycled paper, to gluing together a 60ft cranky, happened in the living room of that house.

This summer, we said goodbye and moved our boxes, puppet sets and building materials to a new studio in the Brookland neighborhood. At first, the space looked like it does in the photo above. It took a lot of time and effort, but we’ve finally made progress and everything is (mostly) organized. Here you can see the two sides of the room, with materials and tool storage and plenty of surfaces to work on. Here’s to another four years of creativity and passion, collaboration and puppet magic!img_4530

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Say Hello to our New Studio

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Welcome to our new studio space! It was bittersweet to leave the house in southwest DC where we had our start, but change is in the air. A move is an opportunity to organize, to re-furbish and streamline our process–or at least we hope that’s what it will be! As you can see, the space is something of a shambles right now. It’s going to take awhile to get everything in place and looking how we would like it. To motivate ourselves, I’m going to be posting a picture every day on Twitter, to document how long it takes for the pile of materials and tools to become a working studio. Follow along and watch it change!

The Long Saudade Crankie Saga

By far the most time-consuming part of building Saudade was the crankie which forms the bulk of the show. Additional images appear on the side screens, but most of the action happens on this very long roll of Tyvek in front of an LED light. It took nearly two months to design and cut out all the scenes on the crankie, and a week to put it all together. Here are photos from the process.

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Spacing the images is important and takes time.

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Amy and Genna work together to glue down an image.

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Each image gets sprayed with glue carefully. Sometimes it’s hard to keep different parts from sticking to each other before it’s glued down.

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The roll of Tyvek is longer than our box so we had to carefully measure and cut about six inches off the bottom of the entire roll.

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One of the many intricate images on the crankie.

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Delicate images wait on newspaper so they don’t get crushed before being added to the crankie. We took over most of the living room eventually.

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Most of the crankie images are cut from black Tyvek, but these included some silver tissue paper as well.

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Amy makes an adjustment before gluing down the final image.

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This is the final roll–nearly 3 inches thick!

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Our first rehearsal with the finished roll, testing the light and the box.

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Here’s what an image looks like from the reverse side…

IMG_2329And here it is in light! Hope you enjoyed this tour of the building process!

 

Building SAUDADE #3

Building puppets is usually a painstaking process and even more so with shadow puppetry. The tiniest details make a huge difference and (at least for me) there is  a lot of agonizing over whether or not a silhouette will make sense to the audience. For Saudade, much of the action happens on a crankie, a long roll of paper with black silhouettes of settings and characters. Creating the silhouettes for this involves several steps:

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1. Set up this opaque projector so I can play with the size of the image. The taped out square is the size of the screen.

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2. Project the image and fit it to the screen. This only works when it’s dark out, meaning I do a lot of this very late at night, after rehearsal.

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3. Trace the image in white pencil onto black tyvek, which is very thin but strong paper that won’t tear easily. Important when you have so many tiny little details!

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4. Cut out the image! Now it’s ready to go onto the background roll and eventually into the crankie.

Favorite Tool: X-acto Knife

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As we continue to work on building Saudade, my favorite tool has to be this simple X-acto knife and box of blades. When you’re cutting detailed puppets or crankie scenes, a sharp blade is absolutely essential. It’s easy to switch blades quickly with this knife and having a full box of blades means I can pull out a fresh one every few minutes. With shadow puppets, you want every line to be smooth and clean, so it appears as clearly as possible to the audience. This is my favorite tool for making that happen!

You can see Saudade as part of the 2015 Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival on February 28 at 2:00pm and March 7 at 7:00pm. Performances will be at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H St. NE. See you there!