An Interview with Katherine Fahey

Baltimore artist Katherine Fahey designed the puppets and crankie illustrations for SAUDADE. We asked her a few questions about her process and inspiration. Enjoy! 

Katherine's first crankie, made for Wye Oak video, Fish.

Katherine’s first crankie, made for Wye Oak video, Fish.

Cecilia Cackley: When did you start building crankies and what draws you to them as an art form? 

Katherine Fahey: I started making crankies in the beginning of 2011, when I was making a music video for Wye Oak called Fish. My first crankie was made as part of a larger shadow puppet piece. That was when I started to see for the first time that I could perform with my artwork. This was exciting and frightening to me. I have always admired the connection performers have with their audience, but I am a pretty shy person. I was excited to be able to combine my passions for shadow puppetry, paper cutting , music, and storytelling together, but wasn’t so excited about getting up in front of people.

CC: Who are some of the artists that inspire you? 

KF: My creative community mostly. All the folks at Black Cherry Puppet Theater (Valeska Pupoloh, Michael Lamason, Lisa Krause, Jenn Strunge, Kevin Sherry, and Porch Puppets),  Erik Ruin, Nanaprojects , William Schaff, Anna Robert Gevalt, Elizabeth Laprelle, and all of the other crankie makers, paper cut artists, story tellers, and puppeteers out there.

Katherine performing one of her crankies at the opening of her paper cut and shadow puppet exhibit at The Creative Alliance in Baltimore, with Anna Roberts Gevalt and Elizabeth Laprelle.

Katherine performing one of her crankies at the opening of her paper cut and shadow puppet exhibit at The Creative Alliance in Baltimore, with Anna Roberts Gevalt and Elizabeth Laprelle.

CC: What were some of the challenges in designing Saudade? 

KF: I have a lot of experience working with other artists, but have become accustomed to just coming up with a show on my own from start to finish. It was different to have to stop and ask Cecilia what she meant and try to see things through her eyes. We spent a good amount of time editing scenes together so that they could be translatable to shadow puppets and a crankie.

I was eager to cut things out and assemble things, so I had the get used to just drawing and coming up with ideas. I had to wait to see the final product, but then it was exciting to see the pieces finally come to life.
Puppets from SAUDADE on Katherine's sketchbook.

Puppets from SAUDADE on Katherine’s sketchbook.

CC: What was your favorite scene or character to draw and why? 
KF: I enjoyed exploring the aesthetics and folk art of the various cultures and incorporating this into the designs. My favorite puppets are the heads.
Large head puppets from SAUDADE, designed by Katherine.

Large head puppets from SAUDADE, designed by Katherine.

Katherine Fahey (right) and Cecilia Cackley at the opening of SAUDADE in D.C.

Katherine Fahey (right) and Cecilia Cackley at the opening of SAUDADE in D.C.

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SAUDADE Process Video

Saudade7This video contains some of the various pieces of the process it took to create Saudade: building shadow puppets, experimenting with movement on the various screens and finally the moving crankie and puppets in the finished piece. We hope you enjoy it!

 

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!

 

Video: Building Saudade

Saudade7The puppets for Saudade are designed by Katherine Fahey, a Baltimore-based artist and puppeteer. They are cut from poster board and pieces are connected with fishing line joints and operated with either wooden or metal rods. In this short video, I’m creating a puppet of a teacher character. It’s a process that takes a lot of time, patience and precision with an X-acto knife.