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.


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.


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!


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.


Spacing the images is important and takes time.


Amy and Genna work together to glue down an image.


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.


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.


One of the many intricate images on the crankie.


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.


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


Amy makes an adjustment before gluing down the final image.


This is the final roll–nearly 3 inches thick!


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


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!


Favorite Tool: X-acto Knife


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!

Necessary Evil Chores: Organizing Paper

Haven’t done one of these in awhile! I’m cleaning out the studio today, so here is a project that I put off for, oh, maybe a year and a half–organizing our stash of construction paper.

construction paper1We don’t use it very often, so my habit has been to just buy a new stack if we need some and I can’t find the previous pack. Mixed in with all this, I found pieces of rubber foam, cardstock and a few blank puzzles. Hopefully I can keep it all separate from now on!

construction paper 2

Saying Good-bye to Kismet

It’s a little counter-intuitive, but one of my absolute favorite things about live theater is that it ends. Each production exists in a certain span of time, no two performances are exactly alike and when a show is finished, that is it. Sets are broken apart, costumes put away, actors scattered to other places and projects. Ephemeral, if you will.

One of the cabinet units, now leading a second life as a useful part of the studio.

One of the cabinet units, now leading a second life as a useful part of the studio.

We are sad to say goodbye to Cabinets of Kismet which has been our main project for nearly two years now. Last Sunday was our final show and in just a couple of hours, the theater looked as though we had never been there. Risers are back in place, lights put away and speakers re-hung. Puppets are in boxes, cabinet units have been broken apart and are now housing gels and wood scraps, as well as shadow puppets.

Puppets join some older friends, including Anansi, Granny and the Malachite Palace marionettes on a shelf in the studio.

Kismet paper puppets join some older friends, including Anansi, Granny and the Malachite Palace marionettes on a shelf in the studio.

It’s been a fantastic experience, thanks to the wonderful support from CulturalDC, our mentor Pete Miller, our collaborators from SCRAP DC and of course the incredible audience members who came to the show and stayed to share their thoughts and impressions. If you came to a performance, THANK YOU and if you missed it, we hope to see you at our next one! Check back here for more information about upcoming events soon!