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Image: Example of puppetry Dog marionette puppet smiling

Master of Puppetry Inspires Next Generation of Creative Engineers

When was the last time you allowed your imagination to take you somewhere new?

In our adult lives it is so easy to get stuck in things we are already familiar with. The daily commute, the same coffee shop (I’ll take the usual!), the regular TV shows and even the food we eat…life can easily become so routine that we can forget how beautiful our surroundings are and that there is still so much to dream up! Sometimes it just requires fresh eyes, a solid night’s sleep, and a little bit of foam rubber. Yes, you read that right, foam rubber.

What do you say? Will you join me in re-learning how to let our imaginations explore new possibilities with the help of a Master Puppeteer?

Image: Example of puppetry Dog marionette puppet smiling
Source: Unsplash

First, a peek behind the curtain of puppet history!

Puppets have played an important role in our lives since we were kids. Think back to some of your beloved childhood shows like Sesame Street and Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood. Big Bird alone taught us so much about what it means to be a good friend, and how to deal with life’s toughest challenges. But did you know that puppetry is one of the most ancient forms of storytelling? One of the earliest known uses dating back to Ancient Greece sometime around the 5th century BC!

In puppetry, a drama unfolds that is acted out by specialized representational objects, which are manipulated by a puppeteer. Depending on the style of the performance, the human animator may or may not be visible to the audience. In various cultures throughout the world these puppeteered shows were used for entertainment, religious reenactments, and education. 1

When you think of puppets, your mind probably jumps to simple styles like arm puppets, finger puppets, or hand puppets. But puppetry can take many forms—big and small—and they are made from a wide variety of materials. Some of the earlier styles such as marionettes were primarily carved from wood and adorned with fabric or paint, and operated with strings. Rod puppets come alive with the use of rods and foam, while shadow puppets play with light and silhouettes to create a powerful visual.

Countries all over the world have distinct styles of puppetry unique to their cultures. Vietnamese water puppets feature submerged rods that make the characters appear to walk on water! And you know those huge dragons that you see operated by several people at Chinese festivals? Those are considered puppets too! You can learn a lot about the world’s puppet varieties by clicking here.

Puppetry is not only a great way to tell a story to an audience, it can also serve as a wonderful way for people to overcome their fears and is often used in “play therapy” to help people of all ages deal with trauma. 2

Now that you know a little bit more about puppetry’s past, let’s see how one talented puppeteer has built a career filled with wonder and storytelling!

Sleeping to dream.

Today’s guide into the land of make-believe is Hobey Ford. His name alone may not ring a bell, but Hobey Ford is a Master Puppeteer who has been captivating audiences around the world for decades. He has worked with puppeteering legends like Jim Henson, and has even created masterful music videos for the Avett Brothers!

For Hobey, his journey into puppetry took flight from a place where a lot of brilliant ideas do—from within a dream. Growing up, Hobey’s mother was a nature lover and a bird watcher. Hobey inherited these interests and after his mother’s passing, he began to dream about birds—specifically a flock of pelicans. He soon found himself working with new mediums and falling in love with the creative design process of creating puppets.

But perhaps most of all, he was moved by the transformative power the audience experiences when they see a really good show.

The magic of Hobey’s creative subconscious really shines through in this video by MUSE. Give it a watch, I promise you will be enchanted by his story!

Via: MUSE 3

His work is just beautiful isn’t it? You can see more of Hobey Ford’s puppetry work on his Instagram.

Bringing that foam rubber to life.

There’s something otherworldly about seeing a foam seal come to life, or watching a tiny wooden wizard build a fire. It can communicate so much…without using any words at all.

Most impactfully though, is the ways in which Hobey is inspiring audiences to free up their imaginations and unlock something new within themselves.

Hobey was chosen as a Kennedy Center Partner to teach teachers (and other artists) how to use the performing arts in classroom curriculums. He not only performs his original works all over the world, but also offers workshops to teachers and students alike. During these workshops he really enjoys seeing people tap into new abilities they’ve never considered before.

In the video we just saw, Hobey mentions the evolution of unimpressed teenagers at some of his workshops—they begin the workshop totally uninterested, and by the end they are mesmerized by the performance.

Oftentimes the thing that catches their attention is how the puppets are made. But then, once they’ve seen it in action, the wonder simply cannot be undone!

Could puppetry inspire a whole new generation of makers and engineers?

Hobey Ford attributes his puppet-making skills to having great visual-spatial abilities. Now there’s a skill that can have so many applications! In the same way that building blocks and model trains bring out the best in young builders and engineers, puppetry can be a great way to help people discover that they have the ability to turn an idea into a physical reality.

“I’ll see that their genius is their hands, and I hope that they really recognize that.”

-Hobey Ford

Discovering your own genius.

Each of us has a special talent, or a mind that works a little differently, and puppetry can be a wonderful way to harness those natural skills.

But even if you’re not into elaborate puppets, there’s something to be said about doing something creative with your hands. As humans, creativity is a tool that we were all gifted with at birth. So, even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, give yourself permission today to grab an old sock and some googly eyes and have a little fun! You’re the one working the strings in your life, and who knows…it may just lead you to your next great idea.

Keep dreaming and notice the beauty around you!

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  1. Jaramillo, Carina. “History of Puppetry.” TheaterSeatStore Blog, 20 Jan. 2021, https://www.theaterseatstore.com/blog/history-of-puppetry. Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.
  2. “PUPPETS World – Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy – CBPT.” Cognitive Behavioral Play Therapy, 10 Mar. 2024, http://cbpt.org/en/puppets-2/. Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.
  3. MUSE. “Master Puppeteer Hobey Ford’s Magical Creations Inspire Children & Adults Alike.” YouTube, YouTube Video, 21 Mar. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2clNdbwPYw. Accessed 18 Apr. 2024.
Image: Renee Laroche-Rheaume

Renee Laroche-Rheaume

Outreach Coordinator & Writer

Renee is a graduate of FIDM, and has held jobs in several industries such as apparel manufacturing, retail, professional office work, and even hospitality. Her creative outlook, wide variety of experiences, and desire to notice the beauty around us make her a great addition to the Goodness Exchange team.

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