Archives for the month of: July, 2013

new space

I was so curious to watch the Dedes exploring their new space. I wanted to see their enjoyment, which of course would give me the confirmation that it was all worth it. Unfortunately there is always someone who spoils the party! I overheard Chamber Maid saying to Mouse: “Nice space, but who is going to keep it clean. It looks good now, but in a weeks time it will look like a dump!”

studio space

Today is Friday and all the Dedes are excited. They are going home tonight! Currently they are all sitting in the office, waiting – suitcases in hand – for the bus to arrive and take them to their new studio space. We haven’t painted it yet, but you can see we are nearly there. Phew! I am a bit worried about showing the Dedes the space without furniture. They might assume it is all a Dede puppet playground. The truth is, they only get one corner and the rest will be taken up by computer gear and desks.

They are also very excited about the Dada project. Tony from xraypics has offered to send us a Dada poem of his and one of the puppets will perform it for me to record on film. On the German blog Miss Viwi has come forward with a Dada poem she wrote last year. If I have some time on the weekend I might tinker with setting up a stage so that they are ready to roll and can start rehearsing. Then they will be out of my way when I am painting :)

cal mel garry

I forgot to tell you yesterday that Calamaty actually did make a friend in Melbourne. Of course he was drawn to Gary, the puppeteer. It is hard to believe that these two guys had never met before. The similarity of their profiles is remarkable, isn’t it?

Watching Gary perform with his paper puppets was absolutely amazing. The most interesting aspect of the show is that Gary doesn’t use language with his puppets! This doesn’t mean the puppets aren’t communicating with each other. They do! They chat away using made up words, laughes, shrieks, cries. They are able to express the entire array of emotions without a single recognisable word and of course they use body language extensively.

I always thought words are pivotal in puppet shows. My Dedes definitely need their written story – at least on the blog! Text explains the still images and brings the puppets to life.

However, performing is a completely different ball game. As you might know, I have held a few workshops where people played with the Dedes. One of my observations is that the puppets are a brilliant ice breaker to get the conversation going. Once people are on a roll, they forget about their puppet and it might sit limp on their knee and watch while the oral story takes over. I am now convinced, when we remove language from the play, the focus will stay on the puppet.

I thought I will give it a go and take the Dedes back to their roots. After all, they are dada inspired. Dada was an anti-artform that encompassed every aspect of art: Visual, Performance and Poetry as well. I never really warmed to the Dada poems, but seeing Gary’s performance it finally occured to me that of course dada poems have to be seen, not just heard or read. So I invited four people to my new studio to give it a go. Funnily enough, I haven’t heard back from any of them yet.

Maybe they were put off because I said they should make up their own Dada poem. It is not really that difficult. Here are instructions by Tristan Tzara, one of the Dada poets:

To Make A Dadist Poem

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are–an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

Tristan Tzara

Of course these are still recognisable words (and this poem even makes sense. Very unusal for a Dada poem :). I really should go one step further and take a foreign languge newspaper….

cal mel friend2

On our way to the workshop on Sunday, Calamity was very excited and chatted about what he would say and do with the workshop puppets he was about to meet. In his mind there was no question they would become friends. After all, they should have so much in common, they are all puppets. Little did he know that the Dedes are not the only type of puppet there is. He got a big shock when he first laid eyes on the pseudo-bunraku princess my team had created the day before. He instantly went all quiet. I believe he was intimidated by her sheer size. I had to laugh. He should have seen the puppets from the other teams – the princess was the smallest of the lot!

(Just a quick explanation: Bunraku is a traditional japanese puppet, operated by three people. The most experienced puppeteer operates the head and the right arm, another one the left arm and the third is responsible for the legs. When you learn to become a bunraku puppeteer you start out with the legs and it might take you 15 years before you move up to the left arm.)

cal mel work

In the end I had to encourage him to get a bit closer so that the princess could take a good look at him too. I believe her eye sight wasn’t the best. It’s a good thing the princess kept still (she had to, as this was before the course started for the day and there weren’t three people around who could have operated her).

cal mel friend

Needless to say, Calamity lost interest in making friends. After he had said his timid hello to the super-sized princess, he quickly ran to the corner and sat still for the rest of the day, happy to observe the goings-on.

I should have known it! Once we’d finished for the day and we were on our way to the train station, he became very critical about my performance during the day. He commented that in his view I was a coward and I let the others walk all over me in team presentations. He definitely thought I always had the weakest character and the poorest performance. He was adamant I should have taken on a lead role at least once and exposed myself to the critique of the facilitator. I tried to explain to him that I wasn’t worried about the critique at all, as I had a very good one the day before.  However, I didn’t want to compete with the others, as on this day the individuals felt comfortable enough in the group to let their usual character traits emerge. I attended the weekend primarily to learn how to work a puppet properly, what to focus on in a show and also to see an experienced puppeteer run his workshop. To my surprise I noticed that the structure of the course wasn’t actually too dissimilar to the structure of my digital imaging workshops, except that I don’t have any breathing exercises in my programme :). It would be worth a try!

“So what did you get out of it then, if you don’t want to become the best puppeteer ever?” Calamity asked.

“Ah, you know,” I shrugged my shoulders “you can’t become the best puppeteer in a weekend anyway! It was very interesting to observe the group dynamics, though.”

“Do you reckon you will be able to play us properly in future? That would be useful!”

“I certainly have some great pointers but I will have to practise a lot once we have the new studio space.”

“But nothing tangible has come out of it, or has it?”

“Oh, yes, it has! It will all be revealed in due time.”

“Tell me, tell me” he nagged, but I was too tired and I fobbed him off by saying I would make an announcement once we were back in Auckland and all the Dedes were assembled.

caL_mel yarra

Yes, Calamity and I are back from our short stint in Melbourne. You might wonder why we didn’t update you while we were there. Well, there’s two reasons: firstly I don’t own a smart phone and secondly there was absolutely no time to.

This little trip will be covered by a few post. There is so much food for thought and more and more stuff is emerging. Today I will only give you a brief run-down on what happened over the three days.

Friday we had to get up at 5am in the morning to catch the flight. It’s not my favourite time of the day, I can tell you! But it is amazing how much energy excitement can rustle up (Excitement is a puppet I don’t have yet!). It didn’t take long for Calamity to start embarrassing me. He showed up at the airport with a plastic bag for his spare robe and a large piece of bubble wrap as an extra blanket. Can you believe it? Doesn’t he know how to travel in style?

cal_mel leaving

He could have at least borrowed Mouse’s little pink suitcase. He said Mouse offered it to him but he didn’t want to be seen dead with pink. An exchange of words between us ensued which ended only when he wrapped himself up in his bubble wrap and rolled into the big plastic bag so he couldn’t hear me anymore.

Anyway, we arrived in Melbourne mid morning. This gave us the entire day together, as the course started at 6pm that night. I instantly fell in love with the city. It has such an amazing arty feel to it and it is just brilliant how you can get around by public transport. To top it all off, the weather gods blessed us with a mild, spring-like day. We just couldn’t get enough of looking around and taking in all the people and places. Calamity, though, felt a tad self-conscious. He had this nagging feeling people were staring at him. I had a hard time convincing him it was all in his mind.


But I think he never really believed me.

At night I went to the course. It was a weekend puppeteering course run by Gary Friedman, who is a very experienced puppeteer and holds courses all over the world nowadays. In the late eighties he was the instigator of “Puppets against Aids” in South Africa, followed by other educational projects such as “Puppets for Democracy” and “Puppets against Corruption”. If you are into puppets, his blog  Puppetry News is a treasure trove to rummage through. He also has a face book page, which he says is updated more regularly.

The course was brilliant, really worthwhile. I’ve learned heaps. It was very intense and started off on Friday night with the introduction followed by two days of full-on puppeteering.  I will write about the course tomorrow, but I can tell you, by Sunday night I was eeex-haaaaausted! Two full days without downtime makes my engine splutter big time.

Last night we had just enough time for a quick dinner before we had to head back to the airport and we arrived in Auckland at 5:20 this morning totally shattered.

But back to Calamity in Melbourne. On Saturday he was to explore the city by himself. Unfortunately, the weather had packed in and he couldn’t take many pictures. He hasn’t tired telling me of the wonderful time he had and how much he enjoyed himself. It’s a pity there aren’t any photos to prove it. I have yet to see one of Calamity with a smile on his face.

Of course Calamity was curious about the workshop and pestered me all Saturday night to get me to take him with me on Sunday. He was adamant he had seen everything there was to see in Melbourne anyway. Yeah right!  He is really annoying when he wants something badly and I caved in and took him. The verdict is still out about whether this was a good idea or not. I will tell you about this later as well.

For now I have to catch up on some sleep!


I finally made up my mind, but only because I have to leave soon and needed to.

I am going to take Calamity. Who in their right mind wants to have him as travel companion, you might ask? My reasoning is that when I take him with me it is very unlikely other calamities will happen.

He is a pretty grumpy chap and his glass is always half empty. But what do I care when he is exploring on his own. He can be as grumpy as he likes then.  It doesn’t affect me. When we meet up for dinner he will have to listen to me. With his big ears he seems to be the right sort of puppet.

scardy and lap

Oh the agony of choice! Who am I going to take? It is certainly not easy to find a perfect travel companion.

I am going to attend a puppeteering workshop in Melbourne, so I will be busy during the day and the Dede I take will have to look after himself while I am out playing with other puppets. I assume this fact isn’t easy to swallow for some of them.

Arindam and Tony made very good suggestions. Mouse of course is the best organiser. If I took her I wouldn’t need to worry about anything. She would take care of any problems. Her downside of course is that she tries to pack too much into a single day. No doubt she would hustle me from each must see sight to the next without a break. She knows my current financial situation too and wouldn’t even allow me a coffee. She can be very harsh. My batteries are pretty flat at moment and to be honest, I couldn’t face a weekend with her! Another time, yes… but not this time.

Other suggestions were Scardy Pants and Lap Dog and I thought Chamber Maid would be a good contender too. On closer scrutiny though, I realised none of them could cope with being on their own during the day, but for different reasons: Scardy Pants doesn’t have any self-esteem. You have to coerce him out of the house at the best of times. He is so easily scared that even his own shadow gives him a fright. Lap Dog on the other hand is clingy. She doesn’t want to be on her own because she gets bored. She follows you around like a shadow. And the third puppet, Chamber Maid, is proud to be the shadow. Her strength is to be neither seen nor heard. If I took her she would rather stay in the hotel room and mend my socks than go out and explore. She can mend my socks at home and I know she would happily step aside to let another puppet go.

For now I have short listed Granddad Max, Cool Cat and Milky Bar Devil. What I need is a Dede that can explore during the day, but will listen to me at dinner time. I know myself. I will be full of new ideas after a day at the workshop. And when I have new ideas I can’t stop talking. Granddad Max is hard of hearing, so he would be perfect. However, he easily gets lost and letting him loose in a place where he has never been before…. I don’t know. Help! It is all too hard!


Ah well, it had to happen sooner or later. I have the winter blues. But from now on things can only go up.

The Dedes are fighting over who should be allowed to come with me to Melbourne this weekend. I want to take one of them to have some company when I explore the place. I have never been to Melbourne before so it will be good to share the experience with someone. Devil thought – as my favourite – he will be the chosen one. Unfortunately he is a bit too big headed and awkward to pack, as I’ll only take a cabin bag. I might take one of the new ones as their characters are not formed yet. I have added their pictures to the Characters page. Does anybody have any suggestions? Who would you like to hear more about?


Evan G List is one of the new puppets and it didn’t take him long to get upset with me. He is a very mild looking character with smiley eyes and glasses. Honestly, he looks like he couldn’t hurt a fly and is very forgiving to boot. How could I upset him so easily?

It happened in the gallery. One day I had a conversation with a lady and I asked her which puppet she liked the most. The lady pointed straight to Evan and told me she really loves his eyes. “He looks so benevolent” she said, “but what is the significance of his name?” I read it out aloud: Evangelist, and I explained that his initial name was TV Evangelist, but on second thought I considered it too blunt. She looked at him again and admitted quietly: “I don’t know if I still like him. I really fell for his eyes!” All I could say was “that is how it works!” And we both burst out laughing.

Of course Evan was not amused. He had tried so hard to catch a soul and find someone to take him home. While he still smiled he muttered something about lost souls and redemption and he hopes we get caught by the devil. He hasn’t spoken to me since.

punch too

Picture supplied by Punch’s new owner

I know I wanted to tell you a snippet from the exhibition today, but then I received this lovely email telling me about what Punch too is up to. I do understand now why he was so keen on leaving and finding a new home. When I read the message I remembered instantly that he had recited Shakespeare before, but the other Dedes weren’t a particularly good audience. He was very serious and gave it his best, but some of the others made fun of him. This really put him off and he never tried again, or at least not publicly. He might have honed his skills in front of the bathroom mirror though. I am so pleased that he found someone who appreciates his gift. Do I spot a victorian lace collar in this image?

Here is the complete email:

Hello Dietlind and Dedes one and all.

Well, Punch has been sharing with me over the past few days since his arrival and has helped with the household budgeting to boot!

Often when I am tempted to buy something in a shop I hear him encouraging me to exercise a modicum of self restraint. Now who’d have thought a Dede could have such magical powers. haha. Anyway, it’s worked so far although I think he may have ulterior motives.

During one of our frequent tete-a-tetes he divulged his unrequited love for Freeloader saying they had a shared history of mistaken identity! It’s a long story so more of this later.

As evening fell and I was preparing the traditional Friday night curry I could hear him in the sunroom muttering to himself and on paying a bit more attention I could not believe my ears. “oh Horatio ( quoth he )…An unlifted shadow lies across my memory ….Things standing thus unknown shall live behind me….If thou didst ever hold me in your heart…absent thee from felicity awhile….and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain…..To tell my story.” I could only applaud and throw roses where he stood. I think he has the makings of a fine Shakespearian actor.