Another one of my strange hobbies is to collect images of the symbol X. I find them all around the place and photograph or paint them. This here is one of my recent additions. I love ambiguity. Maybe love is the wrong expression, I am intrigued by it.

Where I grew up x meant “No!” This is not allowed – “Das ist verboten”. Where I live now, signing off with three x means heaps of kisses. If you sign with xxxx you might be particularly fond of the person, or you might be after an Australian brand of beer. Then we have Xmas or Xing (which could be a crossing or a common Chinese name or if you are like me, you could be on the look-out for yet another x). I think x must be one the most widely used symbols with the most different meanings. I don’t have a very scholarly approach to this, this is something I will save for retirement. In the meantime I just find it interesting and keep collecting.

But ultimately, I try to find an alternative meaning to most things or try to look for a different angle. This is where my puppets come in. For me they are a little bit like de Bono’s six hats thrown into a ring and mixed in every possible combination (as nothing is ever that clear cut). Of course they are far less intellectual.  But they are a fantastic tool to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes.

Logically I am now researching puppets and the history of puppetry with a particular focus on hand puppets. (I am still at the very beginning though.) Puppets have always been around. For centuries hand puppets got away with saying whatever they wanted. In public performances they could air opinions that were too dangerous for people to express. Unfortunately in Romanticism they morphed into cutesy little creatures to address kids, mainly to teach morals. Nowadays people see hand puppets and immediately think they are for children. I don’t believe the whimsical is entirely lost on grown-ups. After all animation and fantasy films are very popular at the moment. Maybe it is a matter of the readiness for consumption.  Slick animation films are the instant noodles of creativity, while hand puppets are more like getting eggs and flour out of the cupboard first. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t want to deny the creativity of the film makers. I am talking about the audience. I am a maker, but I am keen for my audience to participate. Even if it is only by filling in the gaps or spinning their own yarn in their minds.

I found various sources that use puppets for therapy with young ones, but nothing for geriatric therapy yet. I believe there is a huge potential in getting people to act out the characters, being active and letting their own creativity flow. For older people this is certainly the way to go, they don’t need to be taught morals, they are more likely to want to express their life experiences.