Busy untangling some of our marionettes today, what a mess some of them seem to have got themselves into. As I did it I was thinking that much of this will be a lost art one day. Will anyone care about which way to pull the strings to get a marionette to work properly, or be able to string a musician for instance?
The heads of some of the older puppets were modelled using a ‘secret recipe’ that even I have forgotten, with the emphasis on sawdust and pearl glue boiled on an ancient gas cooker. I like to think of them as works of art, like looking at a painting or a piece of sculpture. but will future generations see them in that light?
A few of the sets of characters are destined for museums, The Imperial War Museum have said yes to the ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ characters but it is ‘touch and go’and hard work to pin other museum curators down. I think it is a question of categories, because they are not toys and in Britain marionettes have always been regarded as children’s entertainment.
Then of course it is still a question of ‘gifting’ rather than selling. If I had the nerve I would think about putting some of them on Ebay, but I hate the idea of splitting them up and suppose no one bid? Or, worse still, a dealer breezes in and buys the lot at a knock down price to sell on.
I am, after all, still fond of them all. The skeletons, the dramatic ones, the violinist and an ostrich who did their stuff in Cabaret at the Cafe Royal, a French singer from 1948, an opera star, clowns,
Can Can dancers, a duck playing a whistle, hula hooping elephants, Cinderella and all her aides and my favourite – all the characters from Alice in Wonderland. They are all works of art in their own right like a piece of china or a favourite bracelet left to one by one’s mother or aunt.
But as I untangle another one, try to date it and record it’s performances I am reminded this unruly crowd earned my parents a living and mine too, for several years. So I feel I owe them some tlc. do the best for them, the decent thing, new strings, a new hand if one has gone missing, even if I have try to remember how to carve hands again and endeavour to carve one.
I’m rubbish at administration but if I can’t get them placed in museums, I know in my heart of hearts I may have to investigate lottery money, or get an arts council grant to get this particular show on the road.
I’ve looked at doing this before and it is daunting! But as much as I love them I have to pay for some to be in storage, and not least I’m getting older myself and was quite ill this summer, so I am telling myself this time it is for real or the skip and landfill might still beckon.
The conservation of our small soldiers, one of the plaster horses from the set of ‘Oh What a Lovely War’.
Hopefully when it is all done, I can spend more time for my allotment, do more practice for my harp lessons, mess about with some painting and of course my poetry!
Oh the joys of a very strange inheritance!
Some of the circus but sadly without the repartee of the clowns
Scenes from Alice in Wonderland
Story of our marionettes – now a bit dated!
Film about manipulating marionettes.
….and there are others made with my mother over ten years ago.
Have you ever been left something in someone’s will that in some ways you would rather be without?
Since writing this post. the ‘Oh What Lovely War’ marionettes have been on TV twice and are now on display in The Grange Art Gallery and museum in Rottingdean.
The storage unit has come into its own and each puppet has been looked at and tidied up. And I have written a second poetry collection, most of the poems are free verse and some in a modern style that belies my age hopefully. Poems about joys and otherwise of being a puppeteer’s daughter, others about art, artists, eccentrics, nature, life, death….
Why not consider buying a copy from City Books in Hove or The Open Art Cafe in Rottingdean or on line in Amazon and Lulu = but with postage both the later options are more expensive.