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Archive for the ‘Diane’s Puppets’ Category

The final curtain : Time to say Bye Bye.

I’m going to write something I never thought I’d write. Diane is shutting the red velvet curtain of the show for the last time. Twenty four years of bringing laughter and mirth to London’s children is coming to a natural end.

Despite being busier than I’ve ever been with requests for parties, I’ve had to make a big decision to close the diary for any further bookings as of May 2014. I need to create time to be creative. I’m winding down , completing my current bookings until June, but I’m not taking any more bookings from today.

I’m turning 50 next week and I’m entering a new phase in my life.                                         From this:

Photo on 2013-07-19 at 10.06 #2 me                                                                                                                                                   to this :

I am going to be working as a full time artist! This has been my life’s ambition. I’ve had amazing opportunities come my way , in the person of Fabulous Fashionista  Sue Kreitzman,

Sue Mami Wata Queen of Outsider Art, who has been commissioning me to create her colourful wardrobe for the last few months.  I’ve taken up this challenge and have taken it  a step further : recreating her own colourful and exhuberant artwork and incorporating into her clothing making her the ultimate proponent of wearable art. Sues frida                                                                                                                                                                                               Sue’s Frida Kahlo coat

Now other artists and creatives have been asking me to make things for them too,

IMAG1266_1 IMAG1313 IMAG1328 IMAG1403_1 IMAG1404_1 IMAG1414_1 so … it’s time to say bye bye puppets.

 

It’s been emotional. Full of cuddles, love and many many belly laughs. I’ll never forget that shy boy who I thought wasn’t even watching the show until he ran the length of his corridor and leapt into my arms as I tried to leave.

I hope to leave on a high, with 24 years of beautiful memories to treasure.

I hope Fifi the Fairy forgives me , but I have to follow my dream.

me and Fifi

Bye bye everyone , bye bye.

 

Hello artists everywhere!

 

To follow Diane’s creative journey , www.iheartcart.com or on facebook  www.facebook.com/c.Artbags

 

 

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Don’t judge a fairystory by it’s cover : A story about self-esteem

It’s been a while since this happened, but it’s  now time to tell the story.

me and Fifi

Here I am with probably my most important puppet, Fifi the Baby Fairy. Fifi is a baby in that she says what she sees with no filters and innocent eyes, but she has pretty sophisticated communication skills and a wickedly silly and irreverent sense of humour. This combination of silliness and honesty makes her a very popular character, loved by both girls and boys alike. Actually, I’d probably go as far as to say that boys love her just a little bit more than the girls.

But that is for a different post.

I made this fairy puppet around 20 years ago. She is a permanent baby. Such is the magic of puppets.

You may notice from the picture that Fifi the fairy puppet isn’t exactly a Disney style fairy, looks wise , although she has a naughty character that would rival any Tinkerbelle.

Firstly she has a coffee coloured complexion rather than the ubiquitous pink and pale that fairies usually have. This is deliberate. I’m proud to say I live in probably the most multicultural city in the world ( London) and my little clients are often of beautifully varied shades . Some children will suggest that she has a dirty face, this gives me an opportunity to discuss diversity in an open and honest way. One thing I know about children is that they aren’t born bigoted.

Next she has large iridescent purple eyes with no pupil. This can seem freaky to many adults but children ( and those adults with a playful soul) understand the magic in those eyes.

She is a sewn puppet and sometimes the seams can look like scars. This was not intentional, but it has become a very useful jumping off point to be able to talk again about diversity and disability in a non judgmental way.

Her mouth is permanently upside down, giving her a permanent sad expression. Again, this was not intentional but has proven to be useful. We don’t always have to smile ( especially girls) to be taken seriously or be friendly.

She doesn’t wear trendy clothes or designer labels or trainers . She wears a fairly bedraggled dress that is pretty in a Lady Haversham way.

For all intents and purposes, this fairy should be a disaster. She should be rejected by modern children for not looking like a fairy should look.

But I believe in children. I know that they don’t judge books by their covers, even weird , freaky fairytale books.

 

So, are you ready for a story that will gladden your heart?

Come closer and I’ll tell you what happened at a school workshop with children in Year 6, top juniors , on the cusp of going to Secondary School.

Firstly, there is a whole bunch of educators out there who would think that my working with a Baby Fairy Puppet with children of this age is highly inappropriate. They will tell you that it is patronising and age inappropriate.

I vehemently disagree. Do not throw the baby out with the bath water, it’s all about how you approach things.

In this instance, I was very lucky to have done lots of work with Southwark Council with my close working with Scary Little Girls Theatre Company. I’m proud to say that they believe in the power of fairies. Good folk to be sure.

Well, there I was, with a bunch of ‘challenging’ children who were from a behavioural support unit at a Southwark school about to embark on a fact finding session to feedback to the council the children’s experience of the councils service. On the surface this could’ve been a very dry exercise indeed. But I had brought my Fairy Fifi with me. Things were about to get interesting.

I introduced myself to the children as a puppeteer and explained that I was going to introduce my favourite puppet to them . As usual, I told them in my own silly way that of course she wasn’t a real fairy, ( this is the not patronising stuff, it’s all about the approach) but she was a real puppet. This approach always works a treat, as the children start to realise I’m not going to try and convince them that anything silly was going to happen. Then I told them that she was a special fairy and pulled her out of her bag.

Cue a few screams and a few boys made a very melodramatic dash out of the door ( but of course still hovered round the doorway as they weren’t going to miss this for anything).

As the fairy starts into her routine, singing silly songs and making me look very silly ( there has to be a fall guy for comedy, and for this act it is always me. Sigh) the recalcitrant chaps subtly shuffled back to the group and their initial disdain turned very quickly into intense concentration and hilarious interaction. Soon the children were eating out of Fifi’s hand, she had them all in fits of giggles and they were all swearing to be her best friend forever.

Then I put her into a ‘sleep’ and had a chat with the children . The warm up was over, now it was time for the fact finding part of the exercise.

I asked the children what concerned them about moving from Primary School to Secondary school and what would make things easier for them.

Their answer was simple and unanimous: being popular.

So I asked them what did being popular mean to them, and how do you become popular?

The answer made my Feminist heart weep.

The girls all chorused : “Being pretty” . The boys nodded in agreement.

I challenged them, asking ” Are you sure? ”  They all nodded, yes, being pretty was the answer to being liked.

I then asked them to consider if they thought Fifi was popular.

They all shouted out that they loved her and of course she was popular , everyone wanted to be Fifi’s friend, she was the essence of popular.

So I then asked the children an obvious question.

“But is Fifi pretty?”

Cue a stunned silence. Then some children started saying , yes of course she was.

I reassured the children that Fifi was asleep and that telling the truth wouldn’t hurt her feelings. I told them that I was glad that they thought she was pretty, that they weren’t looking at her outside but her inside. I then reminded them of the initial shrieks and shocked reaction at first seeing her. Then I asked them again: `”Really and truly, is Fifi pretty? ”

There was a mumbling amongst the group and eventually the consensus was a reluctant , no . Fifi wasn’t exactly pretty.

Then I asked: ” But is she popular? ”

I didn’t have to say any more.

The children were smart enough to work out that it was personality not prettiness that wins friends.

Fairy puppet Fifi

Fifi eating her wand

Fairy puppet Fifi

Look at her pretty hair!

Sometimes our imperfections can be our greatest strengths.

 

Best shop in the world chooses Diane’s Puppets

It’s official, Diane’s Puppets has come of age!

The best shop in the world voted by the Global Department Store Summit in Paris  is Selfridges.

And lovely , lovely Selfridges have asked Diane’s Puppets to appear in their Xmas shop from early November to late December on Sunday afternoons.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this.

I’ve already spent the day at their Press show, showcasing my Xmas puppet show to a whole lot of journalists, a challenge to say the least. Important grown-ups really don’t know how to respond to such a child centred thing as a Diane’s Puppet show. But I’m really, really glad that the wonderful Harvey and Katie of Selfridges London office recognised the value and charm in what I offer and have totally understood the Diane’s Puppets ethos.

Quirky, very English in its charm , a little shabby , old fashioned but with a modern twist, with a genuine concern to bring the best experience possible for  its’ customers and just a little bit bonkers. That’s the Diane’s Puppets way.

It could also be argued that that is the Selfridges way too.

So Diane’s Puppets , in a Selfridges Xmas shop near you ( as long as that is in Oxford Street, London. )

When Two Worlds Collide ( in crochet)

Sorry sorry sorry sorry! I haven’t blogged in such a while, I simply haven’t had the time. All my spare time has been tied up with hooking. I’m crochet crazy!

 

Anyone who has been following my blog /s can’t fail to notice that I’m not only a kids entertainer, but I’m an avid maker and my medium of making at the minute is crochet.

Since taking up the hook a mere year and a half ago, I’ve not stopped ! It started off with granny squares that looked like circles to begin with and has now ended up becoming  something quite special.

I’ve combined my love of sculpture/ crochet and puppetry and have been making a series of portrait dollies, mainly for very glamorous burlesque performers on a commission basis. It’s been quite a venture, the success of which is almost overwhelming me.

I’ve recently been featured in an alternative ezine , The Independent Voice ,the link here : http://www.theindependentvoice.org/2012/Edition_26/index.html#chinwags_anchor 

and am soon to be featured in a really fancy alternative glossy magazine called Et Alors! in a three page spread. All because of my dollies! Who’d have thunk it?

 

While making dollies for people, it struck me that it would be really fun to make one of myself in my work outfit, the very lovely colourful outfit that I wear as Diane from Diane’s Puppets .

So I did.

 

Here she is .

Kids entertainer Diane crochet dolly

Me holding my puppet Fifi the Fairy

I’m really proud of how I turned out! Even my glasses are the right colour ( I’ve got new ones recently) and my necklace is almost perfect to scale.

Such a joy to make me . 🙂

I tried to capture every last detail of my costume and my faithful funny fairy puppet , Fifi. Even down to her wobbly wand and sparkly purple eyes.

 

Me from behind. Careful not to burn your bottom!

I even managed to recreate my ‘story skirt’ that has lots of images of things on it, including a fire breathing dragon.

The whole outfit in it’s glory.

The only piece of poetic license is the shoes. I don’t own a pair of sparkly pink slippers. I wish I did. I usually wear a pair of faithful trainers that make it easy for me to walk from gig to gig. I rather be barefoot when working.

Having a chat with my puppet

 

This dolly is smaller than the ones I usually make. She stands around 12 inches high rather than the usual 14 inch dollies that I’ve made previously. She’s rather dinky, unlike myself, who is of a substantial nature. 🙂

 

If you’d like your own dolly made, head over to my online market stall called Devil and Angel on my Shoulder .  I make cute things and not so cute things, some for children and some strictly for grown-ups.  Hence the name.
Do pop over to my facebook pages CROCHET BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

and CROCHET DARK AND DECADENT 

and DIANES PUPPETS and hit those ‘LIKE’ buttons if you’d like to keep up with all that’s going on in my world. It’s probably easier than waiting for the next blog post…

 

 

 

 

 

Attention! It’s not so hard.

Attention!

My crocheted fingerpuppet soldier standing to attention.

One of the biggest areas of debate  I face when clients call me  is that concerning  attention span. More often than not, when clients see that I offer a minimum time session of 45 minutes to an hour they will say that their child definitely will not sit for that length of time. Even though I respect that my clients know their own children best of all, I always ask my clients to keep an open mind when it comes to puppet entertainment , that it may be that their child may react in a different way altogether when faced with live entertainment and personal interaction , focus and involvement. Modern studies suggest that due to new technologies, our attention spans are growing shorter and shorter , requiring more and more stimuli to keep us entertained. I challenge  this study.  Why should we now believe that our children can’t concentrate on anything  just because they won’t sit for long in front of a screen?

When it comes to human interaction , children are able to concentrate for great lengths of time.

My experience over 20 years of working in the field of children’s entertainment suggests that all children , even the youngest , are able to maintain focus if you involve them with eye contact, ‘mugging’

Silly sausage me.

( exaggerated facial expressions and grand gestures) and changes in pace and volume. Even adults are easily bored if things are monotonous. Add familiarity and ownership to the mix and you are on to an absolute sure fire winner.

What do I mean by ownership? Well, in my routines , I make sure that I play the silly billy. I’m the adult that can’t get things right. I’m very careful not to do this in a patronising way as that can be very easily sniffed out as disingenuous by savvy kids , but use a big dollop of tongue in cheek humour to keep just this side of silly. In this role I’m not the teacher , I’m the pupil in the world of the child. I get things wrong so they , my young audience, can teach me ( or my puppet) how to do things. ( Although at a recent party at a Nursery , Valentina ( 4years old) stood up and announced in a very big voice that I was the ‘bestest teacher in the world’. Thanks Valentina. <3)

That’s the theory anyway. It’s proven to be a winner for me over the years. I can honestly say I’ve managed to maintain rapt attention for at least 45 minutes for all of my audiences , be they 2 years old or a little older.

Today though was rather special.

But let me set the scene:

Rain Rain go away , come again another day.

If anyone knows anything about the weather in the UK recently, it has not stopped raining for months now. Everywhere is soggy. Our Summer has been washed out.

Despite this weather, I had been booked to do an outdoor session in a park for a class of 5 year old children as a special treat. We were lucky enough to get a brief spell of sunshine early on in the day but the ground was still seriously sodden, in fact in areas the grass was covered in puddle.

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun said Noel Coward. Well this mad dog and English woman joined the children and made the best of the soggy grass ( we had brought waterproof backed rugs in preparation) and we settled down for 90 minutes of puppets ,songs and puppet illustrated storytelling.

We giggled with Twinkle the baby monkey as he refused to say helloand deliberately wouldn’t say please.  We sang and quacked with Mummy Duck and her babies

Five little ducks crochet puppets

Mummy duck said Quack Quack Quack Quack

and went for a visit to Old Macdonald’s farm where all the animals seemed to be dogs?

We played Sleeping Bunnies

s,ee

See the little bunnies sleeping

( very squished up as the ground was sodden) and hopped and laughed and had lots of bunny cuddles. ( Yes even/especially the boys!) We laughed at silly Fifi the Fairy

Fairy puppet Fifi

Fifi eating her wand

who was very proud of her crocheted ringlets and who tried to ‘Whip her hair back and forth”

until I got her to sing Twinkle Twinkle  instead.

Then I got out my thunder machine and prepared the mood to tell the story of the Stomping Elephant

My elephant puppet

on my beautiful African printed fabric. We roared with the naughty Lion, squeaked with the tiny mouse and buzzed with the wasp with the very pointy stingy bottom.

” That was a good story” said one little contented child at the conclusion of that tale.

Then we jumped on the bed with Jaffa the monkey and burped with the naughty crocodile who had identity issues and a dental problem. Then it was See you later Alligator, in a while crocodile

Snap! Snap!

as the hour and a half had quickly drawn to a very happy end.

This bunch of 30 5 year old’s had given me total focus and concentration and lots and lots of giggles and interaction all the way through the 90 minutes in a public park on soggy grass, bunched up together . Not the most ideal conditions you might think.

” Can you come again?” piped up one little boy.

Clearly 90 minutes wasn’t enough for this young fellow.

We ended with a big round of applause for the clever children and pats on the back for being a brilliant audience.

I told them that they had just done something most adults couldn’t do: pay close attention for an hour and a half.

Ya boo sucks statistics.

I know what I see and I see ATTENTION!

So next time you doubt your child’s attention span, think  again. You may be surprised!

Are you on Facebook? Please like my Diane’s Puppets Facebook page.

Thanks!

Diane’s Big Birthday Facebook Giveaway!

A beautiful handmade puppet for you completely free!

Girl puppet

This is girl puppet, made by Diane . She needs a name and an owner.

Diane celebrates her 48th birthday on Wednesday  and to mark the occasion , she is giving away this pretty handmade girl puppet to one lucky Facebook liker . All you have to do to enter is head over to Diane’s Puppets on Facebook, like the page and share the birthday post on your personal page.

Diane will get her darling granddaughter to pick out the winner from a hat on the 9th of May. She will then notify the winner and post this lovely puppet to them for free.

Soon you will be able to see a step by step tutorial over on the Videojug channel of Diane making this very puppet. The title will be How to  make a Girl Puppet. As soon as it is uploaded , Diane will share the link with you all.

So who is going to give this lovely girl puppet a new home?

 

Is it you?

Double Dip Recession? Ya boo sucks!

So, yesterday all us folk in the UK were reliably informed that whoo hoo! we are back in recession . Yes folks, a whole year has gone by and zero growth. Whoop de do.

I sort of thought this was going to happen. But you know what they say about what happens when the going gets tough, don’t you?

The tough get going.

My very first Kidspartyheaven post was about the recession. Since then I’ve written loads more posts and I’m still partying despite the economy staying static.

Guess what? Life goes on, pennies are tight but we are a tough bunch and we soldier on.

You’ve got the right … to party!

So what have I done here at Diane’s Puppets to make sure that my clients can keep partying in these very challenging times?

Well first of all I haven’t put up my prices in over 10 years. Yes that’s right, my prices are the same as ten years ago.

I recognise that things are difficult for my clients and feel that we need to work together to help each other out. I need my clients so I can stay in business, they need me to provide them with an affordable service.

Secondly I’ve tried to offer my clients more choice. I’ve rethought my entertainment packages and come up with a selection of low cost packages that suit both my clients and myself. I now have mix and match packages that clients can tailor to their own needs and budgets. It’s a win/win situation, surely the best business scenario.

Thirdly I’ve added another string to my bow. I have started up another little business to keep me occupied during quiet entertainment times ( school holidays) when the majority of my clients are away. I’ve turned a personal passion , a new hobby into a business and I’ve called it Crochet Bright and Beautiful.

It’s all rather brand new, but very exciting as I’m building a loyal client base and getting my face and cute crochet out there in the world. I’ve now got three market stalls under my belt and a nearly new sale.

I’m starting to sell on the Internet via my Folksy shop and Facebook page  and am constantly making new things to add to my stock. I’m working on a range of scarves at the minute featuring very current/on trend Granny Squares in bright colours edged with black. I’m hoping to eventually sell at Spitalfields market.

There’s no rest for the wicked, or for those who want to keep their heads above the water during this double dip recession. So I’m outa here . It’s time to crack on with crochet.

Then on the weekend it’s party on dude.

So despite this horrid economic situation I’m quietly happy and happily busy.

Let’s bring out the final cliche, yes, every cloud has a silver lining. This recession has brought out the business woman in me, albeit a very quirky one.

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