Taking the stress out of your child's annual celebrations!

Posts tagged ‘Puppet’

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.

 

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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!

The Power of Puppets : See you Later Alligator!

Yesterday was a very special day. In my previous post I shared with you my granddaughter’s very special second birthday moment.

But what was I doing earlier on in the day?

Well, I was helping a very lovely client find closure for her daughter through the power and play of puppets.

Like a few of my clients, this lovely lady and her family had decided to uproot and move her family to Switzerland. She had called me and asked me to perform a puppet show for a goodbye party where her daughter had the opportunity to say goodbye to her school friends and have fun at the same time. Could I perhaps include references to saying Goodbye in my show?

I considered it for a brief second and my answer was ‘of course!’

With my 20 years of working with children as a children’s entertainer, I’ve encountered many a child who has trouble with saying goodbye. Goodbye  is hard for the adults, so why shouldn’t we expect children to be upset at the prospect of saying farewell?

I’ve had my fair share of tears after a puppet show where children have burst into tears the minute a puppet show has ended .

The reason? They didn’t want me to go, they didn’t want the fun to end and most importantly, they didn’t want to say goodbye.

My own way of dealing with this outburst is to gently reassure the distressed child that you have to say goodbye otherwise you can’t say hello another time, and hello is the most wonderful, exciting thing to say!

Ending with a ‘ See you later Alligator , in a while Crocodile , (Bye Bye Apple Pie!) ( Fifi the Fairy’s own invention) is a sure fire way of using the power of silly to put the smile back on those tear stained faces too.

Snap! Snap!

So I tootled off to Belsize Park yesterday and set up my puppet theatre outside in the very welcome sunshine. ( It made a brief appearance yesterday, we just had to make the most of it before it rains again).

Bobby Bunny was sad that  Tabitha cat was going to Australia and had lost his will to hop. The children were encouraging him to hop and have fun and reassured him that Tabitha would still be his friend even though she was going to Australia.

In between the silly behind-you’s and the silly slapstick humour and chases, I inserted lots of chat and references about using Mummy and Daddy’s  Internet to keep in touch and spoke about having friends to visit. Rather than focusing on the leaving aspect, I stressed the new adventures ahead. Tabitha cat was excited to be going, it was her friend that was sad. This allowed the little girl in question to be able to chat to the rabbit about her leaving in a safe and reassuring way; indeed it was a little bit of a therapy session without anyone even knowing it! Lots of hugs were given to the girl in question from the puppets and she said goodbye with a smile on her face- which was painted just like my lovely puppy puppet Toby

Traditional Toby dog to start the show

So bye bye lovely Taya, we will miss you here at Diane’s Puppets. Don’t forget to send us a postcard from Zurich ( some chocolate would be nice too! ) Only joking. Silly Sausage.

Let’s hope that fun and laughter and puppets have eased the pain of farewell.

The power of puppets never cease to amaze me.

 

Related posts:

The Power of Puppets for Change

Silly is a Serious Business

Puppets: An Emotional Connection

 

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?

How I became a Flairy : Or childhood dreams fulfilled.

Today was a good day.

Weather wise it couldn’t have been nicer. The sun was out and the temperature was unseasonably warm for the time of year. I woke up fresh and early , put on my work clothes , ribbons and all, packed my suitcase full of my handmade puppets and set off for a morning gig at a lovely Nursery , Puddleducks in Putney , South West London.

Kids entertainer and puppeteer Diane of Diane's Puppets

My work hairdo, jolly huh?

I trundled off down the road heading for the train station, dragging my pink suitcase full of my puppets behind me. The sun beat down and the birds sang. ‘Life is good’ , I thought.

I managed to catch the train without having to wait , a minor miracle in itself, and I settled down for an uneventful journey.

I hadn’t bargained on the very charming very old man who sat down next to me. Granted he was a little grubby, and worse for wear, it looked like he struggled to maintain a certain standard of dress but he was very old , so who was I to judge? I was certainly dressed in a rather unusual fashion with my ribbons and my gold sequined top and purple skirt festooned with butterflies, dragons and flowers. Most commuters gave me a wide berth on public transport usually, to be frank. Difference is often viewed with scepticism  in London ( there are so many nutters unusual characters about, it is just a part of London life and London caution and reserve).

This lovely man embarked on a question and answer session that would have made Michael Parkinson proud. He interviewed me thoroughly, grilling me ( in the nicest possible way) about my job as a children’s entertainer and puppeteer. Most people dismiss my job quickly as I don’t fit the usual model of adult in the workplace. It was highly unusual that this old gentleman kept saying how serious my job was and how difficult it must be to work with such young children. It was wonderful to have such validation from such a sage man, here was someone who naturally understood my #Respectthesilly campaign. As the train pulled into the station, we both got up to leave and this gentleman started to thank me for speaking to him, over and over again.

Maybe because of the way he was turned out, most people shunned him and wouldn’t talk to him? Maybe he was very lonely? To me he seemed like a wonderful old soul who was there to reassure me that I was on the right path in my life’s journey. Call me silly if you want.

So, after this most unusual start, I got to the nursery and began my first session with the under two’s. It was too sweet to see those little ones playing Sleeping Bunnies with my bunny puppet

s,ee

See the little bunnies sleeping

Diane and her puppets

Me and Bobby Bunny and Tabitha cat

I even had these tiniest of clients telling me the animals names in Old Macdonald’s Farm. They were clever little children. Clearly the Nursery is doing a very good job.

Of course there were cuddles all around from my ‘Easter’ bunny Bobby and my baby monkey Twinkle.

After that sweet session with the under 2’s I moved across the playground to the older children. As I crossed the playground, one of the mummies was dropping off her little boy. She stopped in her tracks when she saw me. ” I know you” she said. “I’ve seen you at a party before”. I  agreed that that possibility was most likely , after all I have been puppeting for over 18 years now. That same mummy turned to the Head of Nursery and said, “That’s Diane, she’s famous!”

I smiled. One aim ticked off my bucket list: to be famous for a talent.

I’m probably famous amongst the Under 5’s in London, well sort of.

What other sort of fame could I possibly want?

Well, we had a ball! Hopping with Bobby the Easter Bunny, laughing and quacking with Mummy Duck and her babies.

And all of her five little ducks came back!

It was when I was preparing the children to meet my puppet Fairy Fifi

Fairy puppet Fifi

Fifi eating her wand

and showing the children the fairy toadstools on my skirt

Magical toadstools where fairies live.

when the children came alive with their own stories of fairy sightings. One young boy’s voice rang out above the other excited enthusiastic contributers and he said: ” I saw a flairy ( sic) in my garden today and she looked like you!”

So that was my childhood dream and ambition fulfilled right there in that moment. I had always wanted to grow up to be a fairy but at a hardly delicate UK size 16 , I had all but given up on that ambition. This young lad had just confirmed that I had reached my goal.

So there you have it ladies and gentleman. I am now officially a f(l)airy, a rather substantial,a little older and a feminist fairy , but a fairy nevertheless.

An old man and a young boy made my dreams come true today.

This feminist fairy is very happy and grateful.

 

 

 

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