It’s not surprising in that case that Louise has become THE go to person for all manner of puppet making and character design. She’s collaborated with a range of illustrators including Jon Burgerman, Pete Fowler, Gruff Rhys and her partner Jonathan Edwards bringing a new dimension to their work.
Louise very kindly took time out of her day having travelled back from Japan to have a chat with us and answer our questions, here’s what she said:
Could you give us 3 tips that you’d say have got you to where you are today.
This is tricky. I answered the last question before this one and I think my answers are pretty much the same. But if I had to just pick three, it would be:
- Hard work and practice
- Making sure your work gets seen
Why did you feel puppet making and felt work is best suited to you? What excites you about it?
It’s the first fabric I sewed with as a child (I think the first thing I made was a bookmark).
I do work with other fabrics too and before I started to make characters full time. I made bespoke dresses for private clients. Mostly wedding and some formal wear.
My background is in Fashion Design and so I love clothing. Most of the characters are made in felt but I also try and make clothing for them. That way I can mix the two disciplines together.
When making the clothes I use the same fabrics and techniques you would use to make the full size garment (including lining).
I like felt because it is malleable and because it doesn’t fray. You can cut quite detailed shapes but you have to respect felt. I know how much you can push it as it can be easily stretched out of shape.
Give us an idea of your average day, how you work and how do you get your ideas done?
Usually, I start the day answering emails.
I always like to get the jobs I dislike the most out of the way so I can do what I consider the fun bits.
I hate paper work. So I don’t really start “proper work” until lunchtime but then most nights work late into the night.
How do you inspire yourself?
I think it’s hard to switch off when you do something creative you see things in everything.
We may see someone walking down the street with an interesting look and we make a mental note for future characters. Jonathan always sketches when we are out and about.
I think as we are inspired by people and surroundings pretty much anywhere can be inspiring.
You never know when you are going to spot something/someone that may spark an idea.
Snippets of overheard conversations in shops, on train journeys, and people talking loudly on their phones (even though sometimes annoying). Are entertaining and sometimes if you can’t see the person talking, it’s great to imagine what they look like.
Puppet making in Japan
We like to travel and I am always looking out for unusual fabrics and haberdashery when visiting different countries. As well as the different fashions, architecture and general attitude of a place.
We regularly visit Japan and a few years ago, we had the chance to spend 5 weeks there as part of a gallery residency this was a great experience. We produced a lot of work while we were out there.
As well as the city we spent some time in the Japanese countryside and found similarities to our homeland of Wales.
Also fashion blogs, music, films, sculptures, portraiture, TV, books, friends.
How do you attract new work?
I do have an agent which which is a great help to get commercial work. I also try and do a lot of personal puppet making work for exhibitions as much as I can.
Twitter, Instagram etc all help to get your work seen too.
How long have you been a puppet maker and would you say it’s your career?
I have been sewing professionally for over 25 years.
Before puppet making I studied fashion and previously worked for many years as a couture dressmaker.
Puppet making has always been something I did, mainly for friends as birthday presents or just for fun. I never thought of it as full time job before.
I had lots of friends who would make comics and zines and I wanted to join on but couldn’t draw. So I would make 3d pieces and photograph them for the pages instead.
My first break was when Brix Smith Start, ex member of The Fall saw my work on a Twitter. And commissioned me to make creatures for her windows during fashion week. That led on to working with Selfridges (that same year I did their Christmas windows).
More commissions arrived then and it begun to take over the dressmaking. I have been making characters full time for about 6/7 years now.
What’s the best advice would you give to someone starting out?
Never give up on a piece of work even if it seems to be going wrong (some of my favourite pieces nearly ended up on the bin during their making).
Practice, practice, practice.
Make sure people get to see your work, share online, exhibitions, self published books/zines. Collaborate with other artists. Be nice to people and don’t be complacent.