Shabby Puppets Reflect Shabby Performers
It is so important to remember that your puppets are investments. How they look reflects on how you look. Proper storage keeps your puppets from getting stained ripped and tattered.
It doesn’t have to Cost a Fortune
Proper storage isn’t about the cost, it’s about how it contains your puppets and props. I have stated this example before, but taking your entire puppet collection and stuffing them into a filing cabinet is not the most conducive for keeping your puppets in good condition.
Each puppet needs its own space that keeps it safe and clean.
There is no real set rules on how to properly store a puppet s long as basics are met.
Puppets don’t brush up next to each other, this causes crushed fabric, ripped eyes, snagged appendages, etc.
Don’t store a puppet with accessories attached. Arm rods, hats, etc. can get bent snagged or dangle, which can cause stress on stitches after a time.
Don’t place in a condition that exposes the puppet to constant or intense UV light, whether from the sun or interior fluorescent lights. This causes the material’s colors to fade and foam to become brittle over time.
Now that being said, storage can be relatively open.
A common space saver that lets your puppets be displayed and easily accessed, while maximizing space, is a puppet tree or tree stand. This is basically a vertical post with smaller branch posts coming off for the puppets to be placed on.
A proper tree that can hold multiple puppets is generally a 4 foot to 6 foot 4x4 post or a 4” diameter pvc pipe with something like ½ “ to 1” dowel rods that are set at around 45 degrees.
Never have your holding rods (the dowel rods) straight out or straight up. This causes stress marks. Generally a 45 degree angle distributes the weight of the puppet more evenly while giving enough surface area in the head to keep it steady without deforming the structure.
Another thing I like to do is mold out the ends of each holding rod with a styrofoam ball or paper wad ball with tape covering them, to give ever more support to the head and insuring that the end of the rod will not cause impressions inside the head or friction on the mouth plate.
If you do have to store them vertical, make sure that you do not just use a dowel rod system gravity will cause the rod to make permanent indention in the head, Widen the storage rod area to displace the weight of the puppet and get rid of any sharp areas that will leave marks.
Similar to trees, this is basically anything from a 2x4 to a 2x6 attached to the wall with holding rods coming out of it, again, at a 45 degree angle. This allows for your puppets to be displayed on a wall while being out of the way and, should you run out of room on this one, you can just install another one underneath the first.
Wall mounts aren’t usually used unless you have a definite designated spot for puppet storage.
Unlike the tree, the wall mount can’t just be moved. It takes effort to unmount it from the wall, then you have to deal with the holes in the wall.
OK, I keep ragging on stuffing puppets in a cabinet I know. It’s the last place I would personally stick puppets, but if it is what you have, then it is what you have. There are ways to do it though that won’t run the risk of tearing up your investments.
Make sure to have ample shelf space in order to not place more than two puppets per shelf, or take out the shelves all together and modify it with wall mount puppet racks. If you do this, however, depending on the depth of the cabinet, you may have to increase the angle of the hanging rods to something like 65 or 70 degrees. Even then, the cabinet doors may add pressure to the puppet’s surface when closed.
I do not recommend keeping puppets in totes and boxes for normal storage. It is fine for short term and makes it convenient when transporting to outside locations, but for long term, it eventually starts crushing the puppet’s materials.
A benefit with totes is that, if properly sealed, they can’t be damaged by liquids or dust. They can also be stored with arm rods detached and it won’t cause snagging or ripping.
Never, whenever possible, ue a cardboard box for storage. A mission trip I was on once had me at a church that had lost all of their puppets to insects. I am not talking about little bugs, I am talking about Hissing Cockroaches along with some other creepy crawlies that fed on the boxes, the puppets themselves and dropped trails of fecal matter throughout the puppets, inside and out.
Mark everything Have a designated place for everything. This way you know where it is and where it should be if it isn’t. If you have specific props and costumes for a particular puppet, have them stored with labels that indicate that they go with that puppet. For general props that can be used by any puppet, organize them by theme when possible. Instead of having a box full of hats, have a storage unit for military accessories, clown accessories, etc.Trust me, this will come in handy when trying to organize a skit with a specific theme to it.
No matter how yo store your puppets, whether on a tree or rack, if they are going to go any length of time without being accessed, cover them with a plastic bag. I like the thin small office trash bag for the small waste baskets that you can see through.
Keeping your puppets under cover protects them from dust as well as creates a small, though not perfect, barrier between the puppet and possible UVs. Yes, if you are using a wall mount, it kind of looks like a puppet morgue, but your investments will thank you for this little added protection when you find they last up to 10 to 15 years longer with less maintenance.
Keep your investments safe and they will keep you looking good.
Any of you going to the Vent Haven 2019 ConVention? Look for me there, in between lectures,, you should be able to find be in the halls doing Youtube, Instagram, Facebook stuff. I look forward to meeting you.