After the festivities on the 4th, it was back to regular studio work. I’m super grateful to have work that is not only fun and fulfilling, but able to be shared. Dave put in volunteer hours every workday he was in town, including recording rehearsals.
Happy to be in the studio together! (I am not barefoot when we’re building, only rehearsals!)
Wednesday, first day in the shop together, we were huddled around “The Big List” which was erected to keep track of all the projects left to be constructed. Donovan and Jan went over things, roughly in order of priority. Near the top, was the Lyrebird, aka dusty-deathtrap puppet. I was clearly still shackled to the project, as Donovan addressed most of the notes about it in my direction, despite claims I didn’t have to be the one to do it. However, I was ready to ignore it for another week in favor of picking something a little easier, and more fun to work on with Dave.
As they were asking who wanted which project, Dave turned to me and said, “We’ve got to get that bird done.”
I was so mad. He was right. I love that he is the kind of man who sees a need and tackles a challenge, but in that moment all I could think was that he had signed himself up to hate this studio by the end of the day. Plus they assigned Jake to the other project I wanted so I didn’t have anything else of high enough priority to attend to.
So we dragged the lyrebird out. To his credit, Dave only showed a little disdain when he saw the broken, twisted form we were trying to wrestle back into shape.
“You see what you signed us up for?” I said.
“So I guess you think finishing this puppet before I leave is an ambitious goal?”
I thought back to the days I had spent wrestling with this puppet with that same lofty goal in mind, only to huck it back into storage, barely progressed.
“Uh. A bit.”
First order of business was attaching the fabric neck to the head-mask. My acidic mood at being back on this monster was still fizzing as we struggled to align the mis-matched fabric and head shape. Dave’s first idea devolved into a mess of it’s own with the thread from his sewing getting tangled beyond belief in the spring of the mouth-mechanism. I moment of anger, Dave snapped the scissors recklessly, and gouged himself in the flesh of his hand, just above his thumb.
I’m not glad he hurt himself, but it was a much-needed reset point for both our attitudes. By the time he returned from the first-aid station, I had decided that I absolutely could not continue forward with a mindset that was setting us up for anger and injury. Dave, likewise, seemed to have to taken dressing his wound as a turning point, and when he returned to the puppet was in surprisingly high spirits. True, he also needed the work to distract himself from a throbbing hand, but not everyone can do so with such a good attitude.
While Dave was dressing his wound, Donovan had come over and showed me what he had been thinking for the neck—which wasn’t what we had been attempting at all anyway. The sting to my pride of that, coupled with the new determination to get back to positivity, had me and Dave enacting decisive action on that bird.
With whatever negativity had started our day shaken loose, I was amazed by what we achieved. Where I struggled with some technical aspect, Dave identified efficient solutions. When feathering over the transition from paper mache to fabric, he followed my lead on the aesthetics.
The head was attached and feathered by lunchtime. That afternoon we had set up rigging for the puppeteer and repaired the worst of the framing damage. Just having a partner that I felt confident asserting my ideas with, and whose input I likewise felt I could trust, made a world of difference.
By midway through our second day working in the shop, we had the Lyrebird in a state that could easily go onstage, lacking only a few finishing touches. Additionally we knocked out some last touches on several other puppets before breaking for lunch.
After the lunch break, I sent Dave to Chris Carter’s shop for a field trip. Chris handles all the metal work and any serious engineering that needs to get done for Paperhand. A couple weeks ago I had toured his shop and homestead, which is entirely off grid thanks to a solar and wind set up he created himself, and knew I had to send Dave over when he was in town. I knew he would have questions I didn’t know enough to ask, and be doubly inspired by the self-sufficiency and pure gall of Chris’ lifestyle.
It turned out to be a good division of labor anyway, since we spent that afternoon mostly shooting promotional photos with our newly finished puppets, including the lyrebird! Watching these puppets come together in their full glory was amazing and made the show feel so much realer…and closer. Their are still far more puppets not yet ready for their close up.
It was very endearing when, as we were assembling for the afternoon’s work, Donovan asked “where’s the new guy?” and then scoffed in disdain when I said I had sent Dave off. Dave’s ability to claim his own space in the shop makes me so proud—not that I had any doubts.
It wasn’t just Donovan who appreciated his company either. After rehearsal that night, Dave and Chris set up another work session for the following afternoon, so that Dave could actually put some work in. While I was a little put out to lose a chunk of what limited free time we had together, I couldn’t deny the unique opportunity Dave had in his hands. Plus, it was an opportunity to finish out one of the most exciting elements of the Summer show….but I’ll be keeping that quiet at least til opening weekend is through.
Finally, on Saturday, Dave and I grabbed two fairly small-scale (no pun intended, but I was building fish…) projects and tackled them on the same work table as the volunteer hubbub swarmed through the studio.
With the Lyrebird victory still buoying us, we were feeling confident. We may have slightly underestimated the level of franticness that this last month of build time is descending into. I was building fish fins and Dave was creating magical star-wands. Both of us were pulled back and forth as we received directly contradictory instruction from the two artistic directions. At one point Donovan had me move a fin’s placement, and then watched from up a ladder across the room as Jan moved it back to exactly where it had been before. He laughed, shrugged and told me to go with that then.
To their credit, they both know it’s happening, and never hold us laborers accountable for their conflicting instruction. Usually, it’s accompanied with a good laugh….and then one of the acquiesces. Or the project stalls for a bit. But there’s less option for that as time goes on.
I was really glad Dave got some quieter build time in the shop. Volunteer workdays frequently get out of hand, and Donovan and Jan rarely have time to invest in individuals or their projects. I am so grateful they actually got to get know Dave, and that he could feel truly integrated and welcome in the community there.