I design and build all of my own puppets from scratch. My biggest frustration as a puppeteer was that I felt there was always one huge element of the puppet character I had no control over - its physical appearance. I wanted to learn how to build the puppet itself so I could add in extra details which would help me tell the story better. Now that I have been designing and building my own puppets for almost 10 years I can honestly say that one of the greatest pleasures I have ever got out of puppetry was teachig myself how to build puppets.
I have had some fantastic help along the way and I have learnt alot about puppet design from some brilliant friends like Phil Flecher, Dave Privett and David Pannabecker. I love getting stuck into puppet building projects, and I'm always looking for ways to stretch my building ability.
I do occasionally have time to take on commisions to build unique puppet characters for other people, some examples of those can be found on my shows page. If you'd like to chat about a design email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm not a huge fan of "off the shelf" puppets... which is why I went to the trouble of learning how to make them myself.
In my workshop I've taking this philosophy quite literally, and it is occasionally an inconvenience. To keep me honest in my stand against "off the shelf" puppets, I have decided to not even have any shelves in my workshop so the temptation cannot even rear its ugly head.
If you are thinking about having a completely unique custom puppet character built for you (whether by me or any other puppet builder) here are some things you might want to consider:
How long have I got? Good puppet builders are often busy so can't make your dream creation for you overnight, so if you're planning a custom build... be sure to include time into your design.
What do you want it for? Depending on how you see your custom puppet being used will dictate how it should be made. Always think through what you want the character to be able to do... and if there are any special ways in which this character can be unique and stand out from the crowd.
Can I afford it? Custom puppets are not cheap... but they are very cool! Most puppet builders have families to feed and rent to pay, so don't be upset if they ask for real money in exchange for their services. Good builders use good materials to build with. You'll pay more for a custom puppet, but you'll get a quality item in return!