I thought I would start out the week with my number one find from this weekend. I've been so, so good at not picking up every knickknack in the living world, but when I saw this guy at a Patterson Estate sale in the River Plantation Clubhouse, how in the heck was I supposed to NOT get him?
Folks, meet Smiley. Yes, I named him Smiley. Look at that face!!
This charming little so-and-so was sitting in one convoluted heap on a card table next to some fabric scraps and 1950's baby clothes. I had somehow managed to convince myself out of a knit sweater with a dozen white sheep, the center of which was black (it was too big, but I should have got it anyway!) and two or three black nylon half slips (I have too many) and was about to get out scot-free when the what-is-that-over-there feeling struck seeing a tiny femur sticking out from the detritus as if at a crime scene.
|Does anyone know how to work this thing?|
As is often my fashion, it took the moment I'd actually tracked down one of the people running the sale and the words "Do you know how much you all wanted for this?" to have left my mouth before I suddenly saw a price tag stickered to the wooden controller (or "airplane" as it's called by those in the know...certainly not me!). Fifteen bucks! I was smitten, so I took one last cursory look around the sale and then headed up to the checkout table. "You're not gonna untangle all those strings by yourself, are you?" the older woman asked, holding the hogtied Smiley in both hands as she examined the price tag. "I'm gonna try!" I chirped, and beamed all the way back to my car with the strange bundle in tow.
Bob Pelham began making puppets in 1947 after he obtained some help from Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth (who used to operate Muffin the Mule on TV) with designing puppets that would be simple enough for young children to use.
All the early puppets were made from recycled materials and Bob told how he used to rummage through his father's home and how he persuaded his friends and employees to do the same, searching out all sorts of bits and pieces would be useful for making puppets. The local scrap-yards received many visits from this tall, blonde rather loose limbed figure, who, at times seemed to look like one of his own creations.
Isn't that adorable? Pelham went on to enjoy success as a puppet manufacturer, with his models in production until the mid-eighties'. There's currently a new, revival line of Pelham Puppets, but the originals are apparently pretty collectible. How collectible, you ask? I did some ebay browsing, and past auctions of this same guy have sold, with and without his accompanying box, for between $30-$100. The only two active listings right now are for $80 and up! So I feel like I didn't get snookered on the price, which is nice when it's something you absolutely couldn't live without.
Matthew spent about three hours totally nimbly surgeoning this guy's strings back from the knotted mass the bones were cocooned in to begin with-- I spent about thirty minutes before he got home, and then got too disgusted with my lack of progress to continue. So way to go Matthew for sticking it out! Recreation of the process from Sunday afternoon:
Matthew [from kitchen table]: Hey, can I untie this guy's foot?
Me [from sofa, reading House of Mystery Vol 1]: No! Don't untie anything! We won't know how to tie it back!
Matthew: I just need to untie this one string and the leg will go through. Then I can untie this crazy knot in the middle.
Me: [suspciously, coming to look over his shoulder] Which foot is it?
And so on. But look! Smiley looks like a million bucks now!
We were so excited with our find that yes, we even took the most amateur marionette video you have ever seen in your living life. The humming is me doing "Keep Your Sunny Side Up" from the Paper Moon soundtrack, which was just the first thing I could think of. Aren't marionettes NEAT? Look at, even in our hopelessly unschooled hands, how his body moves!
Well, I'm off to the races, but what do you think? Do you have any neat, weird, awesome marionettes in your collection? Find anything crazy cool this past week? Had any frustrating brushes with trying to restore something that is above your skill set (knots, why do you torment me!)? Let a girl know!
Hope you had a good weekend, and I'll see you guys back here tomorrow! Til then.