To Make Great Finger Puppets, You Must Purge Yourself of All Happiness
If you’ve ever caught yourself smiling while you work, you might as well quit now.
Welcome to my workshop. Please take a seat with the rest of my apprentices.
I hope you appreciated that greeting, because it is the last bit of warmth you will get from me. For I did not become the greatest fingerpuppetrist in my profession by coddling my pupils. From now on, you must be devoted to your craft. You must be free of all distractions.
You must also purge yourself of all happiness.
Take a look at my best-seller, Allie the Alligator. See how she is tailored to fit snugly on a child’s thumb. She has a carefree expression, individually crafted rhinestone scales, a mouth that can open or close with a twitch. She is perhaps the most exquisite of all my creations.
I hate her. As I hate all of my work.
To be happy is to be satisfied, and satisfaction of any kind is the death of art. Thus, enjoying your work makes you a murderer. Every compliment you receive should make you want to drink yourself to death.
That reminds me: there’s juice and snacks on the back table.
Now, it is time for you to get to work. Allow me to demonstrate how I create a puppet from these simple materials on my iron drafting table. Do your best to mimic me with the knowledge that it makes you no less pathetic.
First, the fabric. Hold it before you and regard its softness with disgust. I require each of you to weep openly at least once per puppet. I want tears in the felt, and I will be tasting for them.
Next, the head. Draw its pattern on your tracing paper, but remember: a head alone is not a puppet.
Heads must always be attached to bodies, in finger puppets as in nature. No exceptions. Any finger puppets without detailed bodies will be cast into this furnace I keep constantly stoked for exactly this purpose. I would rather you create a puppet of a disembodied torso than the opposite.
What’s that? You get a break when you collapse from exhaustion. Back to work.
Now to begin the crafting. Arrange the gluesticks like the pipes of a desecrated church organ. Cut ribbons, crimp cotton, insert and bend safety pins. This is the threshing, and your harvest will feed on your blood. Your fingers must always be occupied.
You, in the back row: stop snickering, start snipping.
As I was saying. If you are to make TRUE finger puppets, your own fingers must be puppet-topped at all times. No one is allowed to leave this room until you have found a permanent puppet for each digit. Whichever one you pick, I will ridicule you for it, because otherwise, how will you grow? You may only remove the finger puppets you are wearing when you are in the act of making your own. Like a hair shirt, they are a symbol of penance and humility.
Heads down, everyone. I want to hear those pinking shears!
Once you have created your very first puppets, there is one thing left: you must destroy it all. Your inventory, your home, every googly eye, and ball of yarn. All of it must be cast to the flames. This is so you end your career before you have a chance to embarrass yourself.
The immolation of your workshop must then be followed by a long, grueling pilgrimage, far away from anywhere you recognize. You will be pelted by hail and bitten by snakes in your sleep. You will be struck by lightning at least once. On the day when you finally encounter a running river and gaze at your face for what feels like the first time, you will weep in incomprehension.
You will feel the emptiness inside you, and know that you are the one falsely sitting on the finger of an unseen creating force, one that wiggles you around and makes your limbs dance for its own amusement. Your eyes are buttons. Your mouth is a seam of thread. Your body is soft and easily unraveled.
On that day, you will be truly ready to make finger puppets.
If anyone’s interested, I also teach courses on balloon animals.