inspiration

Tom Tichenor Pilgrimage

In summer 2013, I had the great privilege of not only going to see The Monkees at The Ryman in Nashville, but also taking a quick trip down a few blocks to the Nashville Public Library to view the permanent collection on display of one of my heroes in the puppetry field. His name was Tom Tichenor, and although I never saw one of his plays live, I learned a lot about puppet building from his book, Tom Tichenor’s Puppets, which  I checked out of the library almost weekly as a child. I now own this book and have used and adapted many of the patterns in the book to build my own puppets today.

A magnificent castle used in the Nashville Public Library shows.
A magnificent castle used in the Nashville Public Library shows.

A very nice Tichenor fox puppet, still in use today. I use this same pattern for my own puppets.
A very nice Tichenor fox puppet, still in use today. I use this same pattern for my own puppets.
Tommy Dog and another dog whose name I don't know!
Tommy Dog and another dog whose name I don’t know!
Tommy Dog, from the still-used Tichenor puppets.
Tommy Dog, from the still-used Tichenor puppets.
I was allowed to see some of the puppets used in shows every day that were made by Tom. This is Cedric the Dragon. I LOVE his little round nose!
I was allowed to see some of the puppets used in shows every day that were made by Tom. This is Cedric the Dragon. I LOVE his little round nose!
Tichenor's "Puppet Playhouse".I am guessing this was some sort of little  peek-a-boo window.
Tichenor’s “Puppet Playhouse”.I am guessing this was some sort of little
peek-a-boo window.
A Holy grail of sorts--Tichenor's "Puppet Playhouse". Look at the detail!! I admired this so much in my Tom Tichenor book I used to check out of the library all the time as a child(and eventually bought).
A Holy grail of sorts–Tichenor’s “Puppet Playhouse”. Look at the detail!! I admired this so much in my Tom Tichenor book I used to check out of the library all the time as a child(and eventually bought).
A Holy grail of sorts--Tichenor's "Puppet Playhouse". Look at the detail!!
A Holy grail of sorts–Tichenor’s “Puppet Playhouse”. Look at the detail!!
Part of the backstage Tichenor archive at the Nashville Public Library. Mary Tanner Bailey of WIshing Chair Productions took me back to see all these marvelous pieces. This is the star of the Tichenor production "The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings".So sweet!
Part of the backstage Tichenor archive at the Nashville Public Library.
This is the star of the Tichenor production “The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings”.So sweet!
Part of the backstage Tichenor archive at the Nashville Public Library. Mary Tanner Bailey of WIshing Chair Productions took me back to see all these marvelous pieces. This is the star of the Tichenor production "The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings".So sweet!
Part of the backstage Tichenor archive at the Nashville Public Library.
This is the star of the Tichenor production “The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings”.So sweet!
More of the Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library. There were many many of these wonderful little houses covered with intricate scenery.
More of the Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library. There were many many of these wonderful little houses covered with intricate scenery.
Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library.  Sweet mousies!
Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library. Sweet mousies!

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Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library.  I think that is one of the Billy Goats Gruff at the top.
Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library. I think that is one of the Billy Goats Gruff at the top.
Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library.
Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library.
Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library.
Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library.
Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library. The puppets from  "Carnivale",including Horrible Harry the green walrus, are at center.
Part of the main Tichenor exhibit at the Nashville Public Library. The puppets from
“Carnivale”,including Horrible Henry the green walrus, are at center.

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Puddle Sprite!

I found this funny little toy animal(?) at a vintage store. I have no idea what he is. I cut off his lower half, which only had miniscule feet anyway, and unstuffed his torso. He makes a pretty darling little puppet, although he does need his lower section redone to extend down past my wrist. I also put the two funny pompoms on his forehead. Isn’t he cute? He sort of goes along with this funny squeaky voice my husband and I use around the house. Tentatively calling him a Puddle Sprite for now.

Puddle Sprite2

Hello, my name is Al.

I use this picture as an icon in a couple of places, and now I’m getting rather attached to it. It might be fun to dress up the ol’finger and film a few clips of it and see how it looks.

But there’s an interesting (well, okay, at least to me) story here. The photo was taken at the assisted living facility where my grandmother now resides. An entire houseful and lifetime of stuff was sorted, sold, given away, etc.and my grandmother is down to one room’s worth of her possessions. How this little metal hat survived the great cull I have no idea, but I posed the question to my dad where the heck this hat comes from, and it’s much older than I thought!

Dad asked Grandmother about the hat (which used to always sit next to a tiny figure that was a cigarette-smoking dog–I thought the hat belonged to the dog). However, her memory of times and places is now very strange, and she insisted that it had something to do with Huey Long, who was  the Governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a U.S. senator from 1932 to 1935. We live in and are from Georgia, and I’m not even sure if Grandmother has even been to Louisiana, so this story didn’t quite check out.

Dad happened to run into someone over the weekend who seems to have had an iPhone, and the story about the hat came up. Long story short, young tech guy with iPhone managed to Google the little hat and discovered that it is most likely a collectible from the 1928 election in which Herbert Hoover was running against Alfred Smith. Smith’s trademark was apparently brown bowler, or “derby”  hat,and various campaign favors were given out in the shape of hats.

So if the hat ever falls into my possession, we’ll call the resulting character Al. It’s great to finally know where it came from!

A little research on NorthClaw. Caves,beaches and bluffs.

When I was in grade school, my gifted students class went on several-day field trip to,among other places, Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee.I didn’t have a camera then, but a lot of the wondrous things I saw when we camped overnight in the caves are forever burned into my memory. Here’s a good section of the Caverns’ official photo gallery,which gives a good look into my inspiration for the interior of our dragon’s cave.

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Tom Tichenor.

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When I was a kid, I checked  this book, “Tom Tichenor’s Puppets”, out of our library quite frequently. Written by Tom himself, I enjoyed the matter-of-fact but warm and fatherly tone of his writing.  Reading his book truly felt as if I were a learning apprentice, and he soon became one of my heroes. I can remember seeing a scant few of his puppets on public television when I was small and visiting relatives in Tennesssee.

One of the most important things I learned from this book is the use of color and patterns; do not use patterned fur or fabric on a puppet’s face, as it will hide and obscure the features, and do not ever make an all-black or similarly dark-colored  puppet, because it will look like a hole.

Tom’s career began at age 15, performing at the Nashville Public Library,and here is an excerpt from the Library’s article on this talented and versatile entertainer:

Tichenor’s association with the library, both as volunteer and staff member, spanned 50 years, including a period in the 1940s and 50s when he worked for commercial radio stations WSM and WSIX.

From his nationally televised Poindexter series to his outstanding work with the Circle Players and the Nashville Children’s Theater, and his stunning contribution of puppetry in the Broadway musical Carnival!, Tichenor’s professional career was exciting and varied.

In 1967, after the completion of his daily children’s program Birthday House, broadcast on WNBC-TV in New York, Tichenor returned home to the Nashville Public Library. By the time of his retirement in 1988, he had marked “fifty years of enchantment” and was a much-loved figure to generations of audiences who treasured his marionette shows.

Nashville suffered a great loss upon Tichenor’s death in 1992, but his work lives on today. Wishing Chair Productions(the current full-time performers at the Library) is proud to preserve Tichenor’s memory through the continued use of his beloved marionettes and puppets. The Nashville Public Library honors and embraces the legacy of the unique craftsman, artist and storyteller that was Tom Tichenor.

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One of my favorite puppets made by Tom Tichenor is his notorious green walrus,Horrible Henry,from the 1961 musical Carnival.

More words I live by…

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt,
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910