Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sparky's Younger Brother.........

Introducing Sparky's younger brother 'Skippy'! I've been meaning to do this for quite awhile, but 2013 has been so crazy, I just could not get to it until now. In any case, with no further ado, here he is, Skippy!

He is now up on our website and is available as a finished figure, or as a kit head. Here are the links for those pages............

Hope you like him!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fred on the Workbench

Like many other figure makers, when a figure is completed, I will spend some time making sure everything is working as it should before the figure gets sent out. And as you'll see, when I do this, I pretty much always end up making the figure talk a little. Yes, as the saying goes, "I talk to myself a lot, and work with dummies all day long!"

The professional ventriloquist figure shown in the video below, is made by me, Mike Brose, of Puppets and Props, and has moving mouth, side-to-side self-centering eyes, raising eyebrows, and one-control blinkers (which means one control closes both eyelids at the same time). 

We of course also offer figures with two-control winkers (like the figure in our Sparky video on YouTube), which can close each eyelid individually or both at the same time. Here is the video clip of Fred on the Workbench getting a little mini workout with his controls......

To find out more about Fred and to see some of our other quality figures, you can go here on our website......


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I get this strange feeling.....

Every so often, while I'm working in the workshop, I get this strange feeling like someone is watching me! Hmmmmmmmm.............. 

I don't think I'm imagining it. Someone IS watching me!
Oh no! Everywhere I look there are eyes following me!

And MORE eyes following me!

Then my wife taps me on the shoulder and says, "Did you forget that you work in a puppet shop again, dear?" "Sigh!" Yeah, every once in awhile, I have to be reminded of this strange, but wonderful reality. I build puppets for a living! It's a way cool, childhood dream that has come true for me and is now my regular daily workweek. I actually have to pinch myself some days to see if this is all really happening or not. 
Very fun, but strange profession at times. I still get a kick out of it when my adult kids tell me about one of their friends who asks................
 "What does your dad do for work?.........  He does what?!?"   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fumbling on Facebook....

I'm probably one of the last holdouts for getting onto Facebook and finding out how the social networking and such works. I did finally join up last summer and muddled through the process, and have slowly but surely gotten familiar with things on there and the basics of how it works.

One thing I really struggled with before signing up on Facebook was figuring out if I should have a personal page or a business page (I mistakenly thought at that time that you could only have one or the other). I had seen a lot of people who made obvious business posts on their personal pages. And the Facebook business page set up, I didn't quite understand how it worked.

I asked my son-in-law about it (he's very smart when it comes to computers, social media, etc.), and he strongly suggested I go for a business page if I was going to use it for my business. Well........, I was a little stubborn, and after looking at the situation and thinking it was better to go the other way, I set up a personal page, and started out that way.

Finally, about a month or so ago, after noticing some business pages, I did some more research on the whole thing and discovered you could have both a personal page AND a business page, and there were definite advantages to having a Page just for the biz. Also, per Facebook policy, you are not supposed to be using a personal Facebook page for business. They can close your personal account! Yikes!

So......... I have since apologized to my very smart and kind son-in-law, and also started a business page for Puppets and Props on Facebook. This is actually just a long way of saying I put up a business page on Facebook. If you get a chance, take a look, and of course, please 'Like' my page!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Thousands Words. . . .

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is true, then a video must be worth quite a few more words, eh?!? My blog has had several pictures of the inside of the heads of figures that I have made. And many have let me know that they appreciate seeing these type of photos.

 There's a fair amount you can learn from a still photo for sure, but seeing the actual mechanisms in motion tells a whole lot more of the story. It's a lot easier to see what does what. This last week, after a hard days work in the shop, I took a few minutes and shot some video inside one of the heads I made.

This video shows the set up of what I like to call the Basic Four: moving mouth, side-to-side self-centering eyes, raising eyebrows and winkers. There are a variety of ways those animations can be made. This video demonstrates one way of doing these basic four mechanisms. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

All Cord or All Rod Mechanics?

Sometimes beginning figure makers get all hung up on thinking they have to do all rod control mechanics. They see some of the figure makers out there that do this style of mechanics and get it in their head that it is the only way to go, or the best way to go. They think they can not build a really high quality figure without going that route.  Is that true? Read on.......

First of all, doing all rod control mechanics (also called direct linkage), is an advanced technique and takes quite a bit of know how and skill to accomplish. To make direct linkage mechanics quiet and reliable is quite the challenge. I know because I have done them several times over the years I've been making figures. Here's an example of a figure I've done that way............

It turned out very nice and the customer really liked the way they functioned and how quiet they were, but I can tell you it is a lot of painstaking work to accomplish. By comparison, all cord mechanics are a piece of cake! Here's an all cord mechanics figure that I did recently............

It functions very nicely as well. Here is a shot of the inside of that figure, to show how simple the mechanics can be.............

Adding additional mechanics inside the head is easier with all cord control typically. Here a is a shot of the inside of another figure that had raising eyebrows added..........

All cord mechanics are easier to make and typically much easier to make them operate quietly compared to all rod control mechanics. The figure builder pulls a lot less of his or her hair out! (grin) So is all cord mechanics better in some way than all rod mechanics? Or is all rod mechanics better than all cord mechanics?

If done well, either all cord or direct linkage can be good. If done poorly, either one can be a nightmare! Each has its advantages and disadvantages. If cord control is done poorly, the cords can fray and even break prematurely. But if done well, they can last a long time, rarely break, and operate nice and quiet. But if a cord did break at some point, the owner could most likely fix it himself, or if he sent it out to be fixed, it usually would be an inexpensive repair, which is nice.

But again, if done well the cords rarely break. Here a Chuck Jackson all cord control head stick.............

I put all new brass levers on this head stick. But I did not have to replace the cords. They were still in great shape and there was no need to replace them.

If done poorly, all rod control can end up being quite noisy and need repair soon. And if something does go wrong, it is very doubtful that the average figure owner could repair it himself. It's just too complicated. And if you have to send it out to be repaired, it could potentially be very pricey to fix. Also, you could not send it to just any figure maker to fix it. If done well however, all rod control can be very responsive, and be a delight to operate.

Many top figure makers (Guyll, Semok, Hartz, Marshall, etc.) have made some great figures with all cord control (some may do rod control eyes, but all else is cord control) that have held up very well over time. And the same can be said of some top figure makers that have used all rod control. In both cases, the figure mechanics have been crafted very well.

It would be much better to make an all cord control figure that functioned well, than to make an all rod control figure where the mechanics were very noisy, and the mechanical connections were binding/squeaking, etc.

So which is better? All rod control or all cord control? In my humble opinion, both methods are very viable ways of mechanizing and animating a professional ventriloquist figure, if..........., done well.

In the end, it can get down to personal preference as to what building style you would like to go for. My recommendation for beginning figure makers (or kit builders), is to start primarily with cord control mechanics on your first figure or two.

Then, as you get more familiar with figure building, think about experimenting with some rod control mechanics. Maybe just one or two rod control animations. The eye mechanism is the easiest rod control mechanics to learn. The mouth is the next easiest perhaps. Winkers and eyebrows can be a bit more involved.

Also, remember, a figure does not have to be all cord control or all rod control. It can be a combination of both. Over time, you will find what works best for you and your building style.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cast Ventriloquist Dummy Parts.....

  In December of 2012 we had to temporarily halt production of our high quality cast dummy parts. We needed some time to catch up a bit here with our finished figure orders. Since that time we of course have had numerous people contacting us to see when they would be available again. We've made some arrangements here, and that time is NOW! Click on link below.......

Cast Dummy Parts

  You may need to refresh your browser for those pages to show properly. Our cast parts have been helping people build figures since 1993! It has been very gratifying helping so many get started making their own figures. In fact some have gone on to making and selling figures themselves and have done quite well. Some names that might surprise you. I'm just happy to have had a part behind the scenes here.

  There have been numerous phone calls, emails, etc., over these years of providing cast parts and instruction on building figures. On occasion that can get to be a bit overwhelming, but all in all, I really do enjoy teaching others as I have the time to do so. Always have enjoyed that part of it.

p.s. my wife Cathy is doing a lot better now. Thanks to all who inquired about her!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bad news, good news. . .

I had written on Facebook, but I had not written here yet. My wife of 39 years (Cathy) tried to check out early on me last week. She had been in the hospital since a week ago Monday. We were told on Friday that if we had not gotten her in when we did, she would have died by the weekend. That's the bad news.

 The good news is that after a vital surgical procedure done last Thursday night, the doctor was able to get her condition (an extremely serious infection) under control. Whew! She finally got to come home last night after spending a week in the hospital, undergoing aggressive treatment.

The most important thing is, that she is going to be okay. I am posting a few of my favorite pics of her. Yes, they are older pics, but she is just as beautiful and even more precious to me currently. A bit of a cliche, but yes, she is even more beautiful on the inside. I would be so lost without her. She is so much more than my better half!

She has also been my biggest fan, and without her help and support over the years, I doubt that I would be doing what I'm doing (my childhood dream). It is going to be a bit of a long road yet for her to fully recover from all of this, but it looks like a full recovery will be the final outcome. Yes, I will have my hands full trying taking care of her, while still working full time building puppets, but that's the least I can do considering all that she has done for me for so many years. She is the love of my life.

 I will try to get back to doing more posts on puppet related items soon I hope. Thanks for bearing with me posting about my personal life. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Winkin', Blinkin' and 'Sparky'!

Sorry to have been so quiet here. It's surely been interesting and challenging. Both my wife Cathy and I are doing some better now, and are making progress in getting caught up. Thanks to all who have shown their concern!

When our character 'Sparky' first came out, he was not available with winkers, blinkers, nor our higher end mechanics. He is now available with all of the above. Actually he was added to our High Quality line of figures in November 2012 to help make that possible.

It was kind of a no brainer, as we were getting constant requests from customers who wanted to order 'Sparky' with winkers. People were chomping at the bit. He's a great character, even without, but they REALLY wanted winkers!

So we listened, and made him available with winkers as well as our higher end mechanics. And it is a very good thing. He really comes to life when equipped with 2 control winkers as is evidenced in this short Youtube video clip that he stars in.........

  As you can see, his full personality real comes to the fore with the addition of the 2 control winkers and the higher end mechanics (they are fast, slick, quiet and easy to use). And with a little finesse using the controls, you can get expressions that are difficult to get without winkers.

I hope you enjoy the short video clip. 'Sparky' sure enjoys being a ham, as you will see! If you want more info on 'Sparky' you can find it here.........

Mike Brose Pro Vent Figures

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Clinton Detweiler - Cherished Friend, Colleague and Mentor

Clinton Detweiler

 Pretty much everybody is aware of the passing of ventriloquist icon Clinton Detweiler. I just wanted to share a few of my thoughts about this kind man. To me, beyond the icon status that he so greatly deserved, Clinton was a fine friend, a trusted colleague, and a mentor.  Looking back.........

I became aware of Clinton (and his wife Adelia) as a young adult. My father kind of got me hooked on the magazine, Popular Mechanics, and I would always check the classified ads in the back, as I knew I would find the ad that Clinton put in there for Maher Studios. Warm and fuzzy memories now.

Of course, I did like so many others interested in ventriloquism at the time. I sent off for a Maher catalog! How exciting that was when it came in the mail. I would pour over the catalog for hours. And of course I would drool over the ventriloquist figures, being so interested both in ventriloquism and figure making.

And like so many others in the vent community, I would write and ask questions, and Clinton ALWAYS wrote back and was most helpful. And when you ordered something, you could count on him to always deliver and provide great products and service.

 I can't remember the number of times I had ordered a catalog from Clinton, or how many times I looked to see if the ad was still in PM. I knew that if his ad was still there, that ventriloquism was alive and well. I had always desired to be doing what he was doing. Serving the vent community in some way. He surely set some high standards for that over the years. Yet he was very humble about all that he did for ventriloquists.

Clinton was always a joy to talk shop with and freely shared what he had learned over the years. And he was a man of his word. I always knew he would do exactly what he said he would do. I came to trust him (and his son Kevin) so much, that when I stopped taking on figure repair work, it was such a comfort to know that I could refer him (or his son) without ANY reservations, and knew that those customers I sent to him would be treated very well!

Clinton was, and will continue to be an inspiration to me in my figure making business. I have a bit of correspondence from Clinton that I have kept, including some truly sage advice on my figure making and kit businesses. I have to heave a huge sigh when I realize I can no longer talk shop with this very, very, kind and generous man. He will be sorely missed by me, and the entire vent community.