Peter Slight, Ben Javens and Lucy Kempton, with a guest-appearance by Lynne Lamb
Peter Slight initiated the idea of a Puppet Challenge at the Artlog, and thereafter researched and approached many of the artists and makers who would go on to produce puppets for it. Last year his jaunty artwork (see above) announced the Challenge, and thereafter he compiled a number of the ‘puppet posts’ that we jointly provided to encourage the contributors. I am much obliged to him for all his hard work.
Peter Slight: return to the horned man
Peter Slight set his heart on making a ‘horned Man’ puppet from the outset of the Challenge. I’m touched that he chose a folkloric character close to my own heart. It’s no secret here at the Artlog that last year Peter tracked me down and identified me as the anonymous designer of a theme-park attraction that long pre-dated my career as a painter, in which a horned man made an appearance. Peter says that seeing my work on that project when he was at an impressionable age, definitely tipped him into the love of British folklore that informed his choice of career as an artist.
“If all the artists who you have inspired dedicted just one piece of work to you, it would amount to a LOT of work! I myself was inspired by your work over 20 years before I even found out who you were! (And I’m still being inspired by you.)”
“Thanks again, I can honestly say this is one of the best things I’ve ever been involved with, it’s been a real pleasure and privilege doing my little bit.”
Above: the puppet as originally conceived by Peter
Below: his Horned Man as realised.
Ben Javens: Jack-the-Green
Like Peter Slight, Ben Javens is an illustrator, and it’s interesting how both have brought the style of their more usual work to their puppets. Anyone knowing Ben’s graphic output would immediately recognise this Jack-the-Green puppet as being his.
Ben Javens illustration: All Around my Hat
Interesting too, that neither Ben’s Jack-the-Green or Peter’s Horned Man have arms, which lends them a particularly naive charm. I think they hail from the same universe.
Lucy Kempton: Fairy Melusine
I was delighted when I heard that Lucy Kempton was making a version of the French sorceress, Melusine, because it was a tale that I had discovered when studying the ravishing miniatures of the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, in which in flying serpent form, she makes an appearance. That’s her above the red-roofed tower to the right.
Lucy writes beautifully of the story, and so I shall leave her to tell it in her own words, as well as with a lovely quote from Jean d’Arras.
“I chose the mythical figure of Melusine, who is something of a favourite of mine. I was determined to make her from old felted jumpers, old t-shirts, scraps of wool and other textile and knitting-related materials which were waste or which I had already, and knowing I would leave the making of her quite late and be short of time, and that sewing to any kind of perfectionist standard often discourages and deters me from finishing things, I would deliberately make her in a rough and improvisational manner. In fact on researching the story, I learned that one of the best known versions of it from the Middle Ages was that of Jean d’Arras, and was part of a cycle of stories designed to be told by ladies at their spinning and needlework, which seemed appropriate.”
“The tale goes that Raymond of Poitou, founder of the House of Lusignan, came across a beautiful woman, Melusine, in the forest one day. Instantly smitten, he proposed marriage, and she was happy to consent, only exacting the condition that he should never seek to find her on a Saturday. She bore him many fine children and brought him much wealth. Of course in myth, as in life, if you make someone promise things like that, the one thing they want to do is break the taboo and find out. Raymond had to go looking, and found Melusine at her Saturday ablutions. (In some versions simply in the bath at home, and in others in a forest pool or spring, the kind of place associated with her.)”
“Oh dear, she was all serpentine from the waist down, and, many of the tales say, with a double tail!”
“Raymond was shocked, as was Melusine.”
“Then she was furious.”
“But also deeply saddened. Jean d’Arras has her say these words:”
Ah! Raymond, the day when I first saw you was for me a day of sadness! Alas! for my bane I saw your grace, your charm, your beautiful face. For my sadness I desired your beauty, for you have so ignobly betrayed me. Though you have failed in your promise, I had pardoned you from the bottom of my heart for having tried to see me, not even speaking of it to you, for you revealed it to no one. And God would have pardoned it you, for you would have done penance for it in this world. Alas! my beloved now our love is changed to hate, our tenderness to cruelty, our pleasures and joys to tears and weeping, our happiness to great misfortune and hard calamity. Alas, my beloved, had you not betrayed me I were saved from my pains and my torments, I would have lived life’s natural course as a normal woman, I would have died in the normal way, with all the sacraments of the Church, I would have been buried in the church of Notre-Dame de Lusignan and commemorative masses would have been observed for me, as they should. But now you have plunged me back into the dark penitence I have known so long, for my fault. And this penitence, I must bear it until Judgement Day, for you have betrayed me. I pray God to pardon you.
“Though some say she forgave him his curiosity and for seeing her, but couldn’t do so when later in a public row he called her a serpent. She resumed her serpent form and disappeared back into the forest, never to be seen again. But she’d got to found the royal house of Luxembourg first.”
Lucy was not the only contributor to turn to Melusine as as source of inspiration. Lynne Lamb too made a puppet of the siren/sorceress. Lynne has already featured in the Puppet Challenge with her fantastic wolf puppets, but as she also made a marionette of Melusine, I’m adding it here, to keep Lucy’s version company.
Below: Lynne’s Melusine being made.
what a fabulous blue beard!! awesome. and those eyes are quite hypnotic!!
the beautiful greens and blue’s on ben’s puppet, too–very much the opposite mood 😀
and the mermaid in the sink!! fantastic!!
Both of the Melusine puppets are fantastic! I really cracked up with the photos of Melusine in the sink though. Between these and Phillipa’s Prisoner on the toilet I’ve been chuckling for a good while. What is is about puppets and washrooms?
I also really liked the textures in Peter’s and Ben’s puppets.. the wonderful beard of the horned man set off against his yellow eyes, and the very pleasing vegetal patterns of Jack-in-the-Green’s gown.
I just love the realization of Peter’s Horned Man and Ben’s Jack the Green, mostly I like the fact that both puppets illuminate the style and the spirit of their illustration. Lucy’s Melusine is fabulous, I like the rough improvised manner of which she approached the challenge and how she related her material of choice with the history of the story telling, and I very much like the simplicity of Lynne’s Melusine’s tail mechanism, it would’ve been nice to see her in action tail flopping and all.
I’m very honoured to have Melusine in such amazing company, indeed the whole exhibition has been amazing, thank you Peter for the initiative. The horned man is wonderfully goofy in an otherworldly way; I like his yellow eyes too, they look like sweets, and the different textures and textiles in him. Ben’s Jack-in-the-Green is magical, with a kind of far-back emotional resonance I can’t quite identify, something of Tove Jansson and Derek Bruna, of fabric and other designs remembered from a certain period of childhood, but also very much himself. And I love Lynne’s Melusine, with her figurehead attitude and jointed tail – funny how we both emphasised her breasts!
I had a big smile on my face the whole way through this post. All of the puppets are just delightful. Thank you so much Peter for your contributions to this exhibition. It’s been a great experience for all and such a treat to view the works up on line.
I too have to add that those photos of Melusine (how do you pronounce that?) in the sink are quite gorgeous. I particularly liked the playful treatment of “Raymond was shocked, as was Melusine.” ‘Then she was *furious*’ with accompanying actions. Fabulous.
It’s also really lovely that you dedicated your puppet to Clive’s influence on your career path, Peter. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that Clive has influenced many, many an artist as you say. By the way, I too am a fan of the horned man. He appears in my current picture book in the form of a branching tree whose shape forms the head and shoulders of the horned god. I loved Alan Garner’s depiction of him in ‘The Moon of Gomrath’. What are those fantastic yellow eyes made of?
Jack the Green is really delightful. I particularly love the treatment of the hair in that sketchy illustrative brush style. A light and deft touch indeed.
And finally Lynne’s Melusine with her wonderful lips, breasts and side fins is truly fabulous. And I’m in awe of those of you who can achieve such sophisticated articulation in your puppets’ joints. Wonderful work, all.
Thank you for your kind words Judy 🙂 I look forward to seeing your new picture book (it will be a good excuse to keep checking your blog – hopefully he will make an appearance there?) and I will be sure to check out Alan Garners ‘The Moon of Gomrath’ too.
My puppets eyes were a lucky find, I had inteded to use wooden beads, but the bead shop they didn’t have any the right size so I found these plastic beads instead. They are mounted on dowling (painted black), to give the impression they are floating in the deep eye sockets. They effect works rather well, maybe a bit too well, as both my wife and son are scared of him!
Ha ha! Well, I think he’s wonderful and truly charming, but perhaps when he begins to move in person he becomes unnerving! Masks can have that effect on me.)
Yes, no doubt some of the book illos will appear on my blog but I’m not allowed to show much until publication which can make it seem as though nothing is happening. Finished soon. 🙂
By the way ‘The Moon of Gomrath’ is book 2 in a children’s book series by living legend Alan Garner. Interestingly (to me anyway) book 1 is a children’s adventure, book 2 is more ambiguous and idiosyncratic and book 3 was only recently published, half a century after the others and is highly ambiguous and not for children at all. Now I’ve gone WAY off topic! 🙂
Ooh, how intriguing!
thanks for the additional info both of you,
I shall be ordering all three books forthwith!
Oh my goodness!! How wonderful! (And disappointing that you didn’t get the artwork!) what an adorable and well matched pair those two look in their photos. Slightly disheveled and infinitely endearing. Have you read Boneland, Clive?
And…. Did by any chance ‘the Moon of Gomrath’ influence the horned man of the theme-park creation that brought Peter to find you?… If so, even more interesting! And more reason for Peter to lose himself down the hairpin bend tunnels of Brisingamen…
I shall try to find a photograph of the horned man design to send to you. He wasn’t really influenced by The Moon of Gomrath, though THIS horned man from a production I designed most definitely was!
Long ago in a galaxy far from here!
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Another great selection of inspired work….and I love all the background information and idea development. Melusine sprawled in the sink is a delight! (as is Lynne’s version). Peter and Ben both bring that special illustration quality to their puppets that is very individual. How I’d love to see all the Challenge puppets playing/strutting their stuff together on some infinite stage somewhere!…..
Thanks to Peter for all his work and words of encouragement throughout this project. From that first post announcing the idea, and thoughts of ‘gulp, how do I make a puppet?’ the project has evolved into something really special and the contributions he’s helped to inspire from everybody have been just knockout. I love his shaggy horned man and Ben’s puppet is the sweetest Jack-the-Green I’ve ever seen. The images of Lucy’s Melusine reclining in the sink have become my new favourite things from the Puppet Challenge, fabulous. Lynne’s busty Melusine is a great looking puppet, she had tremendous presence!
I never cease to be amazed by the creativity displayed by the Challengers!
The story of Melusine is fantastic, and Lucy’s take on her is lusty and earthy. I love the photos of her in her bath!
Lyn’s approach on her is equally charming. All that articulation looks like she will be quite wriggly!
Peter’s Horned Man certainly does justice to his vision, as does Ben’s Jack in the Green. Not quite sweet, not quite innocent, but approachable. Kudos to all!