Tuesday, 12 April 2011

April 12, 2011 - Puppets (Battery Not Required)

Wise Daughters is experiencing a happy and unusual serge in sales of popcorn monster puppets, made by local puppeteer Joel Brubacher of Banjo Puppets.  It seems to have started with a neighbourhood birthday party about a month ago.  The young guests admired the birthday girl's very appealing puppet, and soon a few had also acquired them.  They took them to the local school and daycare, and pretty soon a fad was born. I've sold about 30 since, and it's been interesting, for a number of reasons.

The first is that some parents are expressing their genuine pleasure that their kids want a locally handmade toy, not the latest plastic piece of crap.  Some have even taken the opportunity to share with their kids the concept of a carbon footprint.  These puppets come to Wise Daughters by bicycle, from about 6 blocks away.  If ever there was a teachable moment about sustainability, this is it.

These same parents do not balk at the $19 price, understanding that handmade = labour intensive.  Others, however, do a little ranting.  I understand that $19 is a lot of money for a lot of parents, and absolutely respect those who say "no" or better yet, "You'll have to save up for that."  Some grown-ups have wondered aloud why Joel doesn't just have them manufactured offshore somewhere.  This is also a teachable moment, but these are my customers, not my students, so I have to tread carefully.  I explain that a mass-produced version would not and could not be the same as the lovingly handmade one - not in the quality of the materials nor in the craftspersonship.  And I try to work in a mention of the merits of local goods, without sounding too much like a self-righteous hippie. 

But the most interesting aspect of this puppet fad is the discussion around what this product "does".  A dad turned it around and around in his hand today, asking his son: "But what does it do?"  I'm not suprised when kids look for the "on" switch, but I kind of expect adults to know that a puppet is operated by the imagination. 


  1. Nice post Mary, and surprising! The question "what does it do?" is kind of a sad question to me. Speaking of "teachable moment" this is a moment for a child to teach the adult a little something about imagination!

  2. Well, a mass-produced can be as high-quality as a local one and it can be well-crafted - think Holt Renfrew, Armani. It also makes things more affordable so poor kids can have plushies too.