I have to touch on the collecting of newer ventriloquist figures because they too can make a very fine collection. New figures make collecting an easy task because they are readily available. There are quite a few makers today that create some very fine dummies made out of many different materials and with all the same type facial movements of the old style figures.
One of the builders today that is making giant waves with the ventriloquist community is Dan Payes. Dan is an all in one creator in that he does everything in the production of his figures. He makes the clay sculptures, makes his own molds, does all the casting, builds the bodies, does all the mechanics and does the complete painting. He creates a multitude of original characters and always seems to be pushing the envelope.
Dan Payes’ ventriloquist figures are much more in demand than they used to be, and for good reason.
Dan’s out of the box thinking, off the wall designs and remarkably low prices have put him in a category all his own. Dan’s figures are not your typical “cheeky boy”, though he does offer the classic looking dummy if you so desire. His designs are more geared to extreme character types, and some are simply indescribable (in a good way). This is what makes him stand out in a self made class all his own, and the performer can benefit from this as well by standing out on stage.
Dan started making dummies in the late 90’s before the internet created several fly by night dummy makers. The first design was “Preston”. And it was so inexpensive we won’t mention the price here. That design was taken to the limit as far as a molded figures go. And the design was retired a few years ago. But it put Dan on the map, and many people followed his career as a figure maker since then. “Preston will always be a favorite of mine”, Said Dan in a recent interview. “I sculpted him based on a scary clown doll I own from Argentina”.
Dan’s designs only got more elaborate and really pushed the envelope from there. “A Cyclops, a Siamese twin, an atomic mutant, a hot rod monster, I’m sure there’s more I just can’t think of them right now”, said Dan when we asked about the weirdest ones he’s made. Dan’s figures are also attractive as collectables because of the medium in which he has chosen to create them. We asked about this and Dan said,” I love mannequin composition, it allows me to create the way out stuff without worrying about them falling apart or cracking. I also like mannequin composition because it’s as old school as you’re gonna get for making more than one figure besides using wood. The paint doesn’t chip off either. I also think I’m the only figure maker to have taken mannequin composition to the limit of its abilities. But don’t hold me to that, the last thing I need is another challenge! “
Dan may also be the only figure maker to offer a lifetime warranty! “They rarely break”, says Dan, “I figured a life time warranty should be standard. Of course, I can’t cover repairs if they run them over with a truck! I think I only had to honor the warranty 2 or 3 times in a decade, and one for sure was due to shipping damage”.
Dan has scaled back the amount of requests he accepts for making a dummy. “I just don’t have much time anymore”.., says Dan, “I’d like to strictly build dummies, but It will probably always remain a hobby for me. But I don’t see me stopping cold turkey. There’s way to many ideas in my head for me to stop”. Well, we are happy to hear he won’t be stopping anytime soon. A figure maker like Dan doesn’t hit the scene too often.
There are a few people out there that already have quite a collection of Dan’s figures so go to his web site www.danpayespuppetry.com and take a look and I think you will enjoy what you see. Especially the price.
We just hope he stays around the hobby for many years to come, there’s no telling what he’ll come up with next!
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2009 by Dan Willinger
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