When I decided to collect ventriloquist figures I made it a point to purchase figures that were carved from wood. This was the medium that for me represented the “Ventriloquist Figure” . Of course that is not the case because other materials were used to make figures as we all know.
Paper mache was used, plastic wood , liquid rubber (Latex) etc,etc. Now the figures which were produced from other materials are good but I wanted wood. I kind of limited myself with this and had to bend because some of the best collector figures were not done in wood.
The McElroy brother used plastic wood to create their fabulous creations, Len Insull and other English makers used Paper Mache to do their figures. So in my quest for acquiring collectable figures I had to also accept that some were going to not be made in wood. (Did you catch that ” accept” LOL)
I love watching ventriloquists that make reference to their wooden friend when in reality the figure is a cast head and not carved wood. Why use the wood reference when it is not made of wood. The answer is because when you think of a ventriloquist figure you think of wood.
Just some rambling thought of a ventriloquist figure collector.
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 2010 by Dan Willinger
NOTE: You may use this blog article provided you run it with the bio box intact. Please email a copy of your publication with the blog article in it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am not sure if figures by McElroys were plastic wood or celastic, but whatever they would shatter, until the last, lone and only fibreglass one made for Dennis Alwood, and of course by Insull were paper mache, which is wood. I have seen what water, weather and time does to fibreglass boats on farm ponds, and think about Swedish oak ship Vasa which sank on her maiden voyage in 1628, under water for 333 years, brought up and restored. http://www.abc.se/~pa/publ/vasa.htm
As an aspiring maker of figures I’m very interested in materials. As of this time I’m avoiding fiberglass because I don’t have a place with adequate ventilation and some of the other materials (latex, plastics) don’t seem easily available. I’m leaning toward paper maché because it is moldable and am for now resisting wood because of the time it would take to carve. The main resistance to wood is that I figure if I can turn out figures faster, I have a much better chance of selling enough to make this a workable proposition. It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t ever be carving the heads out of wood but that I might do most of them some other way.
One could use a foam wig mount split down middle on sides to use as an armature. Plain old wood sawdust mixed with Elmer’s wood glue mix is what I like to work with. You could even have a wood grain of sorts by first putting on the armature thin wire window screen to the split halves before applying the mix. Two or three applications allowing overnight drying time should be enough, then separate the armature and use again. One final application of the mix inside the head would cover the screen for added strength and then continue the figure making process. This same procedure would apply to hands and feet except no need to halve the armature which could be simple wadded up masking tape. I think that is how I would do it. Sawdust and glue is not too hard to work with, but keep bucket of water handy to dip hands in and to help in molding.