James Wojtal is a talented puppet designer and builder. During his career he has worked on projects like Avenue Q, Bear in the Big Blue House, Crank Yankers, Saturday Night Live, Sesame Street (the American and various internationl versions), Mop-a-Top's Shop, Kermit's Swamp Years, Animal Jam, and more. In this interview I asked him to share his thoughts about puppet building.
SJ: Where and when did you learn how to build puppets?
JW: Well for the most part I was self taught, again I had been given lessons in sewing at a early age. My mother was and still is a very crafty person. She had been a Kindergarten teacher before myself and my siblings were born, and she was always very crafty. I know I picked up a lot of my early skills from her - a lot of it was experimentation, trying to find the right materials back then was hard. I didn't have the internet, and good books on puppetry were hard to find at my local and school libraries, so it was really just a lot of trial and error.
I think the big eureka moment happened in 6th grade when I found some old contact cement in the basement, and getting a old foam bolster from a pillow my mom was recovering, it all just sort of clicked. I would say the countless hours I spent watching and re-watching videos of the Muppets helped a lot as well.