Although the Ottawa Valley weavers and spinners guild is the largest guild in eastern Ontario, we also have many smaller neighbour guilds. One of the closest neighbours is the West Carleton Fibre Guild who hold their meetings on a Tuesday afternoon in Dunrobin, Ontario (just a bit past the west end of Kanata). But the September’s meeting was special.
Back door of the Almonte Textile Museum
They had a field trip to the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte. The trip was planned so they could have a special tour of the Puppet exhibit by Noreen Young. At present there are 3 exhibits at the museum. There permanent display of Mill equipment and modern weaving looms, a spectacular quilt exhibit and Noreen Young: a Puppet Retrospective. With 150 examples of some of her life’s work in puppetry. She is internationally known and has received the order of Canada for work with producing, writing and puppeteering in many children’s and educational programs.
Poster for the exhibit. First puppet in the exhibition (a rod puppet with detachable legs
Noreen with her first puppet
She gave us a tour through the exhibit explaining different puppets and giving anecdotes of her work with them. She was asked if she had a favorite and told us her Granny character, Mrs. Gertrude Diddle and Gloria Gopher she was particularly fond of. She took some down from the display and showed us how they moved and what they voice sounded like. She did the voices for most of her puppets but occasional had to lip sink to a voice actor which was harder.
Almost all her puppets were to be worked with the puppeteer below holding one arm up to operate the mouth and the other hand controls the rods to move the hands. She showed us how it was important to make the puppets bob as they moved or it looked like they were skating along or floating in the air witch just wasn’t right.
Her earliest work was in the 60’s “Hi Diddle Day” 1967 to 1976. These puppets are in a glass display case with a couple more the puppet cast. Not all the puppets are in display cases though.
Displayed on shelves with monitors showing bits of the program they were used for beneath them were the Puppets for “under the Umbrella tree” which ran on CBC, Disney and Canal Famille from 1987-1997.
She explained about the studio being an old garage and having a lower ceiling than studios usually had. So the puppeteers had to sit on rolling boxes since they could only raise the live actor up a certain height before the ceiling was a problem. For most shows she said the puppeteers stood on the floor with the live actors raised on platforms so they could interact with the puppets. The head bands the puppeteers are wearing holds their mikes. This insures the mike is always the same distance from their mouth as they switch between looking up at the puppet and down at their scripts.
There were puppets from series I didn’t remember but am now sorry I missed. “Bats” from a 1987 Pilot.
Also “Wacky Palms” from 1994 about a small boutique resort in the Bermuda triangle. Run by a cow with a theatrical past and with an eclectic staff. Strange things happen when a time portal opens and havoc is unleashed upon the hotel.
She said that some of her most effective puppets had elements of movement such as the feathers for hair, parts that dangled or the way the fabric moved with the puppet.
Noreen was also known for her Caricatures of real peoples. Her Prince Charles from 1975, created for “What’s new” a kids news show for CBC, is very recognizable. She also made a copy of the mayor of Ottawa.
She has made caricatures of may Almonte area people (about 50 on display) who have been used in various puppet shows in the area. She was the artistic Director for “Puppets up!”; an annual international puppet show from 2005 to 2016. International puppet shows from across the planet performed in the tiny town of Almonte.
There are some puppets that can be interacted with. It will take 2 people to run them one is the head and hands and a second person runs the feet.
She did puppets for and educational spot about food nutrition.
This is the Granny Bride puppet she made for a friend in 2000.
I didn’t recognize this group of puppets but it looks like an interesting cast.
Her last work was with a puppet opera called “sleeping rough” which was performed in Ottawa 2018 as part of the series music and beyond. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVQGUjLM-WU&feature=share )
Most of Her puppets are made by sculptor the head in plasticine then casting it. She uses the cast to create the flexible, expressive rubber faces she uses in her puppets.
She has given 3 workshops on making puppets during the run of the exhibit and has another lecture to do before the exhibit closes. My husband was lucky enough to get a spot in one of her workshops. She said he was very well prepared and had amazing focus making his puppet Blacksmith. He said he had a blast and was very glad he had gone.
This exhibit made me smile! I couldn’t help but feel happy looking at all the puppets many I recognized. I am sure you would enjoy seeing them too. Keep an eye out for Noreen she says she drops by regularly to the exhibit.
The Exhibit runs to September 22 2018 so if you have a chance jumps in the car and ask the GPS to take you to the Mississippi Textile Museum https://mvtm.ca/?exhibition=noreen-young-retrospective
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY TEXTILE MUSEUM
3 Rosamond Street East, Almonte, Ontario K0A 1A0
Phone: (613) 256-3754
- Tuesday to Friday 10am – 4pm
- Saturday noon – 4pm
- Closed Sunday & Monday
Museum Admission: $7.00
Members admitted without charge. Children under 12 are always free.