Saturday, August 21, 2021

Fitzrovia Fête

Here’s proof, if it is ever needed, to show that Punch & Judy is still very much alive and as popular as ever!! 

This is a ‘chance’ picture I managed to take [August 14th] at the Fitzrovia Fête. It was ‘snapped’ through a window inside Pollock’s Toy Museum, (Scala Street, London W1). The Punch ‘Professor’ in the ‘booth’ was Mr Robert Styles. 
[Photo Credit:  Lars Peter Beaven] [MORE Fête photos!]

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Toy Theatre @ 2nd Int'l Puppet Fringe Festival NYC

Here are the toy theatre performances, workshops, and exhibition highlights at the upcoming 2nd International Puppet Fringe Festival NYC, August 11-15, 2021 (Live Events & Performances), and August 16-31, 2021 (Virtual Performances) - SEE BELOW!

LIVE and FREE for a limited audience outdoors; Live-streamed online for everyone else! (Due to pandemic restrictions, there will NOT be spaghetti)


Chinese Theatre Works

Excerpts from 3-Scale Zhongkui! -- The Chinese Judge of Hell brings Justice to the Lower East Side. 

Yuling Fang as Chinese Opera Zhongkui
Jing Shan as Hand Puppet Zhongkui
Stephen Kaplin and Harrison Greene as Giant Puppet Zhongkui 

Chinese Theatre Works, co-directed by Kuang-Yu Fong and Stephen Kaplin, brings together Chinese and Western performance styles and techniques. Its programs cut across ethnic and cultural boundaries and aim at sparking interest in Chinese cultural traditions among the wider public, as well as in Chinese Americans who have not had access to this part of their heritage.

Boxcutter Collective/Bread and Puppet Theater

Excerpts from The History of Laughter, a collaboration between Peter Schumann of The Bread and Puppet Theater and Boxcutter Collective (including Lindsay McCaw), initially created during a 3 week residency in spring of 2021. The History of Laughter looks at the role of fear in our society, and how the transcendent power of fools can subvert the crumbling empire and empower the masses to create something new instead. With appearances by Mikhail Bakhtin, Gargantua, the Suffering Valley, Santa Claus, and Satan! 

Boxcutter Collective is comprised of 4 core members: Sam Wilson, Jason Hicks, Tom Cunningham, and Joe Therrien, with an extended family of puppeteers, painters, performers, builders, educators, workers, union organizers, and mischief makers who have been working together in various forms for the last 15 years. You can find them creating and performing original High-Art, Low-Concept political puppet shows in New York City regularly, appearing at The Jalopy Theater & Coney Island USA and beyond! They are currently working on a commission from Handmade Puppet Dreams to create a short film.

Bruce Cannon/Songs from Harlem River Drive, which celebrates the history and diversity of one of the most famous neighborhoods in the world. Harlem.

Bruce Cannon is Artistic Director for the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre and President of the Puppetry Guild of Greater New York.

Piedmont Blūz - Valerie and Benedict Turner

Piedmont Blūz is an acoustic, husband/wife duo, ambassadors of Country Blues music and the Piedmont style of fingerpicking. Their mission is to help preserve these rural, east coast traditions by educating audiences about this unique aspect of African American culture through musical entertainment.

AND - Great Small Works' own Roberto Rossi will be teaching TOY THEATER WORKSHOPS online through the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

Toy Theater introduction to the form, the basic skills concluding with a showing. Make your first toy theater stage using recyclable materials. Learn conceptual and design approaches in building an original work. Build basic jointed 2D puppets and moveable set pieces and discover the unique theatrical language of the Toy Theater.

Session 2/
Toy Theater 2 (Level 2): July 26 - August 1, 2021

Mon, Tues, Thurs, Sat and Sun, 7-9PM CT; Sign up here

Session 3/
Toy Theater 2 (Level 2): August 9 - August 15, 2021

Mon, Tues, Thurs, Sat and Sun, 7-9PM CT; Sign up here

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Pollock's Toy Museum Presents: Fitzrovia Féte 2021

Pollock's Toy Museum is thrilled to present the Fitzrovia Féte 2021! Join us on Saturday, August 14th, for a day of free workshops, performances and play around the Museum on Whitfield Street and Scala Street!

The day event's include Punch & Judy, Magic Shows, Toy Theatre Performances, local stalls (including cakes and artworks made by locals), free art workshops for all ages and The Hope pub will be serving summer drinks! Bring change with you as we will have limited card machines! Schedule of events can be found below...

Performance times:
12:30- Punch & Judy Show with Robert Styles
13:30- Magic Show with The Illusioneer
14:30- Punch & Judy Show with Robert Styles
15:30- Magic Show with The Illusioneer
16:30- Toy Theatre Performance with Pollock's Toy Museum

Throughout the afternoon:
Art workshops with Emma Carlow and members of the Pollock's Toy Museum Trust, street gameslocal Stalls (tombola, cakes, art) and more to be announced!

This is a free event and is welcome to all.  Pre-booking your free tickets will help us manage numbers more effectively.  There are two time slots available (12:00-2:30 and 2:30-5pm). 

We will be managing numbers in line with the current Covid-19 guidelines. Please do not attend if you are experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms (and get better soon!)

The Museum and Toyshop will also be open to visit, too! Please book a separate, priced ticket to enter the Museum on the day. Book your museum admission here.  Donations to the Museum fund are welcome, donate here.

If you have any questions please contact Emily at

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Jack Fawdry & the Art of Copper Plate Printing

The Drawing Year Student Story, Jack Fawdry Tatham from Royal Drawing School on Vimeo.


Pollock Toy Museum owner and curator, Jack Fawdry Tatham continues his family's tradition of printmaking.  Right now, Jack is working on a commissioned bespoke toy theatre for the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle. 

BELOW:  Some images of Jack’s process for designing a Toy Theatre from scratch. First he draws it out and then scratches the design into copper plates to be etched using acid. To see more of Jack’s etchings visit his website.

ABOVE:  Tangled trees scene to be used as a backdrop for the toy theatre scratched onto the metal with some traditional toy theatre backdrops behind in colour.

BELOW:  The next stages of the printmaking process for the toy theatre we're making for the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle! Above, you were shown pictures of Jack's preliminary sketches and  "scratching" into metal and "dipping into acid" was mentioned.  But what do we mean by this?
  • These pictures show how Jack has scratched his design into a wax “ground”. This ground is rolled onto the metal plate whilst the metal is warm and then "smoked" so it turns black using wax tapers. "Smoking the plate" is a pretty witchy process if I ever did see one. See pic of Jack holding aloft the flames to the metal! 
  • When the "ground" is blackened you are ready to scratch into it using fine-pointed tools to draw the design. This exposes fine lines of the metal. In the picture you can see the shiny lines catching the light! 
  • The plate is then dropped in acid which "bites" into the exposed metal creating grooves. These grooves are what the ink then squishes into but more on this part of the process in the next post...
Smoking the plate with wax tapers to get the ground a deep black colour!
When making printing plates, you have to learn how to write backwards!
See how the copper shines through where Jack has 
scratched away. Look at this Macbeth inspired coven!
Next, an acid bath is used for etching designs on copper plate.
Now, the printing plate is ready to be inked.  Scrim, ink and an oil can full of vegetable oil are at the ready.  Using the scrim, the ink is carefully applied over the plate, pushing the ink down into the etched grooves, to prepare for the printing process - "...the scrim is used to push the ink into the grooves using a pushing and twisting motion. Then you use cleaner bits of scrim to take excess ink off. It’s quite a nifty technique where you have to move the hand in a certain way so you don’t take or leave too much ink!"

Next, the final prep prior to printing.

- First Jack bathes the paper in a water bath. This relaxes the fibres of the paper making it easier for the ink from the copper plate to bed into it. The paper isn't soaking though, excess water is pressed out of the paper by placing it between sheets of thicker paper to soak up unwanted moisture;

- Then Jack sets up the press. The "blankets" you see in the picture are used to create cushioning between the press' roller and the copper plate and to help keep everything protected and snug;

- Jack now places the copper plate on the table of the press and registers his paper over the top. Then the blankets come down as the final layer before printing get rolling!

Soaking the paper in the water bath
Placing the paper over the plate
Straightening the blankets over the top, ready to roll through
Pressing the print
Final Product:  The Print!

ABOVE:  Artist/Printmaker Jack Fawdry Tatham, son
of Eddy Fawdry, great grandson of Marguerite Fawdry

Monday, May 17, 2021

Connective Thoughts: Sew or Doodle a Circuit

Both of these methods - conductive thread, and conductive ink - have great creative potential in paper theatre contexts...

When various forms are created on a felt fabric stage using the special conductive thread Smart-X, LEDs will light up as electricity passes through the conducting yarn, and the street and people's connections will be drawn up with a unique mechanism.

Made with silver conductive nanoparticles, the marker ink conducts electricity, as shown in this pop-up-book-inspired Japanese commercial.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Save Pollock's Toy Museum Fundraiser

Pollock's Toy Museum, the oldest Toy Museum in the UK, dates back to the 1850s when the printer Benjamin Pollock created the famed printed toy theatres which have become our hallmark. Since the 1950s we have been an independent museum, now run by Eddy and Jack, the grandson and great-grandson of our founder, Marguerite Fawdry
They are working with the Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust and reaching out to new and existing supporters of their unique collection to help them to stay open!
The museum and our small toy shop have remained closed for most of the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We rely entirely on visitors to the museum and shop and have lost £15,000 in income over the last year. Therefore, our first target on this crowdfunder aims to recoup this loss! We have had to furlough our small staff and we are struggling to pay our bills. We are concerned that our overheads will go up (the return of business rates and staff coming off furlough) before healthy footfall returns. This amount will help us stay open for the next year until things stabilise after the pandemic.

The good news is that first target was realized quickly, and now they have an important additional goal:

Thursday, February 04, 2021

A Fair Like No Other

The Fantastical Fairground from Andre Gidoin on Vimeo.

Up higher than you’ve ever been, past the third cloud to the right and straight on towards the sun, lies a world of wonder and excitement – a place where young and old can play in the clouds, spinning and whooshing like never before. We hope you have fun and enjoy the rides!

Makerie Studio and Director André Gidoin have teamed up again to create a surreal world of paper wonder, this time high in an imaginary sky. The Fantastical Fairground is a fully functional set, created from a combination of paper and found vintage toys, which we injected with new life and fresh colours. Filmed over the course of yet another weekend in New York, the Fairground also features pieces brought to life by chains, cogs and old childhood favourites - Meccano motors.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Animation: Diving into the Benjamin Pollock Archive

Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop in London has started a fun project:
I’m excited about a lockdown project that we can give you a taste of here. We let artist @keithkhanlondon into the archives of @benjamin_pollocks_toyshop and we can’t wait to see the results. Yes, animation is a slow process so we’ll have to be patient.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

New Play for the Small Stage: 2020 Meets 1918

Diamond’s Dream is a virtual puppet production that takes place on a CTA Red Line train traveling south through pandemic-era Chicago. Diamond, a pre-teen African-American boy, has fallen asleep on the train while on his way to visit his dying grandmother. When he awakes, time and reality have shifted, and he meets the ghost of a young African-American girl, a shape-shifting elder spirit who died of Spanish Flu 100 years ago to the date. Both are confronted with paranormal puppets and images representing society’s ills – ignorance, poverty and racism. While the spirit girl seeks only rest, Diamond comes to understand she must first be remembered in order to find it. 

Diamond’s Dream is the first new work to emerge from the Springboard Project, a new initiative launched in 2020 by Chicago Children’s Theatre to foster new works for young audiences by diverse local writers. The piece was created by Jerrell L. Henderson and Caitlin McLeod.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Simon Armitage Hansel and Gretel, Re-imagined

A "newish" book (published in 2019) from poet laureate Simon Armitage, in collaboration with artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. 

Simon Armitage’s extended narrative poem uses the well-known framework of the Brothers Grimm tale but gives us a new contemporary interpretation and focus. This is a darker, glittering Hansel & Gretel fairy story for the 21st century, of refugees, bombed villages, homelessness, a landscape where nothing is quite as it seems, but of humanity, humour and hope too. 

The powerful story is illustrated by the visual creations of artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. His compelling Hansel & Gretel characters have appeared as prints, and as a Toy Theatre for Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop and re-imagined here using the imagery of the toy box of mid-century wooden puppets, villages and building blocks in creating a unique, contemporary fairytale landscape.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Fun Online, Interactive 'Live' show!

Xavi is a little girl with a big imagination, stranded alone in her bedroom. When a mysterious visitor drops by looking for a missing part to fix his magical flying machine, they explore the hidden depths of her room and use the power of imagination to turn her isolation into an epic indoor voyage.  

This online interactive experience borrows techniques of the Victorian toy theatre (like paper cutout characters) and combines them with contemporary style puppetry and original songs. Designed specifically for online viewing, it invites viewers to turn their cameras on to participate in select scenes. A post-show talkback after each performance invites them to meet the puppeteers, ask questions, and explore behind-the-scenes. Audience members will also receive a printable puppet template that they can make and color at home.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Robert Louis Stevenson in America

We are about ten minutes’ walk distant from the village and beautifully situated upon the river upon which we look down.” That is how Margaret Stevenson started describing her new surroundings from Baker’s, in Saranac Lake, to her sister Jane Balfour in Scotland.

The renowned pioneer Baker family, of Baker Mountain fame, had just rented most of their house, on very short notice, to the traveling Stevensons, who could show up unexpectedly, anytime, anywhere, and this time it was Saranac Lake for the winter of 1887-88. Their leader, Robert Louis Stevenson, the newly famous author of “Treasure Island” and the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” was chronically ill and had been persuaded by a New York City doctor to go to the Adirondacks instead of Colorado to seek relief for his presumed case of tuberculosis. Less than a week later, they were here looking for a place to stay when they happened to meet Andrew Baker on Main Street, and the rest is history.

So altogether, the Bakers had five new tenants paying them rent — $50 monthly — to live in their home and use their furniture, too. Until spring, the Baker family, five in all, were just a few feet away in a separate wing of the house but “entirely shut off by double doors. Into our part you enter by the kitchen,” said Margaret, or “Maggie,” the author’s mother. Maggie was a new member of the Stevenson expedition, which had spent the last seven years migrating around Europe between health spas. She was a widow now, and this whole journey to the New World was just a reflex to the recent death of her husband Thomas Stevenson in May 1887. “Thomas Stevenson — Civil Engineer” is an essay RLS completed shortly before sailing for America with his wife Fanny, her son Lloyd Osbourne, their traveling Swiss servant Valentine Roch and now Margaret, who soon discovered that traveling with her celebrity son would be something new, like she wrote to Jane: “To be interviewed from morning to night as the mother of Robert Louis Stevenson is no joke, I assure you, however great an honour it may be!”

By Oct. 3, all had arrived safely at their new mountain home in Saranac Lake just when the annual bright colors of autumn were at their peak. Margaret had a preview on the way north, coming up the Hudson by riverboat, telling her sister that “The river scenery constantly reminded me of Scotland, but of course the autumn foliage is something wholly new to us both. Louis and I had always longed to see it and at last we are fully satisfied.” Two days later from Baker’s, Maggie is at it again: “The chief glory just now lies in the autumn colourings, which Louis declared are exactly like the Skelts’ theatre scenes, the ‘two pence coloured’ ones that we used to think so impossible!”

What are Skelts’ theater scenes? Nineteenth-century child’s play, that’s what they are. Said Graham Balfour in his book, a “Life of Robert Louis Stevenson,” “He had never made any affectation of abandoning a pursuit he was supposed to have outgrown. He clung to the colouring of prints and childish paintings long after most boys of his age have given up the diversions of the nursery.” When Louis was 6, he started hanging out with 9-year-old cousin Bob, a time when toy theaters were popular throughout Queen Victoria’s realm. A toy theater is a tabletop version of a real theater without the seats, just the stage. You could perform any play you wanted to with scripts, characters and scenery bought at certain shops. If you bought the pieces uncolored or “plain,” it was cheaper than the factory-made color versions that were “two-pence.” Louis and Bob liked to color their own pieces, and Skelts’ plays were their favorite brand name, hence Skelts’ theater scenes. Characters were cutouts attached to wands, by which they are moved around the stage according to their behavior in the script, which is spoken by the players, each with his particular character role.

Louis and cousin Bob had mastered the art of toy theater as boys. As a married man, age 30, in 1881, RLS was doing it again in Switzerland, after his stepson Lloyd Osbourne, age 11, had come into possession of a toy theater — “a superb affair costing upwards of 20 pounds that had been given me on the death of the poor lad who had whiled away his dying hours with it at the Belvedere,” a hotel in the health resort town of Davos. Lloyd continues: “He painted scenery for my toy theatre and helped me to give performances and slide the actors in and out of their tin stands, as well as imitating galloping horses, or screaming screams for the heroine in distress. My mother, usually the sole audience, would laugh till she had to be patted on the back, while I held up the play with much impatience for her recovery.”

Robert Louis Stevenson held onto his fascination with toy theater. When he went to London, he discovered the shops of Webb and Pollock, who made and pedaled the goods, and became a regular at B. Pollock’s Juvenile Theatrical Print Publishers, 73 Haxton St. RLS befriended the proprietor, Ben Pollock, with whom he talked toy theaters by the hour. Ben Pollock got to live a lot longer than his skinny customer Louis, of whom Pollock said, “His hands were so thin you could almost see through them.” By 1924, Ben was a member of the Stevenson Society of America in Saranac Lake and wrote them a letter along with other items from his shop. He said, “His visits to my shop seemed interesting to him as he had a good look around at all the plays etc. which I keep in boxes.”

Stevenson wasn’t Pollock’s only interesting customer. G.K. Chesterton’s passion for the hobby rivalled Stevenson’s. Chesterton saw the toy theater as a microcosm of the cosmos, where everything can be examined under the spotlight of a miniature stage, where good and evil are starkly contrasted in bright colors and dramatic scripts. Winston Churchill was a big fan of the little stage, too. He bought his stuff at H.J. Webb, an offshoot of Pollock’s. One of Winston’s favorite plays was “The Miller and His Men,” and in the final scene, Grindoff is cornered by Count Fribourg and his soldiers. Fribourg tells him to surrender. “Surrender?” says Grindoff. “Never! I have sworn never to descend from this spot alive!” Winston Churchill would say, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and the streets, we shall fight in the hills — we shall never surrender!”

Toy theaters are still around. Thanks to Gary LeFebvre of Onchiota, an example is on display in Maggie’s old room at Baker’s, also known as the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage. Mr. LeFebvre was intrigued by a kit he saw on the market, a “penny plain” kit. He bought it, colored it and built it before he came across Stevenson’s essay on the subject, called “A Penny Plain and Two Pence Coloured.” So when Gary was done playing with his theater, he suggested giving it a home in the Stevenson Cottage. So far, there have been no objections.

From September 3, 2020 edition of the...

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