Interview with: Georgia Hill

I have wanted to interview Georgia Hill for so long that I accidentally asked her twice on two separate occasions on 2 different social media platforms. Georgia is a freelance designer/maker of puppets, props and costumes for theatre and TV! She brings her cheery nature, love of bright colours and wacky sense of humour to all of her puppets.

How did you get started in puppet making?
I’ve always loved theatre and making things, so when I was younger, I volunteered at the local amateur dramatic theatre and made props and set pieces for their productions. I also worked as a costume dresser at the Theatre Royal Newcastle, working on some amazing touring productions! I knew from this I was keen to work in theatre, so I headed off to university to study Design for Performance at RWCMD. I thought I wanted to be a set/costume designer, but I fell so in love with puppetry I knew it was the field for me!

When I was 16, I went to see Muppets Most Wanted in the cinema. I had always enjoyed the muppets but I feel like I had an epiphany when watching this film.

I suddenly stopped viewing Kermit and his gang as just characters in a film, but more as pieces of art.

I was overwhelmed by the concept of being able to create such strong characters and life to essentially pieces of foam and fur. I think people think I’m mad loving the muppets so much but I have so much respect for the artistry and puppeteers! I credit this film for really kick starting my desire and ambition to have a career in puppetry.

How do you make your puppets ? What specific materials do you use? How long does it take you to make a puppet?
I always start with the script, breaking down what the puppet needs to do and its characteristics. I then go on to research, create mood boards, prototypes and lots of drawings.

Once I’ve settled on my design, I get started with the making and I always closely refer to my drawing.
I use all sorts of materials, as different materials are appropriate to the varying types of puppets. I do commonly use wood, foam, fabric, pipe, sometimes cardboard and recycled materials. I love finding objects and repurposing them whenever I can. The overall process of making a puppet can take weeks, depending on the puppet, size and complexity.

What inspires you when creating?

I’m always inspired by the audience!

As I often create for children’s theatre, I like to keep the young audience in mind with each design decision. I consider what might appeal to them and details they might pick up on and take delight in. Some of my obvious influences are Jim Henson and Aardman character designs, I think this is inevitably reflected in my work.

I’m also inspired by other designers and puppet makers in the industry and I like to see as many children’s shows, puppetry and theatre as possible!

You have an impressive CV- I see you have worked with cbbc and cbeebies- what an opportunity- tell us more about that?
I love CBBC and Cbeebies! Children’s television is really important to me and I feel the wacky humour really shaped me as a person. After growing up watching the puppets Oucho the Cactus and Hacker the dog on my tv, having the opportunity to work for children’s television
was a dream come true!!

I work freelance so I’m there at random times throughout the year , joining the most amazing team of people. I make props, costumes for the puppets and help to dress the studio sets ready for filming the live links.

I’ve made some truly random stuff for the television such as a small bed for a twig, badger food, a potato costume (for a dog) and a chicken with a gravy boat head. It’s the best job ever!!

You’ve also worked in theatre. Does the platform your puppet will be on change the way you make it?
Yes, I always have to consider how the puppet will be used before making the puppet. What the puppet has to do, the complexity of its movement, how many puppeteers will operate it and in what conditions are a few of the factors in the design.

A giant puppet that is going to be used in an outdoor performance (in possibly wind, rain and in crowded spaces) will be made very differently, to a smaller puppet operated by 3 people in an intimate studio theatre space – in materials and weight in particular. I always try to make the puppet as light and comfortable to operate as possible, as a puppeteer could be holding it for a very
long time!

Is there a puppet you have not yet made but want to?
In the next year I’m hoping to make some more giant puppets, as I’m keen to have some big walkabout puppets to take to festivals.
I haven’t made any marionettes yet; I would love to explore and experiment with this! I’m always keen to learn more as there are so many different ways of making puppets!

Your puppets are soo playful, full of character and life. Does that reflect your personality?
Haha I like to think so. I’m attracted to bright colours and anything that oozes fun. I like to make things that are a bit daft and most importantly make people smile!

What is your favourite thing about being a puppet maker?
With puppet making, I love that every project is completely different and I get to work with so many other creative people in the process!

My favourite part of puppet making is designing it – taking the time to consider how I can visually communicate a character’s personality/ back story in the puppet I make. I love putting in those finer decorative details.

I’m not a puppeteer myself but I love handing the puppet over to a great puppeteer and seeing them skilfully bring it to life. It’s thrilling seeing something that started as a drawing move/come alive on the stage, and if the puppet gets a positive response from the audience that’s the icing on the cake.

Can anyone make puppets?
Of course! You can make a puppet out of absolutely anything! Scrunched up paper, spoons,
shadows, pegs, socks!!

What is your proudest moment in your career so far?
There are lots of moments I am proud of- there is nothing better than watching the puppet working well and seeing the audience connect with it.
One particular project I am proud of is when I was in my last year of university, I made a giant ogre puppet for a children’s orchestral touring show. It was based on the villain Koschei, the Immortal from the “Firebird” ballet by Igor Stravinsky.

It was a huge challenge, I hadn’t made many puppets at this point, never mind a 10ft tall one! When the show opened and the Ogre took its first step out into the audience of hundreds of school children, I felt immensely proud (and relieved).

I will never forget the way the children responded to the puppet, they all went crazy, screaming and shouting as the villainous ogre walked through the audience. It was hilarious and my favourite puppet related memory. After a successful tour of Wales with the orchestra, the ogre puppet went on to perform at the Royal Albert Hall, which was an incredible experience!

What makes a Georgia hill puppet?
Usually brightly coloured and a bit daft. Silly cartoonish eyes and I love putting big foam teeth on my puppets I’m not sure why.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
I have a few exciting projects in the pipe line, but I can’t share the details just yet. All I can hint at is vegetables, monsters and bugs! There are two shows that feature some of the puppets I made last year heading to the Exchange in North Shields this April – Professor Slugs House of Bugs and Hey Diddle Diddle! Go see them!

You can visit Georgia Hill’s Website, Facebook and Instagram

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