In March 2000, Keri Fisher, Content Writer for Toysmart.com, interviewed Roxi Price, one of our puppet designers here at Folkmanis. Roxi's puppet designs have won many awards over the years.
Keri: What is your position/job title with Folkmanis?
Roxi: I feel like I have the best job in the world, and I am very lucky to work for such a great company. My job title is Designer.
Keri: How long have you worked there?
Roxi: I have worked for Folkmanis for ten years.
Keri: What exactly do you do?
Roxi: My boss, Judy Folkmanis lets me work at home and I go into the office about once a week to meet with her. I get great input and new ideas from the people in our office, our sales staff and customer service.
Being a designer means that I come up with new puppet and product ideas. I decide how I want them to look, develop the patterns, sew up the prototypes and then tell our manufacturer how to do it. I have to make sure the patterns and directions are clear enough that the sewers on the production line can actually reproduce it.
Keri: What is your background? Schooling? How did you get the job?
Roxi: Knowing how to sew is an important part of my job. My mom taught me how to sew, and with a lot of help from her, I made my first dress when I was seven. I loved doing it and have been sewing ever since. I went to college and studied Graphic Design thinking I would work in the graphics field, designing packages, business products, or greeting cards. Instead I got married, had two children, and while they were growing up did free-lance work with magazines and publishers. I designed toys and fabric related crafts, and wrote "how-to" manuscripts for publication. When I decided to go to work full time, one of the editors I was working with suggested that I try getting a job with a toy company. And here I am!!
Keri: What is the usual process when designing a puppet?
Roxi: In order to come up with new puppet ideas, I look at lots of animal photos, read children's books and magazines, go to the zoo and aquarium, and when I can, travel around the world to look at animals in their natural habitats. I have been to Australia, Central America, and Africa. Closer to home I can see animals in the forest, woodland, desert and seashore.
When I have the new idea, I spend lots of time studying the photos, and decide how I want it to look. I sometimes do rough sketches, but most of the time I start making the pattern right away. I usually start with side bodies and heads and sew up sections to see if the fabric is curving and forming the way I have it visualized. It takes many sew-ups to get the pattern perfect. I average about three weeks working on one puppet.
Keri: What are some designs that didn't work?
Roxi: Occasionally I work on a design that I just can't get to work. Some of the animals with very long necks are very hard to make into puppets.
Keri: What are some of the products you have designed?
Roxi: I have designed hundreds of puppets including a Golden Retriever, Humpback Whale, Opossum with its baby, Barn Owl, Timber Wolf, Skunk, Chimpanzee, Hamster, and Puffin.
Keri: What is your favorite puppet that you've designed?
Roxi: My favorite is the Red-Tailed Hawk. My sister turned me into a bird watcher many years ago and I think of all the animals in the world, I love the birds most. You can watch birds anytime, anywhere, in the city, in the country, out your window, or out in the rain forest.
Keri: Tell me about the safari! did you go just for Folkmanis, or did you go for fun and get inspired?
Roxi: My trip to Africa was fantastic! I did go for fun, but with the main objective to observe the animals in their own surroundings and come home with new, interesting puppet ideas. I spent two weeks in tented camps in the Okavango Delta area of Botswana. I saw elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards, painted dogs(very cool), baboons, wart hogs, impala, jackals, hippos, giraffe, cape buffalo, wildebeests and many more. It was unbelievable!
Keri: Describe a typical day in the life of a puppet designer.
Roxi: My typical day starts in my workroom. I have a big work table there, two sewing machines, a big collection of animal books, shelves full of plush and fabric, and a big window where I look out on the bird feeders, pine trees, and the deer that walk through my yard every day. Hard job, huh?? Making a puppet is a creative process, and sometimes it's frustratingly slow. The reward is a final sample that looks great, and then later seeing the puppet in the stores.
Keri: Any advice for kids that might want to do what you do?
Roxi: If a kid thought that someday he might want to be a puppet designer, I would tell him to stay in school and study art, pay attention to animals and read about them when you can. Anyone can learn to sew, it just takes some practice. Oh, and it helps if you like to play with toys.
Keri: Did you have any idea, when you were a kid, that this is what you'd end up doing?
Roxi: When I was a kid I never thought that I would grow up to be a puppet designer. I just knew I liked to draw and make things. My mother says that she thought I might become a fashion designer because I spent so much time making new clothes for my paper dolls.
Keri: If you don't mind saying, how old are you? Do you have children? Do you have pets?
Roxi: I am 51 years old and have two grown children. When my kids were young I designed toys that they would like. Now I have two granddaughters and always think of them when I'm coming up with new ideas. My only pets are two cats. The big tabby likes to be my model (even when I'm not working on a cat) and sit right smack in the middle of my work table.
Yikes, I think I'm rambling! The bottom line is I love my job, and always get excited about starting new designs.