Side Project: Krampus and the Ass Hat

I’ve always loved puppets. Seeing a giant puppet performance of Moby Dick as a special assembly in elementary school was a formative experience, prompting me to do my own shows at 10 or so using prefab puppets. I did an Anansi story, and after a bit did them for my friends’ younger siblings’ birthday parties. Ten bucks is ten bucks, as Geddy Lee once said*. 

I volunteered with Sunny Birklund’s Puppet Playhouse project, the long-running Giant Puppet Parade at the Folk Art Festival here in Albuquerque beginning in 2011. Building puppets opened my art heart again. I will always be grateful to Sunny for making room for me back then. 

I’ve continued to make puppet/costumes since then, generally as a part of our ever-escalating Halloween projects. More on that in a later post. This year and last we’ve added a Krampusnacht party to our costumed affairs, for which I’ve built Krampus heads and other things. This year’s Krampus head had a Mummenschanz flavor to me. 

And after many months of looking for opportunities to volunteer at our church using art/craft directly, one came along: a Donkey costume for the Christmas drama, run by the youth. And so the Ass Hat was born: a donkey head built out of cardboard, burlap, hot glue and paint on top of a bicycle helmet as a base. I enjoyed floundering through the construction process, having construction ideas that failed, and learning new things about the materials at hand. Cheesecloth dipped in paint, for instance, is shit to work with. Gets all tied up on itself. But burlap and hot glue? Whoa! It stretches into all kinds of skin-like shapes, like fascia in the human musculoskeletal system. Cool! I love the donkey’s crazy eyes, and I’m proud that the whole thing looks solid but remains lightweight. It works!

I find that making goofy shit is a part of keeping my creative practice alive. Play is an integral part of any living creative practice. And taking a wrecking ball to seriousness is a very fun part of play. Chaos is the birthplace of order, as Elric of Melnibone** might have said. It’s energizing to get organized and productive and grown-up meaningful, and it’s energizing to let go and laugh at farts.

*Bob and Doug MacKenzie’s comedy album… wake up and smell the ’80s people

“Elric knew that everything that existed had its opposite. In danger he might find peace. And yet, of course, in peace there was danger. Being an imperfect creature in an imperfect world he would always know paradox. And that was why in paradox there was always a kind of truth. That was why philosophers and soothsayers flourished. In a perfect world there would be no place for them. In an imperfect world the mysteries were always without solution and that was why there was always a great choice of solutions.” 
― Michael Moorcock, The Elric Saga Part I

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