Videos by Puppet Camp Friends

I thought I would share some of the video work available online from some of the other Puppet Intensive participants.  One night we had a bit of a video show and tell/ heckling night, looking at video work from anyone who brought work to share.  These are just a few.

Maybe I’ll start with a clip by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop– this is the music video to Feist’s Honey Honey.


Feast, by Rob Leveroos. See more at Lone Feather Studio.

Feast from RLeveroos on Vimeo.


Brian Fidler’s Ramshackle Theatre, with a trailer for their Sci-Fi Double Feature.

Sci-Fi Double Feature – Trailer from Edward Westerhuis on Vimeo.


And finally, a short video by Shelby Lyn Lowe.

There is quite the contrast among all the work- I enjoyed that everyone came from such different backgrounds.  Some ideas of performance, such as Rob’s visual poetry, are such an interesting contrast to my idea of performance, such as my work, A Bacteriophage Dissection, below.


(Ok, I’ll shut up about Puppet Camp now. Maybe.)



– Photo of the Raven Girls’ “Epilogue” – Photo by Meghan Krauss. –

So I’ve been home a few days now, coming down from one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  There’s only been a handful of times in my life I’ve felt like that – I felt like I did graduating from ACAD. Or at my opening at the AGC.  Exhilarated, but then, the come-down.  It felt like we’d been together for so much longer than two weeks, getting to know each other, working together, having a hell of an adventure, hitting the wall and climbing over, and now, I feel a little lonely, missing all my new friends.

I don’t have a new placement at work yet, but it’s just as well- my achilles heel is acting up again.  I’ve been trying to take it easy and let it rest, but I feel like I’ve got a lot of work to do in the studio yet too. Instead of hobbling around too much, I’ve been tying up loose ends for projects ending and coming up, and working on some details of things, but I’ve got some ideas and really want to jump into making some more complicated things. I do need to take it easy, though, and be as ready as I can for when I’m needed back.

Not only did I learn a lot about the collaborative process, but I’ve learned a lot in the last few weeks about individual creative processes, by talking to people and by watching people work.  Sara Tilley has a particularly interesting writing process, at least for the book she is currently working on.  She uses masks to channel the essence of her characters, to catch their personalities and writing styles.  (See the Calgary Herald article about it.)  I went to her artist talk the other night, and it was mesmerizing.  Another artist’s intense concentration, dedication and sense of play astounded me.  I remember an interesting conversation about the definitions of “work” and “play” and how they can overlap, even in the same project.  There were a few artists who have been doing these things professionally for some time, and a few pretty new at it.  I was continually astonished by all the talent around me, and while it did make me doubt myself for a few minutes, I remembered that what I do is interesting and is valuable, and is different, and that we all feel that way sometimes. I decided that instead of feeling even the slightest bit intimidated, I would jump right in and learn as much as I could, anywhere I could.

The other particularly valuable thing for me is the start I made on getting my brain to be quiet.  Normally, my brain is constantly nattering away, talking, talking, talking.  It’s probably 90% of the reason I have troubles sleeping, because my brain just won’t shut up.  Slowly, through the morning yoga/warm up and Suzuki exercises, I was able to get my brain to be quieter, focusing on letting my body think/exist on it’s own.  I had varying degrees of success at this, of course, but I see some incredible value in it, and want to continue to work on this, as it is so powerful.  I think this was also why Suzuki was also my favourite part of the day (which is funny, I would have thought it would be Open Studio)- I was open to trying something completely new, which I had very little exposure to, and it really allowed me to connect to both myself and my group members through our bodies and chi energy.  That work (and all the singing) might also explain why we all felt so close by the end of the program.

I’m having a bit of a tough time letting this wonderful experience go, but it’s really time to take what I can from it and move forward.  Time to get back to work, remember the highlights, let go and move forward.  Easier said than done.

Puppet Camp Aftermath


 – Dress Rehearsal – Statues Excercise, with masks – That’s me on the far right. –

Things got a little crazy in the last few days of the Puppet Intensive- finishing everything up, running spacing and dress rehearsals, cleaning up, and the wind up party.  I don’t have very many photos from this part of the experience- I was too busy participating.  🙂

For the final day, we started with our usual yoga-style warm up and massages, but no Suzuki.  Breaking for lunch early, we went into the theatre to do our spacing rehearsal.  The spacing rehearsal is to decide what needs to go where before the show, and who will help with setting up what, so that the show runs as smoothly as possible.  There was some time where we were waiting for Pete to finish what he needed to take care of with the tech people, and everyone decided to take a nap.  (Funny, I remember a similar picture from Katimavik, six or seven of us sleeping in the Katima-van.)


After the spacing rehearsal, we took a bit of a break, to get into our black clothes, and get something to eat.  We re-set everything to where it should be, and ran the dress rehearsal, complete with all of the lighting and sound cues, black out and brown outs (to change the scene).

After a few Suzuki exercise demonstrations, our projects were up.  My group, the Raven Girls, went first, with our short show about a baby who realizes it is actually a raven and flies away from it’s mother to join it’s raven people.  A few more wonderful plays later (where we all had specific responsibilities to help with scene changes), we did our Epilogue, a short 3 second scene of the ravens eating the human mother.  Then, one final show, Adeline, a funny little girl with a wonderful sense of adventure.  To end the show, we did one of our favourite (self-indulgent) exercises- our Braveheart killing scene.


– Nose man puppet in progress. –

After all of the excitement of the show, we still had some work to do- cleaning our stuff out of the theatre and cleaning up the mess of open studio.  I had picked most of my tools and materials up the day before, which was really smart.  I traded a few of the puppet faces I had made with some of the other artists, so now I have a few faces to play with on my own.  We cleaned and vaccuumed the studio, and then did all of our wind up activities, including our final games tournaments (Four Square, Rock Paper Scissors, and Pass the Woody), and gave a couple things the group had made to Pete and Juanita – “Ester’s Squirrel” and a little “Juaneedlefelted” heart.

We drank, and we danced traditional Newfoundland dances, as well as a few others,  played some crazy games, more four square and a few we made up, and as the group got smaller and smaller, we said goodbye.  Tougher and tougher to say goodbye.  The next morning, getting up by myself, packing, and going to find some breakfast before driving home, I could almost hear the whispers of a puppet camp song…. “Sin jen jen jen…. ungame tanda zo….”

It’s hard to believe it was only two weeks, it felt like 3 months in some ways and two days in others, and I made some wonderful new friends.  Whether they knew it or not, they pushed me in ways I would never have been able to push myself, and I think I won’t fully understand the impact of this experience until much farther down the line.  We hit the wall, and climbed right up on over, and what a journey it was!

I will always remember the wave Caleb gave me as I was pulling out of the parking lot- a puppet camp theme turned joke, a long dramatic, reaching wave, which lasted (I’m sure) until I was long out of sight.

Goodbye for now, puppet friends!  Happy journeys, and all the best!

Day One.


Wow, what a day!  I’m tired.

I was up quite early this morning, before anything was going on. I went to the pool in the Sally Borden Building to swim and relax a little before everything was to get started.  Swam, showered, and went to breakfast.  As I was eating,  the other participants started to trickle in.  (The food here is something else, by the way, buffets with more kinds of food than you could ever try in a day.)  Eating meals here are almost as important as the work we’re doing- making friends, making connections, sharing ideas and information, getting to know each other as individuals, and a a group.  There are a few participants who know each other, including a group of 5 or so from Regina.  I am impressed with the way that we are not letting this affect us negatively as a group, that everyone is making a point to talk to everyone else.  We are doing a lot of group exercises and everyone is willingly shaking it up, pairing with people they haven’t really paired with before.

Ok, the Intensive.  So, activities officially start at 9:30, with a yoga style warm up. (So much happened today, I’m not sure I can remember.  It feels like a week has gone by already… and it’s been maybe 28 hours.)  We did some exercises in grounded-ness, using our posture and focus to really ground ourselves, enabling us to do some things we weren’t as adept at just a minute before. We talked about chi, energy, and the relationship between us as performers and audience, how that relates to energy and feeling.  We implemented a few types of rituals, signifying work time and focus.  We did a sort of movement pattern to music (not a dance so-to-speak), but a pattern to get us to focus our chi and blend as a group.  It was a little intense, but strangely calming.

Then, lunch. Eat, a few minutes to do whatever you needed to do, and then back to the movement studio.  We played a couple of games, 4 square, and Blind Death, and then sort of analysed the experience with how it might relate to theatre.  We thought about what engaged and bored us, and how we responded to eachother’s cues.  We talked a little about the sorts of narratives that sort of naturally appear.  We talked about tension and how nothing happening can create anticipation.  We talked about setting a framework, how that can give us a place to start from and get going, more than starting from no rules.  (This is something that I’ve been learning more recently in my own process as well.)  We talked about conflict, competition, and challenge.

After the games and the discussion, we had an assignment: to invent a game.  We had a little more than an hour to invent a game, in our little groups of five.  All of the groups came up with something, and all seem happy with it, and we will play them all.  (Maybe I will publish the rules of our game later.)  After supper, we did play one of the group’s game- Deer in the Headlights, a type of Red Light Green Light in a completely dark studio with a flashlight.  It was fun, and it actually worked pretty well.

Going back downstairs into the making studio, we discussed the process of collaborating to come up with a game idea and rules.  Their were some weird commonalities with it, such as groups saying that they often had to cut their crazy ideas back for simplicity’s sake, going back to Square One.  After this discussion, we pulled out the puppets we had brought- such a lovely assortment of characters and styles.  Not one of the puppets (which wasn’t some sort of a set) was anything like any of the others.  One of the memorable ones for me was Rob’s little performance about a dead hen, a bird he had made, full with skeleton, to be systematically dismantled and put back together.  I am quite intrigued by this, as it definitely relates to my own work.

Our open studio assignment for the night, working in pair, something to start on, was to make a simple puppet out of paper and tape.  My partner and I have lots of wild ideas about this weird, ghouly, supernatural man who directs your nightmares by going in to your head through your ears…. hopefully I don’t dream about him tonight.

Just before 10:00, the final section of the evening, Appreciation.  Standing in a circle (we did a lot of that today, all 25 of us), Peter mentioned what we needed to be aware of for tomorrow, and we felt appreciative of things that had happened during the day.  It was a nice way to sort of hit the highlights, a nice closing to the day.  Finally, before we were officially done for the day, we learned and sang a pretty little african song, that I’m sad that I know I won’t remember.

Long, wonderful day.  I need to sleep, but then, I’ll be ready to do it again tomorrow.

Banff Centre Puppet Intensive!

Pinnochio.... no, I did not make this one.


I will be attending the Puppet Theatre Intensive Workshop at the Banff Centre for the first couple weeks in January! The workshop will be run by Peter and Juanita from the Old Trout Puppet Workshop, based here in Calgary.

A colleague had pointed out the workshop to me, but by the time I had found out about it, it was full.  I applied for the waitlist anyway, and earlier this month found out that there would be a spot available for me, if I could get everything lined up.   I was lucky enough to receive funding from CADA (specifically the Artist Opportunity Grant) to be able to go.  What originally seemed like something resigned to the “it would have been nice” pile, the pieces happened to align properly, and I am able to go.  (I am also currently working as a temp, which means that it’s not a problem to be able to get time off when I need it – I would recommend that to other artists, if you think it might fit what you need.)

Puppet Hostages getting ready to go on a trip.
Puppet hostages getting ready to go on a trip.


Since becoming aware of the Banff Centre during my undergrad, I have wanted to go.  I have known a few other artists who have gone (such as Meagan Boisvert), and it always seems to be such a rich experience for them.  The centre offers themed residencies, as well as self directed residencies, and work studies, in different areas of visual arts as well as other disciplines, such as music, dance, theatre, literary arts, film, sound, photography, and even opera. This particular residency does not seem like the typical structure at the Banff Centre, although there are some similarities.  We will be living, eating and working together rather intensely it sounds like, exploring, building sets and puppets, scripting, directing and manipulating puppets, putting together something of a show.

I am not only excited for the project and experience in general, meeting new people, spending some time in such a wonderful place, and working on what I’m sure will be an interesting project, but also how it might affect my future work. I see definite ties with how this might relate to the IMR and the Morphoids, in animating them, giving them more of a sense of life. Actually, you could maybe say that I have used puppetry with them before- one of the most common methods I used in the documentary to make them move was to use fishing line to pull on their limbs.  Sorry to take the magic out of it (ha ha), but that’s exactly what I used here:  (I might be letting some secrets out here, but I also ran the video backwards, did some stop motion animation, and played with the speed to get the effects that I wanted.)

Pteropod from Jennifer Akkermans on Vimeo.

I’m sure the puppet workshop will also give me some new ways of looking at narrative and storytelling.  I am interested in the construction techniques as well, and think that that might also translate into some of the new work I’m playing with, using automata mechanisms.  (Have I told you much about that?  It might be too soon….)

As usual, I will be blogging about the experience to some degree, although I can’t say how much, because I’m sure we will be very busy!  Stay tuned!

For anyone interested and in the area, there will be a public presentation on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
 in the Margaret Greenham Theatre.  The event is free.

The Dissection!

I was so nervous leading up to the Dissection, which was exactly what I expected.  You know when you build something up so much in your mind, that it gets a little blown out of proportion?  What I didn’t expect is that the nervousness would last all of two seconds- after Caterina introduced me, and I started talking, all my nervousness just disappeared.  All the sudden it was just me and my friends and colleagues- people who I know through school, my job, and generally, the art scene in Calgary.  Thank you all for coming- it made my performance, having so many familiar faces there.

Now that it’s done, I can tell you a little more about it.  I had been keeping my thoughts about it under wraps, as I didn’t want to give away too many details before hand.  It seems that the Morphoids use what is in their environments to create their insides… although I am still not sure how exactly that works.

Caterina Pizanias, the curator of The New Alberta Contemporaries, introduced me.  After I had given a bit of an introduction, we jumped right in.  The first cut was the worst, I’m sure you could hear it from the street below.

After this point, I forgot to be nervous.  We discovered what was inside the Morphoid, a lot of the contents looked familiar.  There was a Cheezies wrapper, a medication bottle holding fluid, and bits and pieces of all kinds of things.

We got an up-close and personal look at all aspects of this creature, even it’s underside, which contained three broken plastic forks, working as teeth.

I passed around most of the components I found inside the Morphoid, so that people could have a look for themselves.

I was impressed with the questions from the audience- there were a lot of smart and thoughtful questions, and everyone was happy to play along- no one tried to throw me off.  (Or if they did, I deflected their attempts!)

I was happy to be have the opportunity to do this dissection- it is an important step for my practice.  The Esker Foundation has been great in supporting this, and Megan, my main contact there, has been awesome. The audience was spectacular- just the right size, and full of people who support me and my work.   I am now quite relieved that it is over (as it was a year in the making!), so now I can focus on the next thing- my upcoming exhibition at the Art Gallery of Calgary!

(There will also be a video at some point in the future, so keep an eye out for that!)

Photos by Angelique Gillespie.

…Three Days to go!

What’s inside, what’s inside?

The Bacteriophage Dissection is coming up in…. three days!  Yikes!

Well, it’s really not so bad.  I think I’m ready.  I just need to repair/ finish a couple of simple things, and maybe do one more run-through, and I should be ready to go.  Yesterday I picked up the last few things I need (I hope I’m not forgetting anything!).

This project has been more than a year in the making.  I met with the curator, Caterina, just as I was finishing up my BFA, the spring of 2011.  And here it is getting to the end of the summer of 2012.  While I’ve spent a lot of time on this, and like how it’s all come together, I’ll be glad to be finished with it, and move on to other things.  As always, I have way too many ideas compared to the energy I have to implement them with (which, I admit, is quite a lot).

In contrast, my show coming up at the Art Gallery of Calgary is almost ready.  The dissection is completely new material, and the AGC show is new material, but uses a lot of what I already have.  And I don’t know why this is, but as soon as I have a deadline for something, it’s the last thing I want to do.  It’s funny, because for friends of mine, a deadline is real motivation, but for me, it seems that by the time I’ve got the okay/ a venue for something, in my head, I’ve already moved on  and am super excited about the next thing.  I always get things done, but sometimes it seems more work than it would have been a few months earlier, when I was most excited about the idea.

Anyway, if you’re reading this, and you can come to the dissection, you should!  It will definitely be a unique event!

A.R.T. on the L.R.T.

Creepy, eh?

C4’s Art on the LRT yesterday was fun!  It was definitely a different type of crowd than I am used to talking to, and between the crowd, the C4 team and the other artists in the show, I met some new people!  I also talked to a few people who had seen my work before, which is always great!  One lady even requested that I take a photo of her with the bacteriophage so that she could post it on facebook!  Sadly, that photo is on her camera, not mine.

Anyway, some more photos!

Performance: Art on the LRT!

On Friday, June 29th, from 5-9PM, I will be doing an informal performance at the Brentwood LRT station.  It is part of Art on the LRT, a project to bring into non-traditional spaces.

I will be there to talk to the public, as well introduce people to one of the Bacteriophages, which will move, and respond to people handling him.  It should be an interesting evening.  I particularly enjoy showing my work to the general public, people who may not normally have much exposure to art.  I particularly love that moment when they are deciding whether or not to believe me.  With the mechanical Morphoid, the first of a few, I hope, I not only get that decision, but the look of surprise on people’s faces when they realize that what I am/ they are holding is moving…. priceless.

Don’t I look credible?