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Wagner Tools Help Bring Puppets to Life

In Penny's Studio with Wagner

Puppet sculptor Penn Benson knows no limit to her creativity or creations. A visit to her studio shows her talent for creating unique characters with rich stories to share. Wagner tools help bring her creations to life.

Penny Benson

Puppet designer and sculptor Penny Benson knows how to make her imagination literally come to life. She creates workable puppets in all shapes and sizes using a plethora of interesting materials. Her creations are diverse and unique and appear in all kinds of forums including live presentations and exhibits. What is most interesting about Peggy's work is how each creation has its own personality, created with specific materials and methods. In today's modern world she is able to include all types of interesting materials including foam, rubber and the popular L200 (a foam that you might know as "noodle floats" that can be shaped and textured into almost any shape and style). We visited her in her studio where she was multitasking on many different projects while sharing the history of her unique puppet sculptures.

Spraying Puppets

Penny's workshop has lots of stations to craft her work. She has graphs of her sketches which aid her in creating three dimensional creations. From the ceiling hang all kinds of puppets made of many different materials. Penny not only crafts these creations for clients, but sometimes also operates them in live performances. While picking a favorite design would be a hard challenge, Penny has a special place in her heart for each and every one of her creations. Many Wagner tools are called into use to create Penny's puppets. She uses a Wagner FURNO Heat Gun Furno heat gun for texturing foam and creating wings for a bumblebee, where material has to be slightly shrunk to wrap around an intricate wire frame. Penny also has a tabletop spray booth and uses a Wagner FLEXiO® sprayer to coat and finish large puppet heads and bodies, as hand painting would be time consuming and leave brush marks. Many of Penny's creations go out into the hands of her clients and don't return. But the joy they bring either in display or coming to life in performances is how she conveys her imagination and shares her talents and passion with others.

Puppet sprayed with Wagner Sprayer

Penny's over-sized bobble head sculptures were made for an MIT event. They come to life perched atop human puppeteers. All of her characters have distinct personalities. MIT bobble-head costumes also by Gail Buckley.

MIT Puppets

Goblin costumes by Xiachen Zhou

Puppet face photo

Horse Puppet


Puppet making

Penny and Matthew Mead sat down for a chat to further investigate her craft and how she makes use of Wagner products in her designs.

MATTHEW MEAD: How would you describe yourself and your work?

PENNY BENSON: I’m a puppet designer, builder, director and performer. Theater is my main focus, but I also build puppets for events.

MM: You often work in large scale. Does a paint sprayer save you time and effort and does it provide a superior finish?

PB: Wagner sprayers handle a wide variety of materials with different viscosity, from stains to heavy coatings. They allow me to cover large areas quickly and uniformly, or with a spatter texture if desired. In addition, they also function much like an airbrush on a smaller scale, giving me the ability to create soft gradations of color for highlights and shadows.

MM: How does the Wagner heat gun help in sculpting material for your puppets?

PB: A heat gun is useful for many processes in my work. Examples include forming thermoplastics, sealing foam and releasing seams joined with contact cement.

MM: What are your favorite things about Wagner tools?

PB: Wagner tools are thoughtfully made, dependable and easy to maintain. They greatly reduce the time and effort of a large paint job.

Heat Gun for puppet making

Heat guns aid in so many creative pursuits, especially in sculpting and crafting costumes. The Furno heat gun's hard carrying case makes it easy for Penny to perch the gun for hand-free use. She can easily manipulate the wired wings as she melts and seals the cellophane exterior.

Other Heat Gun Projects:

  • Mold and texture foam
  • Shrink foam and plastics like shrink wrap
  • Distress and texture on furniture, plastic and foam

Puppet making with a heat gun

Puppet making with a heat gun 2

Puppet Making with a Heat Gun 3

Puppet making with a heat gun 4

Large Puppet Bee

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