Words of late artist Frank Howell...I totally relate!

"There are few days off and no retirement from this entanglement of knowledge, passion and vision that will be molded and converted into creative expression. There are no guarantees of acceptance, understanding or reward, but...the noise inside the mind never ceases. I will paint today, tonight and for as many tomorrows as I am given..." Words of the late artist Frank Howell...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Special Puppets and Emmy Award Winner Marshall Izen--Part 1

I attended what I thought was going to be a regular estate sale yesterday.  I had seen the sneak peak photographs that were posted, and nothing really caught my eye, but I decided to go anyway.  I always find something once those doors open.  I did remember the card in the mail stating something about a puppeteer's estate, but still, nothing caught my interest...

In the outside room, or the first room that you enter at the sale, I picked up a traveling case that someone else had put back down just before we entered the main room.  The case was apparently used for some extensive travel for Punch and Judy.  How do I know that?  It was well worn and had a label.

Here is an image of Punch and Judy.  I'm not sure who these puppets belong to, but I wanted to find a picture.  Believe it or not, I didn't know what Punch and Judy looked like.  I don't believe I saw them at the sale.

Ventriloquism – <b>Punch and Judy</b>
Photo credit:  ventriloquistcentralblog.com
As I went into the big room with tons of stuff, I ran across several puppet heads.  I was so intrigued with them!  I grabbed a couple that appealed to me and put them in my bag, not sure yet if I would actually purchase them or not...but then as I moved on to other tables, I found some puppet bodies or dresses with arms, but no heads.  Now the heads were making sense to me.  I grabbed the three bodies and stuck them into my bag with the two heads.  

My strategy at this estate sale is to carry a large shopping bag and grab everything that is even a possibility, then find a quiet corner and go through it all to make my final decisions on what I will actually purchase. I should also tell you that I am always one of the first shoppers through the door, so I'm almost all the way around the merchandise before half of the shoppers are even inside the building.  It's true--the early bird really does get the worm, or in this case, the good treasures!

Eventually I came upon a theatre that had been made for use by "Puppet Master Marshall Izen," according to the paper that was on display with it.  Using my phone, I captured a snapshot of the picture so that I could remember his name and do a little research.

Something about this photograph spoke to me and I decided to go ahead and purchase everything in my bag.  

When I got home and did my research, I was astonished at what I found!  This man had a very distinguished career traveling all over the world with his puppets and even won an Emmy Award for his work!  

The following is an excerpt found in the Chicago Tribune: 

By Robert Wolf | January 10, 1986
A puppet-making demonstration and performance program by Emmy Award-winning Marshall Izen for children ages 5 to 10 is being offered Sunday by the Express-Ways Children's Museum. Youngsters will have a chance to develop their imaginations in Izen's multimedia show, "Rags, Bags and Dragons." Izen, a concert pianist and artist trained at De Paul University and the Art Institute of Chicago, fuses classical music, art and puppetry in the program. All these elements, Izen says, are "an integral part of the show and what I do. The children watch me as I make something with simple materials and then I use that material in the show.

When he retired his puppets years ago, he began playing solo shows at Carnegie Hall--turns out the piano was his second love and he must have been pretty good.

My next Google search included the word obituary, and sadly, I found that he had passed away this summer at the age of 90. I guess this would explain why his puppets were being sold in an estate sale.

IZEN--Marshall, died May 26, 2015, aged 90. Pianist, puppeteer (Emmy 1972), film maker, storyteller, traveler, gadfly to acousticians, fierce letter writer to reviewers, he adored opera, lieder (with nightingales especially), great pianists, conductors, and countless friends in New York, London, Chicago, Los Angeles. Beloved brother and uncle. Memorial Service, New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th Street, Sunday, June 28, 2015, 2pm.

Now, I know why these little puppets were speaking to me.  They are special and they enjoyed wonderful lives (sort of...) thanks to Marshall Izen.  Think of the smiles they must have brought to children over the years.

They are all handmade and the clothing/bodies are as well.  The details on the dresses are pretty amazing.  You just don't see this quality in much of anything anymore.

So, now that you know why they're special, let me show you these great little puppets. Notice that some of the photographs are with the heads attached to the bodies.  I'm not sure if they had certain bodies (clothes) that went with specific heads or if he just used them interchangeably...I have two heads and three outfit/bodies.

This post is getting quite long, so I'm going to stop here for the first part of the story.  I will pick up with part two tomorrow.  

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  1. Very cool Judy! I don't know if I ever mentioned it, but my husband had a large marionette collection. He sold a few over the past couple of years. When we lived in PA, he drove all the way to Maryland to attend an auction of Bernard Paul's puppets. He was a famous puppeteer who had a TV show in the 50's. He made all the puppets and his wife made all the costumes. Chris bought quite a few, but sold almost all of them for a few hundred dollars each. He has just one left. Maybe I'll ask Chris to bring it out when you come for the meeting. Chris also has an extensive book collection all about puppets. I'll have to ask him if he's ever heard of Marshall Izen. Congrats on your find. If you want to get good money for them, I suggest you list them on ebay with a 10 day listing.

    1. Wow, how exciting! Yes, I would love to talk to Chris about the puppets and see what he has. I'll bring mine to the meeting. Thanks for the ebay tip...I'm thinking that is probably the best place to list them. Just need more info on their value, etc...things that I can probably learn from Chris.

  2. Beautiful! I know a teacher in Fairhope that specializes in puppets and may be able to help you with any questions.

    1. Thank you, Leslie Anne. I would love to get contact info for your teacher friend...I'm trying to learn everything I can about the little guys!

  3. I think I see a puppet show in a future bloggers meeting! Great haul, Judy!

    1. Oh that's funny, Kim. I don't think that's one of my talents! It should be a fun show and tell though.