Puppet master gives politicos the finger

SEE VIDEO http://www.ottawasun.com/news/ottawa/2011/03/25/17757476.html#/news/ottawa/2011/03/25/pf-17757476.html

When Liberal incumbent David McGuinty knocks on Gabe Thirlwall’s door, he just might get the finger.

The Ottawa South resident is the puppet master and artist behind the Political Circus finger puppets.

“Oh, I have a David McGuinty puppet. He is a very slow seller,” she said.

Right in time for the federal election campaign, Thirlwall is unveiling a new product: Election Stephen Harper.

“He’s a special edition. Your puppet comes with a number of campaign accessories,” she said.

She turns the plastic bag upside down.

Out falls bits of paper: A campaign bus, kitten, coffee, donuts, a twenty-something handler and a smartphone to boot.

Thirlwall swears her puppets function as an informal poll.

“When sales are up for a puppet, usually that means they’re either doing well in the polls or they’re involved in a scandal,” she said.

Some puppets are more popular than others.

“Jack (Layton) and (Stephen) Harper are my top sellers,” said Thirlwall.

“Iggy, I have bags of him in my studio — bags. Really, their puppet sales have just plummeted. He used to sell steadily and then ever since Christmas, it’s been like …” she said, motioning downhill.

Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe sells steadily to a very select group.

The puppets are made out of mixed textiles, including upholstery samples and fabric odds and ends.

“Jack’s pants are actually made out of a little tiny piece of vintage pants from the ’70s that belonged to a friend of mine,” she said.

Thirlwall makes every puppet herself.

She does in them in batches and depending on who she’s making, it can be pretty tedious.

“I silk screen the images, I add a little acrylic detail and then I applique the suits right onto it.”

The puppets are sold for $20 at Flock boutique on Wellington St. West.

“Everybody laughs hysterically when they see them,” said store manager Laura Fauquier.

“They’re hilarious. Like, look at him, he’s great,” she says, picking out a Harper puppet from the basket on the counter.

Thirlwall began making puppets two years ago and said the project is meant to engage people in politics through playful fun.

“There is no other purpose than to be silly. And so people collect them. They often make appearances at dinner parties,” said Thirlwall.

And the puppets are even popular with Parliament Hill staffers, who use them to decorate their desks.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

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