How Was Your Day … Italian Puppeteer?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
By Jose Fermoso
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
Today was a special day — I turned 40 years old. Wow. It’s an important birthday for a woman. It made me think about what other people usually expect from a woman at that age: a family, husband, kids, a peaceful life, a normal job and a routine. My life is nothing at all like that.
Typically, I start my day with a long breakfast. I feel quiet then, calmly arranging in my mind the things I have to do during the day. When I leave the house, I always take my book from the bedside [table] to read on the bus. And I always dream. I think daydreaming is the expression of a need, or a fear. It’s like removing a leash and letting your imagination run free.
I work for an ad agency where I do postproduction, mainly on animation and composing, and I also do projects on my own. I recently made an animated cartoon about La Venaria, a wonderful huge palace near Turin where the king and queen used to live, which makes fun of their pompous habits. I like to mix disturbing and funny. Traditional fairy tales, remember, were extremely cruel and bloody before they were watered down by modern authors. They had ironic, tough twists that taught kids valuable lessons. My kids love them.
But what I love most is making puppets, which I make for work but also for myself. I’m bringing something to life and that’s a powerful sensation. It’s like taking your own personal dream and showing it to the world. Working on my puppets is like a form of therapy more than an art. The work satisfies an emotional need that started when I was a child. I’d create fantastic creatures that arose in my mind and I wanted to make them tangible. I watched Jim Henson’s work on The Muppet Show, which was not so popular in Italy. I had a teddy bear as a kid that I brought with me everywhere. It lives with me still, today.
The most relevant part are the eyes, which are the essence of the soul. They’re saying to you: ‘Hey! I’m here and I’m alive!’
I make some puppets to just express a mood, be it happy, sad or angry. When I design, I first think about a puppet’s personality. This decides its shape, appearance and clothing. To test it, I make it speak in front of a mirror. The most relevant part are the eyes, which are the essence of the soul. They’re saying to you: “Hey! I’m here and I’m alive!” My puppets sometimes look scary and monstrous, but their large eyes make them amusing. Reassuring somehow.
I carry a notebook everywhere. While traveling, I love to write and sketch when I’m sitting on the train or airplane or in some hidden corner of the world. I sketch people or phrases that catch my attention. I want to capture what I feel in that exact moment. I find inspiration in movies from the ’50s and ’60s, through literature, but I also find stories in the smallest of illustrations — in a face, a glance, a smile.
Puppetry isn’t hugely lucrative, but I’ve never worried about money. I’ve always enjoyed whatever life has offered me in the moment. Working for myself gives me a feeling of satisfaction and freedom and creativity — because it belongs to me, it means more.