Out and about A day with

A day with… Puppet creators

Published on 24/10/2022

What is the name for somebody who creates puppets? To find out, we met Barbara and Claudio Visca in their workshop.

“What is your profession?” We put this question to Barbara and Claudio, who hesitated and suggested ‘puppet maker’, given that the ‘puppeteer’ is the artist who operates the puppets on stage. They are the makers, or the artisans behind the puppet. Barbara and Claudio are self-taught. They set out on this adventure some fifteen years ago after being introduced to puppet-making by Geneviève et Gilbert Pavaly, major figures in puppet theatre. Barbara fell under the spell of the Lyonnais repertoire, discovering the texts of Jean-Baptiste Onofrio, author of Théâtre lyonnais de Guignol. Claudio, on the other hand, was smitten by this performing art at the World Puppet Theatre Festival of Charleville-Mézières. Since then, they have together devoted themselves body and soul to the creation of hand puppets. This is a complementary couple if ever there was one! Claudio sculpts the limewood, while Barbara paints and creates the costumes. In their workshop hidden away in the Beaujolais, they spend their days fulfilling orders that arrive from all over the world. Their main clients include professional puppeteers, collectors and museums, including the Musée des arts de la Marionnette de Lyon (Puppetry Museum of Lyon).

In the workshop
It takes around two months to make a puppet by hand. The process begins with sculpture and the delicate task of sanding. If this stage is not perfectly executed, then the sculptor starts over until the desired result is achieved. According to Claudio: “you need eyes in your fingertips, as the devil is in the details.” With her expert hand, Barbara then takes over to bring the character to life. Her favoured, traditional technique involves the use of oil paint. There is no better way to make the puppets shine. While the two artisans must respect the norms of tradition (including the character’s profile, dress and facial features), each puppet made by Maison Visca is unique, with its own expression. You can even have a puppet made in your likeness, with a personalised order. https://sculpteursmarionnettes.com/

Find out more
Would you like to learn about puppeteering first hand? Try the tours and workshops run by the Musée des Arts de la Marionnette (MAM, the Puppetry Museum of Lyon), where you can touch the materials used (including wood, foam and leather), put together and take apart a hand puppet, and discover the painstaking work that goes into the costumes.
1 place du Petit-Collège, Lyon 5e