Puppets. Teamwork. Magic.
In June of 2012, Sam Johnson arrived at a small arts and music festival called Esthetic Evolution with what appeared to be a pile of garbage in the back of his truck. He unloaded a bundle of dirty green fabric, a tangled rat's nest of plastic fencing, irrigation hose, and extension cords, and a ugly assembly of styrofoam insulation, plastic food packaging, and cardboard beer cases — all held together with fistfulls of zipties and yards of duct tape. He organized the rubbish, tightened a few hose-clamps, and attached everything to a series of poles (using even more zipties and duct tape). Slowly, a recognizable form emerged. Once everything was plugged in, and the portable Honda generator was fired-up, the Colossal Squid came to life for the first time. Its eyes burned red, its tentacles pulsed green, and its blacklight-reactive fabric emitted an eerie glow.
The Colossal Squid required four puppeteers (one for the body, one for each tentacle, and someone to pull the wagon with the generator), so Sam recruited some help. “ANYONE WANT TO BE A TENTACLE OPERATOR?” he yelled, and several people enthusiastically answered the call, having no idea what that responsibility entailed. The Colossal Squid rampaged around the festival grounds all night long, much to the delight of nearly everyone in attendance. It demonstrated the tremendous potential that large-scale puppets have to generate feelings of awe and joy in those they encounter.
Sam left Esthetic Evolution with a heavily-damaged squid puppet, but with some amazing new friendships. Among them, James Sharp who said to Sam “I don’t care what you do next year — whatever it is, I want to help!”
Since then, the Colossal Collective has been designing and building large-scale puppets, and bringing them to festivals, concerts, and public gatherings all around the inland Northwest. While James and Sam still spearhead the projects, a much larger community comes together to bring these puppets to life. It’s all a labor of love: there are businesses and non-profit organizations that donate resources, share workspace, and allow access to their tools; there are festivals and events that offer grants; and there are dozens of talented, dedicated people who donate their time, knowledge, and skills.
Large-scale puppets remind us that no matter how old we get, we can still find magic in our lives. Not only that, we can create it!
The Colossal Collective only exists because of the generosity of our sponsors.
These companies support us by supplying high quality puppet-building materials.