The Circus Arcanus is first mentioned in the Fantastic Beasts franchise on a movie poster briefly seen in NYC in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This is according to the Harry Potter Wiki Fandom, which let’s be honest, is a pretty darn good source.
The Circus Arcanus is first really seen in Fantastic Beasts, Crimes of Grindelwald. And oh, what a vision it is. And the inspiration of our Wondercon Masquerade group this year. We have a Newt. We have a Grindelwald. We have a Queenie. And…. Nagini! Also, Antonio, a nifler, and hopefully, an occamy. If we can find someone to puppet Occarina. Plus, a ZOUWU.
Charlie is Puppet No. 3. His eyes blink- FINALLY. It has taken me the better part of 3 weeks to get his eyes to work right and to not be frosted because I accidentally tried to clean plastic with nail polish remover. UGH. Ultimately, I had to replace the fronts of his eyes. It SUCKED. Also, I had to cut his nose out and completely redo his muzzle….
Do you see how low his nose is here? It just doesn’t look right….
OK- backing up…. to the start of Charlie.
First- his eyes and nose. I created the eyes and nose out of DAS- a sculpting medium that air dries hard and is pretty easy to use. I was first introduced to DAS years ago- when the Block at Orange still had the Wolfgang Puck restaurant. When it first opened, the restaurant had a resident artist every night. One night, when we went in, there was a guy sculpting a fairy. From DAS. I hung out, watching and talking to him. And bought some DAS a few days later. 20 years later, I finally found a real use for it. The jaw set is Dream Vision Creations- the large dragon jaw set. Everything was painted with my airbrush set- which I got with a Christmas Amazon gift card a year ago- I’m so much further along with the airbrush than the DAS…
Charlie’s eyes are set up on the blinky model from Tiny Badger’s youtube videos- except I use slightly different pieces for the spring attachment. Also, I use Loctite for attaching sprinkler hardware to the wood dowl for the eyelids. After the eyelids are added and the eyes blink, I started building Charlie’s face from scraps of floor mat foam. 9 bucks a pack from Harbor Freight.
The bottom of the mouth is largely shaped based on the Dream Visions jaw set. I did not intend for Charlie’s mouth to move, since his head is essentially going to be a hat.
Note that Charlie’s nose has been elevated in this pic. I’ve only partly attached his mane in this pic- while I was working on his mane, I realized he was missing something….. EARS. The final Charlie has huge ears. Almost like a coyote.
So- talking about Charlie’s fur. All of his face fur is faux. Its pieced together- most of the face fur consists of small pieces measuring an inch to two inches long, and 1/2 inch wide. Most of the fur is also trimmed. His mane, though, is actual animal hair, specifically Icelandic sheep from Iceland.
And here is how we acquired the Icelandic sheep skin….
Nowadays, Ken and I both make our livings as archaeologists. And all archaeologists have, at some time or another, worked as what is known as a “shovelbum” or a “dig bum”- basically, an archaeologist who moves from job to job, a kind of Indiana Jones style drifter. Unless a shovelbum has a permanent address, often their stuff is crammed into a storage unit in some random state, and they rather float around the country. Our friend, Eric from New Jersey, was just such a dig bum. He criss-crossed the US so many times that he could have given Jack Kerouac lessons. When I met Eric, I was a dig bum, too, and Ken was teaching physics. Yah- this was a while ago. We had a HOUSE and SPACE and Eric lived with us for the better part of two years, while he worked at various places that I and eventually Ken worked. Hellman Ranch. Playa Vista. Tehachapi. Eventually, the work in California slowed and Eric wandered off to travel the world for a year or two.
Fast forward about one or two years after Eric left. I got home from work and there was a box on our porch. Just a label with our address. No return. The dogs were wild over the box. I opened it. There was a plush animal skin in the box. No note. No indication from whom the box came. Weird, right?
But, I am an anthropologist. An archaeologist. And I have WEIRD FRIENDS. So, I ran down the list of possible people who might send us an unlabeled animal skin. Eric was an early possibility. So, I texted him. “Musk Ox?” (I’d just recently been to Alaska for work and thought maybe Musk Ox?). He replied almost immediately. “Icelandic Sheep.” Ah, ha!
We put it out in our living room, at that time, recently restyled as a sort of Gryffindor type common room. That lasted approximately 3 days. We have 3 akitas. If you are unfamiliar with akitas, they are essentially fancy looking wolves. They play like wolves (vaguely horrifying if you’ve never seen it), fight like wolves (occasionally, they have actual disagreements that require breaking up and sometimes vet visits), and have a lot of wild left in them, despite claims of domestication. I mean, they really are great with anything that is considered pack- they don’t bother our chickens, our rabbits, or our cat. All those things are PACK. Things that are not PACK- mail people, Fedex delivery people, other cats, squirrels, other dogs, and the Icelandic sheep skin. They pulled it apart. INTO PIECES.
We put it away. And it sat. In storage for nearly 8 years. Until Charlie. I needed something that looked like a mane and I thought, I could get one of those sheep skins from IKEA! But, then, I thought about the pieces of sheepskin from Iceland. It combs out beautifully, holds it shape with a little spray glue, and looks like an actual mane. And honestly, what better use could I get from our poor beleaguered sheep skin than a piece of art like Charlie? Who will live in a plastic tub that seals and is stored way above where the akitas -wolves can reach….