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Saved by Puppets • by Mahtab Grimshaw

I remember exactly all of the little people who were staring at us in my childhood home especially the little girl kneeling right behind the guest room door!

All of those tiny people were drawn by the youngest member of our family, yes that's me! Not that I haven't been told off, no, I just couldn't resist the pleasure of listening to the sound of black pencil on the newly painted matte cream wall. I always loved drawing people but I wasn't so interested in landscape or wildlife and I never really liked painting them, it was quite boring to me and I would ask my older sister to paint them while I was busy drawing more.

Finding Joy
My mother used to remind me, “That's a great hobby but you should be an architect or a doctor, something that can provide for your future life!” Along with my mother, I never imagined becoming a puppeteer one day, all I knew was that drawing and later painting and making things could give me a joy that nothing else could. It was a way of expressing emotion and communication for the little shy girl who used to hide behind the doors and inside the wall closets to draw her little friends on the wall.

Dreams Coming True
When I was about 16 I started thinking about choosing art as a career, not just a hobby - but that was against my mother's will. I had to hide my art history book underneath my science book as soon as someone was knocking on my door. My older sister was the only support I had in the house for going to a fine art university but even with all that hide and seeking, I did it. I managed to achieve the highest score in the art entrance exam for the year and soon after that entered Tehran Fine Art University to study drama hoping to be a stage designer. All of my dreams were coming true. Two of the four year course had passed and I was being noticed in the puppetry workshop as a successful student. After my first work as a director, writer, and puppet maker in the student festival and winning some awards, I started thinking seriously about being a puppeteer and since then I haven't stopped making and loving puppets and doll.

On the Verge of a Breakdown
This love saved me five years ago when I left a very successful career as a freelance puppet maker for children's TV and my family and friends behind to live with the man I love. I moved to the UK in July 2005, not very good at English and not having any friends, I was on the edge of breaking down. I couldn’t find any local puppetry groups to join even as a volunteer and I kept on thinking there's no use of a puppet if there is no show for it and those thoughts stopped me from keeping myself busy with making one.

After a while the same love and passion for making little people saved me - yes my little friends came all the way from home to help me out. I decided on making small dolls using scrap pieces of fabric and scarves found in charity shops, a box of old buttons were like a treasure buried unnoticed under a pile of donated stuff in our local charity shop. My husband knew how to make me happy - with a bag full of silk scarves and left over wools that he had found on the way home from work in a charity shop. This cheered me up more than a bouquet of red roses.

Finding My Way Back to Art
It took a while until I found my way back again and gained confidence enough to show my work to the public. I haven’t done much puppeteering except for a film or two, but instead I made lots of dolls and figurines using fabric. Recently I began using my favorite medium, paperclay. I started selling my work through my Web site and my Etsy shop. My best ever work of art is my son, my beautiful angel Gabriel, who takes most of my time and energy and now I know that there is something I love more than making dolls and that's sitting with Gabriel and drawing little people!

Mahtab Grimshaw is an artist and puppet maker who lives in the United Kingdom. To learn more about Mahtab, visit her Web site at, and her Etsy shop at She also has a fan page on Facebook at


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