I wish I had a dime for every person who asked me “Who do you recommend to build a puppet?”, as I would be a rich guy at this point. I can’t actually give you a definitive answer, but I can give you some ideas as to who you may find to do the job. Read on, please, and let’s explore this a bit.
First, you must like the puppet/ figure maker’s style. Each of these skilled craftsmen/ women have a distinct style when they make their characters. Frank Marshall, one of the premier figure makers in the 20th. century had a definite “look” to his work. Once you recognized this look you could spot a Marshall figure out of a crowd of vent puppets. My suggestion is to look at different samples of different makers and see which style appeals to you the most.
You must then decide if you want a traditional “hard” (wood or some other composite material) vent figure or a “soft” (cloth, latex, foam rubber) puppet and look at the differences. Many vents like the traditional look of a vent figure, while others, like myself, like characters that are non-traditional. I tend to lean towards the soft puppets as they seem to have a look you can’t always find in a vent figure.
I also look at the quality of the workmanship and materials they use. I try to find someone who has had one of their puppets and see how they liked it. Did it hold up to use? Did problems arise manipulating the puppet due to how it was built? See if you can find any pictures (probably on the maker’s website) of someone who uses one of their puppets. This is also good to see how this puppet photographs for publicity photos as well.
The last thing I take into consideration is the price. My theory is that you get what you pay for, so no matter the cost, if it’s what I want I will put out the money to buy it.
One last thing, always check to see what their delivery time is for getting the puppet to you. The maker can be the greatest builder in the world, but if you have to chase them and constantly call to see when the puppet is going to be completed, it’s not worth it.
Choose your character wisely, as this is your calling card to the world. Devote the time to finding the right one!