This was a forum thread titled "the future of wood".
I posted this;
Back in the early days of ventriloquism, through the "golden age of ventriloquism", wood-carved figures were more the norm. There were other materials being used like paper-mache, etc., but I believe the wood figures were still dominant.
Things have changed a lot since then.
Back then, I believe nearly all vents used some sort of hard figure, now, a large segment of the vent community also use soft figures ("soft" refers to both latex and fabric), and easily just as many who only use soft figures.
But just referring now to hard figures, many of the hard figures for many years now, have been made out of a wide variety of molded materials. Especially when the day came when almost suddenly, there were many instructional texts available on making molded figures, and even molded shells made available, it increased many times, the number of molded figures being made.
Molded figures have also always been, generally speaking, cheaper than a carved figure. There are exceptions of course, some who make very high dollar molded figures that cost as much as any carved figure, again, this is referring generally and to the majority. And with so many more people making molded figures now, it has created more variety in molded figures, and also kept the prices lower because there are just so many available.
So, with the quantity and wide variety of molded figures available, and lower prices, molded figures have come to far exceed the number of carved figures available.
Another factor is the number of people still carving figures.
There are only a few I can think of that work exclusively with wood, and few who predominantly make molded figures that will also make carved figures.
And again, generally speaking of course, carved figures are more expensive than molded figures.
So I wonder, could we see the day when it's no longer possible to obtain a new wood-carved figure?
Or at best, will they be extremely few and far between?
Could we be heading for the day when carved figures are a thing of the past?
Then my friend James Manalli posted this;
There still seems to be a market for wood figures . It seems they are most popular with those that grew up watching/ listening to the greats like Bergen, Winchell, Nelson and the many others that appeared on TV in the 50's and 60's and into the 70's as well as collectors that appreciate the craft of carving.
The cost for some carved figures may make them more difficult for many to purchase although some carvers of figures are pricing their work very competitively.
And I posted this reply;
Yes, I think there is still a market, and there always will be for the collectible old carved figures. I think you are right Jim in that carved figures enjoy their most popularity with those who grew up watching the "old masters".
On the lighter side, I think there will always be people who though they may not be carving figures for sale, are carving figures for themselves. For example, the figure I have by Wallace Kindig, all his figures were carved, but he didn't buy any of them, he carved them all for himself.
I had created a forum for ventriloquism that didn't get the interest I had hoped for, so I'm shutting it down.
This is a post of book reviews, by me, from there that I wanted to save;
Ventriloquism of Today
by Paul Stadelman
This of course, had to be the first book for the review section, if for no other reason than I named this forum after this book.
Those who have known me for some time will already know that I would give this book an excellent review - and they'd be right.
In my opinion, "Ventriloquism of Today" is the best instructional book on ventriloquism that has ever been written. There are many other fine books and courses on learning the art, but to me, this is the only one anyone needs.
Paul's instruction is well written and clear, and will have anyone practicing the art - correctly - if they follow his instruction.
While the book is still readily available, and I do recommend getting the actual book, I created a PDF file of the instructional text of Paul's book which is free for the asking, just pm me your email address and I will send it to you.
Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits
by Matthew Rolston
This book is next in my reviews because with the exception of the one I am reading now, "The Great Lester", it's the next most recent vent book I've purchased.
I will say it is a nicely published book, large, good paper, binding, etc., but content.....frankly, to me, not worth the price.
It pains me to slam a book that's in anyway related to Vent Haven, but I personally found it to be very disappointing.
Apparently, the author is known for his close-up photography, and it is an interesting concept with the vent figures, but it's not enough.
Two things that would have added to the value, for me, are;
1. in addition to the close-ups of the faces of the figures, I would have also liked to have seen a picture of the full figure.
The close-ups often make the figures look grotesque or even terrifying - just what we need when we have already forever been fighting the "dummies creep me out" thing.
An additional picture of the full figure would have softened the look for starters, but I personally would have found it more interesting to also see a picture of the complete figure.
2. I would have also liked to have seen more info included on each figure. On the facing page they sometimes have the name of the figure, or they have the name of the maker followed by "boy" or "girl", but the cards on each of the figures at Vent Haven have more info than that - sometimes not much more, but more. Like the name of the figure if known, name of the maker if known, when it was made or the approximate period, etc. Whatever info was on the card for each figure, I would have liked to have seen included, that alone would have made it much more interesting to look through.
The last few pages with a few fuller pictures inside the museum and the vintage photos of vents and playbills, etc., was very good, but that's about the only part I can praise, and not enough to make it worth the price.
In the end, after flipping through it once, it was done, destined to be a shelf sitter with nothing to draw me back to it to look through it again.
Frankly, the only reason it hasn't been posted for sale is due to not having saved the box it came in, and finding another the right size for this very over-sized book will be difficult at best.
Memoirs of a Ventriloquist
by John R. Schailbley
Mr. Schaibley performed professionally from 1918 to 1958. I don't believe there are any of us left today who can relate to performing in those days, at least not the early years of Mr. Schaibley's career. That alone makes it an interesting read, reading about life on the road as a vaudeville performer and as things were changing with the passing of vaudeville.
It's a book I enjoyed and would recommend.
All By My Selves
by Jeff Dunham
What can I say about this? I guessed I would like it before I bought it, having always enjoyed Jeff's work.
And like most in the vent community, I appreciate what Jeff has done for the art. While there were more people performing vent in their local areas and on cruise ships, etc., than most people would guess, generally speaking, vents were not seen in the "big public eye", like television for example, for some time.
Then there was Jeff, he made it big (which of course was not over-night, but you can read about that), he was on TV, performing at huge venues which appeared as specials on TV, etc. Once again, vent was back in the "big public eye" - and being loved in a positive way.
Jeff's book was an enjoyable read, another book I would easily and totally recommend.
A side note: something I thought of just before submitting this post - I think it was appropriate that I included these two books together. Reading them both, one gets to see the differences of what it was like working your way up and through, earlier days of performing and current times.
by Red Skelton
An enjoyable uplifting little story with the main character being a ventriloquist.
The downside is this book can be hard to obtain for a reasonable price, being long out of print and limited when it was in print.
(Long before I was finally able to obtain a copy at a reasonable price, someone had loaned me the book to read. I scanned it into my computer so I would have it, not knowing at that time if I was ever going to be able to get a copy. I wanted to start a thread in this forum posting a chapter a week, but I don't know the copyright status and don't want to get the forum shut down, or worse trouble personally, for publishing it here.)
by Wesley Stace
It's been a while since I read this one, details I can't give now, and wouldn't want to anyway, but I remember the important part: I did enjoy this book.
Here's a description from Amazon;
"By George is the twisting story of four generations of the curious Fisher family, as told by two boys named George Fisher: one, a schoolboy in the 1970s; the other, a ventriloquist's dummy in the second World War. It's a story of love, loss and family ties, and of two boys separated by years but driven by the same desires: to find a voice, and to be loved."
Excerpts From the Journal of Joshua Medley, Conjuror, Juggler, Ventriloquist, and Sometime Balloonist
by Francis L. Shine
As you can see from the subtitle, ventriloquism is just one of the things the main character does. It really has been quite a while since I've read this one, but I do recall thoroughly enjoying it and think I may be due to read it again.
The Great Lester
by David Erskine
So I finally finished reading this book. Took me awhile, unlike another review I read that said "I couldn't put it down", I didn't have that problem.
First, I'd like to say that the cover is great, I would love to have a small poster of it to hang on the wall.
Now for the book itself - there's two things that stand out for me;
1. It's called a "fictional memoir", and from the Introduction, "Because Lester didn't reveal much about his early years, I call this a fictional memoir. Fact and fiction are combined....."
So does that mean that anything referring to his early years was fictional, or are fact and fiction combined throughout.
This stands out for me because based on what I already knew about Lester, there were things that I knew were not fiction, but the things I didn't know, then I had to wonder, is it fact or fiction.
2. It's written as if Lester were speaking into a tape recorder talking about his life. It's an interesting approach, but it's a lot like reading someone's diary, a lot of, I saw this person that day, that person this day, we had lunch, etc., and it's that style of the way it was written is what had me saying at the beginning that I had no problem putting it down.
Now I know that doesn't sound like I'm giving it a great review. While those two things stand out for me, would I still recommend it? Yes. Yes, I would.
It's still interesting to read through, there's a lot of good to pick out of it in info of the way things were and the people Lester knew. Mr. Erskine knows his stuff on vents and history, he's done the research, I suspect the books contents are more nonfiction than fiction, (it was just the not knowing for sure what was and wasn't that stuck with me).
But again, I would still easily suggest it for anyone's vent library.
A P.S. about a couple items written n the epilogue;
While hospitalized in March of the year he passed, ".....friends stripped his apartment of many things - to protect them for him; however, many items were not returned."
Also, before his body was even removed from the hospital the day he passed, "the door to his studio was opened and many of his possessions "walked out".
I kind of laughed at that, although it really isn't funny. I have no doubt those "friends" were vents. I know many stories of vultures we currently have in the vent community, those items in the epilogue just told me our community has always been plagued by such "people".
by Greg Claassen
This book has been out for a while now, but I didn't have any interest in it because I've never been a big fan of McElroy figures, the look just isn't one that works for me as a figure I'd want to use. Of course if I tripped across a deal on one, I'd buy it for the collectibility, and I am fully aware of the the contribution and genius of the McElroys in the history of figuremaking.
After recently acquiring a copy of this book, I can honestly say I so wish I had gotten it sooner.
The background info on the McElroys and their figures, the pictures, etc is excellent material, very interesting reading. And the material on the mechanics, not only great for someone wanting to attempt a replica, but for anyone interested in figuremaking and the McElroys incredible mechanics, it's both very interesting and priceless. The diagrams of the mechanics are so beautifully and clearly well done, one could have hours just looking them all over and seeing how things work.
This book is actually even pricier than the Vent Haven portraits book (99.), but the big difference - this book is absolutely worth it. It can provide hours of interesting material to read and explore, and I know it is a book I'm going to want to go through many times to make sure I haven't missed anything.
I consider it one of the finer additions to my vent library.
Well, soon I'll be saying good-bye to Dani Dickens, she's been sold to another ventriloquist. I will miss her, but....
I bought Dani from Kem Poyner at the 2005 Vent Haven convention, I'd had my eye on her for a long time ("Tina" in Kem's "catalog"), and I finally got her, I was SO happy.
Dani is a truly excellent figure, very well made, and a joy to handle, a super nice figure with tons of personality before she even speaks. Unfortunately, it just proved too difficult for me to produce a female voice I found suitable and convincing for her, so I put her up for sale. It was NOT an easy decision, I hesitated a great deal, I wanted to keep her anyway, but not only did it not make sense, it seemed such a waste for such a great figure to go to waste sitting in a case.
I feel like a traitor selling her, I just don't know to whom I feel that way more, Kem or Dani!
But I know it's for the better, now hopefully, she will be used as she was intended and should be used, to entertain. And even though I know it's the right thing to do - I know I will still miss this figure a great deal.
To her new owner - enjoy (as I know you will), let her make lots of people happy.
Hahaaaa, I love it!
Posted here before that the safest, least aggravating way to survive an email list is to "lurk" only. Well, folks, I apologize, apparently, not posting still doesn't make you safe.
Someone posted about being a lurker because of the types of "discussions" (bickering actually) that goes on. Someone else responds with, "as lurkers you contribute nothing to the board".
Okay, and there you have it, there's why the lurkers lurk. It is just not safe. Email lists become a place for a select few to post, others are free to post if they agree with the "regulars". Lurkers may not post, but many I know, read all the messages, well, to a point.....they see, possibly better than the "regulars" what is going on. Foolish be the one that says something, because someone will come up with a comment that puts them back in their "lurker's place" AND criticizes them for being there.
Kind of "damned if you do, damned if you don't". If I sound down on lists, guess it's because I've seen waaaay too much. Yes, I am a "lurker", but then I have to be because of my personal list watchdog - so what's your excuse - oh yeah, I already covered that. Mind your place, safe or not.
Don Knotts passed away this weekend, Friday night actually.
Those not interested in ventriloquism don't know that he started out as a ventriloquist. Most know him as the deputy, Barney Fife, in the old Andy Griffith show - a role that will never be forgotten by those who have enjoyed the show across generations.
So I just wanted to say: "Bye Barney. You will be missed, as much as we miss the role, and as much as I miss the times it was created in."
Well, I'm really using this web journal/blogger thing........ I knew I wouldn't use it as a daily journal. If I were inclined to keep a journal, I still prefer paper and pen. But I thought it would be worthwhile for posting a note here and there.
Anyway, the figure registry. Someone had posted a question on the Newsy Vents blogger about a figure registry. Yes, "Scotty's Vent Figure Registry" is still up and running. It was basically down for a period when the host went down, and the most recent backup I could get was two years old. So I lost a lot of updates, but I never expected it to be totally accurate anyway. Many people have no interest in participating and those who do, usually don't worry about updating their listing.
But, it is just for fun anyway, strictly a curiosity. It can have a practical purpose though. If someone is thinking about buying a particular figure, they can look in the registry, see who else owns one and email them for feedback on the figure.
You can find the link to the registry on my webpage.
I posted this on my ventfigures list and thought it was worth saving here;
Okay here's another topic about figures that came to mind during a private discussion with someone, I think this might provoke some interesting discussion;
What do you think is the future of quality figuremaking? Is it in jeopardy?
In another forum, someone posted this
"I think that some of the old line figure makers are starting to see that there are folks that are selling figures that do quite well for somewhat let money and the Brose Kits seem to be a nice way to go also with some nice creations at a nominal charge. I do see a plateau in the future on the amount of new figures out there. I did get a note back from a figure maker after I sent him a nice note about his figures that the "Kit Type" projects will eliminate the carved wood figure makers at some point. He may be right."
And I replied with this;
"that the "Kit Type" projects will eliminate the carved wood figure makers at some point"
This is indeed a very sad statement for the art, and I hope whoever said that is wrong.
But I'm afraid I wrote nearly the same thing today. I have been having a private discussion with someone about this very topic, and just earlier today, wrote this to him in email;
"I think quality figuremaking is going to be a rare thing at some point. Why should anyone bother if there's so many people cranking out poor to moderate quality figures cheaply and that's what people are buying.Actually, I think that has been the downside of Brose's book and readily available info on figuremaking, now everyone and their brother is doing it and cranking them out. Maybe the old masters who weren't so free with volunteering info were the smart ones - not only for their own benefit, but the benefit of the art."
And that's not only what we are headed for, I think we are already pretty much there. The market has been flooded with assembly line figures, most all obviously lacking in some way or another in comparison to the masters. New people in the art are buying them up with no clue what a quality figure is like, and eventually the assembly line figures will become the standard.
And when the standard of anything becomes less than it could be, that's not a good thing."
I recently added another figure to the "family", a carved figure by Bob Scott. The figure was made in 1975, but apparently got little use and was stored carefully as the figure is like new.
I watched this figure listed on ebay three times with the price being reduced three times, finally down to 175.oo with no takers. I don't know what people are looking for in a figure, I've watched them pay as much or more for obviously lower quality, almost mass-produced figures, but this one.......... I'm glad though as I ended up with a quality figure at an incredible bargain price.
Anyway, as I said, it is a carved figure with the standard slotjaw, side-to-side moving eyes, and a handshaker that works easily for additional animation.
The body is well made with a carved shoulder and overall, very solid. The arms and legs have sufficient stuffing which I often see lacking in many figures.
You can see pics in my photo album; http://tinyurl.com/d8nht
I've named him "Paul M. Dickens" and he is destined to be the never ever heard of sixth Beatle.