Making her debut in the first Nutcracker presented by the Denison Dance Academy in December of 2011, Mother Gigogne participates in the Dia de los Muertos Parade every year.
Created by Grayson College Professor Steve O. Black, Mother Gigogne was the first of some 30 puppets produced in the workshops held at Grayson College and on Main Street in Denison by students, community artists and area residents. Not all the puppets stay in Denison, people from other cities have traveled many miles to learn how to make these giant puppets that stand 6 to 12 feet tall.
This year, Wednesday evenings are Puppet Workshop evenings. Workshops are held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. through the month of October in room AC105 in the Arts & Communication Center at Grayson College.
A line of eight large decorations covering the windows outside the auditorium as well as the sign for the Dia de los Muertos Exhibition VI in the Gallery to the left of the front doors. The giant puppets will be featured at the Dia de los Muertos VI Exhibition Artists Reception, as well as the annual Dia de los Muertos parade in Denison.
The exhibition artists reception will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Nov. 17 at Grayson College, and the parade will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 4 in downtown Denison.
The first Dia de los Muertos parade in Denison included five giant puppets and has just about doubled every year since.
“I enjoy the act of creating,” said Black, who is also the workshop leader. “The process of puppet making is as old as mankind. Everyone here (in the workshop) would attest to the fact that there is a sense of fulfillment in the creative process. We learn to pass it on. I hope this is part of my legacy.”
The puppets can take several forms. Often the head of the puppet starts with a papier-mâché molded around a large balloon or ball. The repetitious layering of brown paper strips soaked in wheat paste makes a very durable foundation for the facial features to follow.
Because of drying time, the papier-mâché process of shaping plus the painting process can take many weeks to get the desired result. How the puppet will be carried or worn is another part of the creative process.
Besides Mother Gigogne, Liz is another puppet that been in the Parade every year. Designed by local artist, Kimber Bosse, Liz was originally created for puppet display at an art and wine event at the Palazzo (now Rustico).
Although Liz has aged gracefully, Bosse said that Liz has to be refurbished again this year to make certain that the harness straps are in good shape and that her clothes are appropriate for the family event.