Sort Your Sock Stuff Out

Meet the sock posse puppet maker

Textile artist and puppet maker Mandy Beck-Mckim created the sock posse for our ‘Sort Your Sock Stuff Out’ video.

She talks to us about how she created the puppet characters and what she loves about her job.

Mandy with one of her puppet creations.

How did you come up with the ideas for the characters?

The track for the ‘Sort Your Sock Stuff Out’ video was a remake of the Basement Jaxx song Jump n’ Shout so we looked at the original music video for inspiration. The zebra and alien mouth characters I created are a direct reference to bits in the original video; there is a person with black and white face paint and a close up of a mouth singing.

We decided to create a lead boy called Lemmy and girl character Siouxsie and a posse who would dance with them. The posse includes a Rasta with shades, a DJ Sock with headphones, an Afro girl, a spooky ghost and a sausage dog.

I did some initial designs and thought about colours of characters. I wanted them all to be bright colourful characters that would be fun and lively. The track is very fast and in your face so the puppets needed to be like that too. I then tried to find the right socks to suit the character: I would try different eyes and make accessories and the characters came from that.

The puppet characters from the video.

How long did it take you to make the puppets?

I spent seven days making the puppets, once I had designs and had collected recycled socks. I did have quite a few late nights! I spent quite a long time on the pink girl puppet’s mouth as I kept changing it until I was happy. It was a bit restricting on my hand at first and I wanted it to be able to sing properly.

I usually spend quite a long time on my knitted creature puppets although these ones had to look as if children could make them. I normally make examples for my workshops so I am used to working at this pace, but I needed them to last during quite vigorous dancing. The track is very fast so they had to be well made and secure. I also made a collection of useful things out of socks to use in the video, in addition to the puppets.

What materials did you use?

I used recycled socks, cardboard, recycled carpet foam waste, white balls, goggle eyes, glue, needle and thread, wire, pipe cleaners, felt and wool to make the puppets, as well as bits like 3D cinema glasses cut up to make Rasta sunglasses or broken umbrella spokes to make the rods for the arms. I also used some old woolly tights that had holes in and a fleece that was too small for my daughter for the two puppets with dreads.

Materials for making puppets.

What was it like seeing your creations star in a music video?

I was so excited to see my puppets in the music video! I was part of the crew on the filming days and it was so much fun. The video is so energetic and the puppets are full of life.

Puppeteers working the puppets.

How long have you been a puppet maker and textile artist?

I have been a textile artist and puppet maker for 22 years now. I started off by making puppets out of distorted self-portraits in bendy mirrors at art college and then moved on to making animals when I became really interested in wildlife on my Embroidery BA course. I started to develop work with colour and texture, creating 3D forms and making the movements and characters of different creatures in various projects. I worked with theatre companies on my placements and specialised in this in my final year.

I have always loved recycling and exploring qualities in different materials, I have continued with my own personal work in this area since then, as well as working as an artist in schools, galleries and museums inspiring kids to create.

I have more recently developed my puppet characters and stories with puppeteers, writers and storytellers as well as creating environments for the creatures to be used in film and theatrical performances that look at environmental issues in a fun way that kids understand.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy my job as I get to be really creative, using colour and different textures, and to be inventive with different materials, bringing characters to life in the making process. I am passionate about inspiring young people to be creative!

I love it when I work with puppeteers and storytellers: it is really magical when they bring my characters to life in their performance and I can see the reactions of the audience.

Working on the Love Your Clothes project was great because we had a whole team of creative people to work on it: a concept designer, director, film crew, puppeteers and musicians. It was also just up my street because I was already doing work that encourages people to re-use materials in inventive ways and inspire children to create and have fun while making them think about environmental issues. This project links really well with everything I do and it's great to do something that will reach lots of children!

"Sort your socks stuff out" titles.

Find out more about Mandy and her work on the Wired and Wild website.

You can meet Mandy and have a go at making your very own sock puppet on 31 August at Z-Arts in Manchester. And it’s all FREE!

Find out how to make your own sock puppets - and 100 more ideas for using odd socks - on our Lost Socks page. You could enter our competitions, too!