Two things everyone should have in the house are a yellow recycling bag – filled, and a hot glue gun. So says Peter Beyer proudly displaying that which he knows how to make – with these basics. Or should we rather say – who? Whether in the hallway, the studio, the workshop, the ceiling, the walls or on the floor – everywhere I go in his house in Kiel I encounter a wild crowd of plastic bottles, cheese wrappers or discarded ladies’ pumps that, thanks to the marionette maker’s imagination, are given a new lease of life. This is also where the portraits of the pop band Revolverheld were made out of ketchup bottles to appear in the music video for “Let’s go”. But there’s also Aladdin, which was commissioned by the Kiel Opera for a Christmas performance. Not to mention, there are some rather northern looking German boys attired in 19th century striped swimming costumes wiggling across the floor with their leg hair stubble exposed.
Peter Beyer’s characters have character, wit and deliberately fall outside the norm. Big mouths, strong facial expressions, whimsical costumes and wild hair are among the trademarks. In keeping with the North, smooth surfaces are not his style: “Rosi’s bird sand” (a product used when keeping birds) provides texture under the ‘skin’. What is truly unique though is probably the past life of a utilitarian object or piece of packaging. The idea of making heads and other parts out of rubbish actually arose out of necessity. When Peter Beyer worked for a kindergarten, there was no money for handcraft materials. So he used egg cartons to make puppets and has continually developed this method to the present day.
Besides finished puppets, there are many kinds of prototypes in varying stages of development in the studio. “I spend as much time as possible here and yet my ideas still overtake me,” says the Frankfurt-born artist, whose enthusiastic beginning in puppet theatre and marionette making started at the age of 13. He can through his experience quickly see the character of a soap dispenser or spray head. He immediately recognises which packaging goes with which head shape and, after decades of tinkering, is already at the forefront of the trend in sustainability, upcycling and zero waste ideas which can be communicated well with this kind of creative puppet making.
A good sense of imagination and the joy of experimentation
Puppet theatre is not only the best way for him push boundaries and experiment. Children also respond with great joy to his workshops on building figures out of rubbish. Whether at schools and kindergartens in the area or at the Children’s Culture Night in Suhl – Peter Beyer wants to show that art equates to freedom and is really fun. In the afternoon care period in kindergartens for example he has noticed that many children work quietly with concentration and focus, sometimes even singing, on their puppets and of course sometimes puppets with four or five legs can come out of it.
Peter Beyer is all the more pleased that more schools and kindergartens are now asking to book his workshops. He will also be building puppets with refugees from Ukraine in Kiel from June onwards.
On Sunday morning, 12 June, we will bring the puppet maker to St. Petri Kirchhof as part of the Hanse Cultural Festival to build folding-mouth puppets with children of all ages. In his luggage: the best things that yellow bags and waste paper bins have to offer – and of course hot glue guns.
Peter Beyer finds inspiration for the heads of his puppets in plastic bottles, cans or women’s shoes.