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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Puppet maker’s craft matches big heart

    Rebecca Noble
    Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildcat Julie Orrico continues sewing together a new monster doll in her home work space on Thursday, Sept. 25. Orrico, based in Tucson, crafts handmade embroidered puppets, dolls, and art dolls that have been sent around the world as gifts from Germany to Afghanistan, used for speech therapy, and by several storytellers and teachers.

    Julie Orrico is the creative head behind the self-made puppet business frequently showcased during downtown Tucson’s Second Saturdays, inside a kiosk at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and most recently at the upcoming Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair.

    Painting by age 8, art has always been an important part of this Tucson native’s life, eventually leading her to puppet making. After honing her craft for six years, Orrico, age 35, was inspired to create by participating in theater programs growing up, making costumes and set designs backstage. She also has extensive background in cartooning and animation.

    While preferring not to take center stage, her carefully-fashioned felt and fleece creations are certainly worth some recognition. The puppets are a culmination of her imaginative pursuits, highlighting an innate knack for her unique skill.

    Julie’s Puppets started modestly with Julie taking suggestions from interested shoppers.

    “I’ve been asked to make puppets for speech therapists, teachers and storytellers,” Orrico said.

    She has even created specially made puppets with tongues for speech therapy classes. The visual of a puppet can be helpful and comforting for reaching shy children. Orrico’s puppets possess more than mere aesthetics, as they can function as important learning tools.

    Her latest project included creating a Goldendoodle puppy puppet for Gabriel’s Angels therapists, a pet therapy center for at-risk and abused children.

    Orrico said one of her goals with her creations is to encourage kids to use their imagination in a world where technology is quickly outpacing the classic toy.

    Her more stylish pieces are for the older crowd. Orrico has designed more adult-oriented puppets, including Tim Burton-style dolls, anthropomorphic animals of all kinds and goth-dressed chihuahuas, to name a few.

    She finds her materials from craft and fabric stores encompassing a variety of themes and seasonal requests. She has two styles of puppet: flat hand or muppet. All are fashioned from polar fleece or felt, as well as her doll-style puppets. Embroidery and paint fashion the dolls’ faces, intricately made from different mediums.

    As her subjects are so diverse, Orrico researches prior to crafting in order to make her creations as authentic as possible. She also draws from personal experience; she created a London punk art doll from memories of an old family trip to England.

    Even her puppets have travelled, with one creation accompanying a soldier to Afghanistan and serving as the mascot for the battalion. Some of her other puppets have even made it as far as Tokyo, showcasing her art to a wider audience.

    Wearing her artistic heart on her strings, Orrico is certainly a marionette mistress of the muses. Just like her puppets, she is truly one of a kind.

    Follow Alexandra Paletta on Twitter @mintchippedpal

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