In everything William Addison Dwiggins did, whether puppetry or graphic design, his childlike spirit shone through. His life and works were the subject of the third installment of the Spring 2017 Puppet Forum series Wednesday night.
Bruce Kennett, author of the first-ever biography on the influential Dwiggins set to be released this year, delivered the lecture at the Ballard Institute Theater in Storrs Center.
Dwiggins, who is best known for his work in graphic design, had always had a love for theater and carpentry. At a young age, he discovered he had a talent for woodworking, carving many small objects throughout his childhood. As he got older, Dwiggins realized that he could combine his love for woodcarving and theater by exploring the art of puppetry. Dwiggins would design beautiful marionettes to act out plays in his intimate theater, his pieces becoming progressively more intricate and beautiful as time went on.
Although this was not his main source of income, Dwiggins took great pride in his creations. “He didn’t make money with it to pay the rent, but it was the greatest expression of joy and pleasure that he had,” Kennett said.
Kennett described Dwiggins as nothing short of highly intelligent. Dwiggins had decided the marionettes designed for his early performances were too passive, so he painstakingly redesigned his next generation of marionettes to be more active and move more naturally. Kennett had included several of Dwiggins designs for these marionettes in his presentation, exemplifying the intricacies that had gone into Dwiggins’ work.
Kennett also touched upon Dwiggins many other achievements in engineering, like his ability to create a realistic fire for his set and several particularly complicated marionettes.
A portion of the presentation was also dedicated to Dwiggins’ graphic design career. Dwiggins would illustrate, practice calligraphy and design typefaces. Dwiggins had a talent for matching the typeface of a book to its overall tone, making for a more immersive experience for the reader. The designer had become well known for his many illustrations, where he would often use humor and satire to showcase serious ideas. Dwiggins also decorated much of his home with handmade furniture and hand painted murals.
Throughout his presentation, Kennett made multiple references to much of Dwiggins work being on display in the Boston Public Library, filling three rooms.
“The speaker did such a good job that it intrigued me enough to want to see more, and made going to the Boston Public Library a stop for sure next time we get to Boston,” said Coventry resident Diana Burns. “I would like to see more of his work and I would like to learn more about the materials he used, and more about this guy’s mind.”
With such a high level of intelligence and unmatchable wit, it became clear early on that Dwiggins lived an incredible life, and contributed immensely to the fields of puppetry and graphic design.
“He approached everything he did in his life with a kind of joyous curiosity, as if he never lost his childlike joy in discovering things,” Kennett said.
The final presentation in the Spring 2017 Puppet Forum Series will take place on April 12 at 7 p.m.
Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.