Getting Ahead: Scrambling, Scrubbing, and the Inglorious Underbelly of Altered Art

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that a Major Thing happened to me and my husband during the month of March, which is that we lost our friend and brother, Pepe:



Yes, indeed.  Pepe was a really good guy, but over the past two years, he turned super dramatic on us, always claiming something was fatally wrong with him, always needing to run off to the car ER, clutching his engine and gasping for air.  At $400-$900 a pop, that’s an expensive habit, by the way, and one we quite literally couldn’t support.  So.  When Pepe started refusing to deal with his own gears, we made the difficult decision to donate him to WFYI, a local NPR station.  The effort to replace him with a sensible and affordable vehicle claimed many days worth of stress, research, test driving, and decision making.  In the end, we succeeded in finding a car, but my husband and I are both still scrambling to catch up with our work loads, because while we were looking for a car, we weren’t doing a damn thing else, except possibly losing our minds.

In practical terms, what that means right now is that I’m still finishing up the salt and peppers commissions I’ve mentioned in my last two blog entries.  (Sigh.)  Instead of photographing those in progress, I decided to show you the thing I did while the paint dried:  I cleaned puppet heads.  Cleaning is the unglamorous, unappealing, undersung part of the altered artist’s process, the part that’s as necessary as it is disgusting, the part I will reveal to you now.

Ready?  These are some fabulous old vintage puppet heads.  When I bought them, I was (according to the seller herself) buying “weird, dirty” puppets.  And here’s the proof.

Dirty Old Man Puppet

Dirty Old Man Puppet - Profile

Yeah.  If you think that hair looks gross ON, you should have joined me in peeling it OFF.  It was almost as if a badger spent 17 years doing porn films, stopped showering somewhere in the middle, and then donated his hide to this puppet.  YUCK.

Dirty Old Man Puppet with Beard Removed

Dirty Old Man Puppet with Hair Removed

Once I had the porno badger hair removed, I experienced the same brand of double trouble I often face with vintage items: Grime and Glue, or G2, the dreaded Grossitudes.  To deal with these problems, I turn to the eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products that my husband discovered a decade ago – namely, “red juice” and Citrus Gunk Remover.  The makers of these products don’t pay me a dime to link to them, by the way; I just love their stuff.  For one of the puppet heads I purchased, it worked brilliantly, in tandem with this blue scrubbing brush.

Scrubbing Head

For the dirty old man, however, I had to run him under steaming hot water to soften the glue all over his dome.

Hot Water on Dirty Old Man Puppet

After five separate rounds of scrubbing at the grime and the glue, I finally resorted to using acetone, or put another way, nail polish remover, which did the trick.  Behold how clean!

Clean Old Man Puppet Head

Clean Old Man Puppet Head Profile

In the end, I scrubbed and salvaged many heads while working on my salt and pepper shakers:

Everything with Wine and Acetone

To see what they become, stay tuned to this channel.  To appreciate an artist near you, thank her for cleaning off years of abuse so you don’t have to.  Seriously.  She suffers because she loves you.

And I do, too.





  1. shuckclod

    He looks like a perve in the profile picture. That is some dedication. 🙂 Have a great weekend and can't wait to see what they become. Sorry about your pepe.

    • Thanks for the sympathy! Alas, poor Pepe. He served us well. And I hope the old guy isn't really a perve – or if so, that I cleaned him up in every sense! 😉

  2. Badger porn…..*faints* You are truly dedicated. I'd have given him a swipe with a damp paper towel and declared him unsalvageable.

  3. He looks so much happier all clean. I'm excited to see what you're going to do with them but more excited to meet that hard-working badger.

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