Hard Figures, or traditional vent figures, are what we call anything that resembles a wooden ventriloquist dummy. These puppets are typically carved from wood or sculpted out of clay and then cast in a urethane, fiberglass, or plastic material. Some heads are even 3D printed.Hard figures are controlled from a head-stick that is accessed from inside the body of the puppet. Levers on the head-stick are attached to brass rods or strings that allow you to control all kinds of facial animations like moving mouth, side-to-side eye movement, blinking, winking, moving eyebrows, wiggling ears, sticking out of the tongue, sniffing and sneering.
Austin Phillips is a true artist. His mission is to provide you with the perfect puppet or figure for your act or the centerpiece of your puppet collection. He makes custom figures, fun vent novelties and restores and repairs figures. www.phillipspuppets.com
Tyler Ellis makes custom figures and restores vintage figures for collectors all over the world. His work is coveted by performers, collectors, museums, and hobbyists of every level. www.dapperdummies.com
WOLF'S MAGIC & VENTS
Chance Wolf makes one-of-a-kind, high-end puppets for performers like America’s Got Talent Winner, Terry Fator. He also has casted dummy head kits and parts that you can assemble at home. His magic props are also highly regarded, being both used and collected by performers all over the world. www.wolfsmagic.com
Tim Selberg has been building quality puppets for the vent community since 1986. His figures have been featured in television and movies and are used by many working ventriloquists all over the world. www.selbergstudios.com
PUPPETS AND GORE
Damien James is a ventriloquist, magician and works as a special effects artist for film and TV. He is a current student of Academy Award-Winning Special Effects guru, Dick Smith and his behind the scenes work can be seen on many TV shows as well as several features on the big screen. Damien makes all his own puppets and creates figures for other performers as well. He is the only ventriloquist to Fool Penn & Teller! Talk To Damien
Soft Puppets are made from soft materials like foam, cloth, latex, felt, fleece, fake fur, and more. Soft puppets are manipulated with your hand inside the puppet to make its mouth and body move. Some soft puppets have eyebrows that move or eyes that blink
Steve Axtell started building puppets at age 6. He was inspired by Jim Henson, who encouraged him to find his own unique style. Today, Axtell Expressions creates characters, animatronics & latex puppets, plus AI, and interactivedisplays for entertainers and venues in over 80 countries. www.Axtell.com
Barry Gordemer is an award-winning puppeteer, writer, and producer. He’s been designing, building, and performing puppets since 1983. His soft puppets are top of the line and full of personality. www.handemonium.com
THE ORIGINAL DUMMY FACTORY
Landon Harvey is a performer, puppet builder and social media influencer. He’s built unique, custom characters for himself and other professional ventriloquists from San Diego to Singapore. www.theoriginaldummy.com
Maria and Ivan Pavlov manufacture unique, high quality, hand made professional puppets. Their customers are ventriloquists, puppeteers and clowns, plus film/TV producers, advertising companies, theaters for children and adults, educational organizations, churches and religious organizations. The company is in France and all of their designs are created and drawn by Maria and built by their family. www.pavlovspuppets.com
If you're looking for more resources to learn ventriloquism or puppeteering then take a look at some of the links I've compiled below. You'll find both free and paid opportunities to learn more.
A Virtual Private Instruction Online Video Course hailed by many as the next generation’s Maher Course! Tom Crowl's ventriloquism course is a powerful way to learn how to become a real live belly talker. www.learn-ventriloquism.com
The "Ventriloquism 101 Video Course" was created by Lee Cornell back in 1997. Lee received his first ventriloquist puppet at age nine in 1966 along with an instructional record LP by Jimmy Nelson. He began performing ventriloquism and magic at age 10, and completed the Maher Course of Ventriloquism in 1979. He converted in Ventriloquism 101 DVD course into an online training academy that has become one of the best selling vent video instruction course on the Internet. www.ventriloquistacademy.com
Gary Owen has gained world-wide recognition and credibility as the ventriloquist coach who helped Darci Lynne become the season 12 winner of America’s Got Talent. Gary has been Darci’s personal vent coach since 2014 and continues as producer-director of Darci’s national road tours.www.garyowencomedy.com
PUPPETEERS OF AMERICA
Puppeteers of America has been sharing knowledge and inspiration to the puppetry community since 1937 through its National Puppetry Festivals, Regional Festivals and quarterly magazine The Puppetry Journal. www.puppeteers.org
HOW TO BE A VENTRILOQUIST
Several years ago Jeff Dunham released an instructional DVD of ventriloquism lessons called “How To Talk To Yourself.” It was included with his Little Jeff dummy, but that was the only way to get it! The lessons feature Jeff and his popular cast of characters and show you the ventriloquial basics in 10 easy parts! Watch Now!
This is the oldest ventriloquism group on the internet. It used to be an email only list and now it is a popular Facebook community. Lead by legendary figure carver Conrad Hartz, this group is a fun place to learn and visit. Join Now.
Learn from ventriloquists and figure builders as they share their projects, puppets and skills. This is a thriving Facebook community of over seven thousand performers, builders and enthusiasts. Join Now
PUPPET MAKING RESOURCES
Are you interested in making your own soft puppet or building your own hard/traditional ventriloquist figures? The resources below can help you. There also many puppet building groups on Facebook like Ventriloquist Workshop and Puppet Makers Workshop that you can get tons of ideas, help and support for your fellow vents and puppeteers.
Project Puppet offers DIY puppet patterns, puppet-building supplies, and custom puppet design and construction services. Build your own puppet character with our expertly-crafted patterns, or have us design and deliver a television-quality custom-made puppet for your next project or production. www.projectpuppet.com
This website is amazing for getting supplies for soft puppets. You can buy eyes, noses, fleece, fake fur and all sorts of puppet pelts. You can find so many cool things bring your puppet to life all in one place. www.puppetpelts.com
These fun googley-eyed finger puppets are perfect for on the go ventriloquism or even puppet building. With these pocket peepers you can instantly turn your hand into a puppet and put on a show anytime, anywhere. www.kidology.org
THE FRED PROJECT
Al Steven's website hosts an valuable resource on hard figure making. On this site he documents his process for building a figure using a precast puppet head. He shows you how to design, build and install the mechanics and how to paint your puppet and get it ready for the stage. Check It Out!
THE KNOT HEADS
Ventriloquist Lee Cornell and puppet builder Dennis Acosta have brought back an old idea made popular by former Maher Studios owner, Clinton Detweiler. This simple and small ventriloquist puppet that comes ready to go in a few cool and goofy characters. There is also a DIY kit with video instructions that walks you through the building of your very own Knot Head. Get a Knot Head.
Vent Haven Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to preserving and showcasing the art of Ventriloquism. It is an amazing place to visit.
The museum has more than 1000 dummies used by ventriloquists from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. There are thousands of photos, scripts, memorabilia, playbills, posters, recordings, books, and more.
Vent Haven’s founder, W.S. Berger, spent more than 40 years amassing a personal collection of vent related memorabilia that continues to grow to this day.
Learn more and support Vent Haven Museum
The Vent Haven International ConVENTion is an annual convention held in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky to raise money for the Vent Haven Museum. The ConVENTion is attended by hundreds of ventriloquists, entertainers and fans from all over the world.
Every year there are workshops, lectures, and shows by performers, experts, and professionals on all manner of topics related to ventriloquism and performance.
The ventriloquist community is like none other in the world. You will get to meet and interact with pros, beginners, collectors, and enthusiasts—all with a passion for ventriloquism, puppets, and performance.
Conventioneers also get to visit the Vent Haven Museum during the ConVENTion. It is the perfect way to experience all ventriloquism has to offer.