Trial and Error

Before we started building this set, I don’t think I truly understood the meaning of the phrase “trial and error.”

Sure, I’d done other things in my life that involved trying something, getting it wrong, and trying it again a new way. But creating a puppet set that could transform into a dragon has been something else entirely. We had to try and retry things before the ideas even made it off the page. Some never did make it off the page, like these:


We tried and retried designs that made it off the page but didn’t stick in real life, like this:


We tried and retried methods of assembling the design we finally landed on. We tried bolts, hinges, bungees, and glue. Eventually we carved out tracks in the PVC that nails fit into, so they’d lock into their connections. Those nails and D rings are now what hold our set together. They look like this:


We build in fits and starts that can last weeks, days, hours, or even minutes before hitting the next hurdle. Our living room is filled with PVC dust and the fumes of fabric glue. Lowe’s has become a second home for Aaron. No exaggeration, he makes a trip there just about every day.

There are definitely days that feel discouraging. It’s been over six months since we drew our initial designs and began our build. Six months ago, the set we were working on was totally different than the one we’re making now. We cannibalized that first set—which was born in the back courtyard of our friends’ South Philly row home across the street from our apartment—and used as many of the pieces as we could salvage to create the set that now has its home in our living room. We basically had to start all over. And there’s still a long way to go.

But now, our puppet-stage/dragon-head is on track to become everything we dreamed it could be.

We’re further along than we’ve ever been. Its bones are all in place, and now we’re dressing it up and starting to craft the other characters. None of what we’re making now would have been possible without our first “failed” attempts. It’s a nice reminder that there’s really no such thing as failure.

Starting from scratch, going back to square one, tearing it all down to begin again—it’s not ever really going back to the beginning. Because nothing that happened in between was a waste of time. It may be cliché to call it “a learning experience,” but I can’t deny that we’ve got more practical knowledge than we did when we were at this point before. This time, we already know what doesn’t work. So it’s more like starting at square two. And square two isn’t such a bad place to be.

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