Restoring the Waters Puppet Theater ~ Meet the Bucket Heads

My husband and partner Jim Sims and I have been working toward the first production of Restoring the Waters Puppet Theater. I suspect many of you know how it is when you have a plan and life kind of gets in the way. We now have three big puppets: the swan, whose image is on a previous post; the mother of the waters, who has yet to make a web appearance; and, as of Saturday, the Bucket Heads, who made their debut at the New London, New Hampshire Hospital Days parade.

Next summer, Old Turtle will make her appearance, and we will launch (we hope) our first production, based on the book Old Turtle and the Broken Truth.

Let me tell you about the Bucket Heads. Not many people know that I am a yard sale devotee. Two summers ago, I came across four brightly colored enamel buckets for fifty cents apiece. I couldn’t resist! It was a year later that I came to understand their attraction.

In the story of Old Turtle, various human collectives are fighting for what they think is the Truth, and what they know of the Truth is this: “You are loved.” Although the various warriors can see that the Truth is jagged, they don’t realize (denial!) that there is more to the message, and so they fight over it. The Truth, such as it is, goes back and forth, back and forth.

One day, on a contemplative walk with my dog Missy, it came to me. One of the warring families are the Bucket Heads, and suddenly my brightly colored enamel buckets had a purpose.

I set out to create them, in the dead of winter, using my office for a studio, and although my office is still in shambles, the Bucket Heads are live and well.

Still, there is a process I want to share. I set out to fashion the Bucket Heads as a mean, hostile, greedy, self-interested collective. I used my Google search to find expressions of anger, rage, aggression, etc. The fourth was the most difficult. I made him (I thought) pinched and mean, angry eyebrows, a pinched mouth, etc.

But something happened in the process. The Bucket Heads stepped into what I’ve been calling the space between . . . and invited me in – an invitation they knew and I knew I could not ignore or refuse.

In the space between, their hostility and my need to insist on their hostility yielded to something else, something tender and surprising. The Bucket Heads didn’t want to be fighting! They didn’t want to be stealing what was passing as the Truth. The Bucket Heads refused to go where I was trying to take them, and so I had to release my preconceptions and step into the space between myself.

There I found who they truly were. Kind. Loving. Confused. Playing roles that did not suit them. Trapped in a paradigm that they no longer understood or wanted.

I wish I could express in words how surprised and awed I was, and still am, about who they were, and who they wanted to be; about the damage and soul-killing are our expectations; about the power of deep listening; about following those who are showing you a new way. How humbling!

Apparently I heard what they were telling me, because their paint, and their costumes, came into being – yes, by my hand – but not by my intention. I started to wear the T-shirt of my friends Michael and Carrie Kline, “listening is an act of love.”

On August 6th, 2011, the Bucket Heads made their first public appearance in the parade. Jim drove a borrowed twenty year old Le Barron convertible whose name is Fang, hauling a flat bed. I rode in the back, with the Bucket Heads. I was anxious that they would need my help, but of course, they didn’t.

The response from the crowds lining the streets, was powerful: first, the question, “what is this about?”, and then understanding. The Bucket Heads elicited laughter and applause, but I think Jim and I move into our next year on their question, “What is this about?”

I know my question, as puppet maker. When does my vision yield and another entity claims his/her/their identity?

I also know that the answer emerges from the space between, and from nowhere else.


  1. Diane L on August 10, 2011 at 3:46 am

    I love them and I really appreciate you sharing the process of creativity and discovery. You are one awesome woman Caroline!

    • Caroline Fairless on August 10, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      Aww Diane, thanks. It’s always good to hear from you.

  2. Lynn Baird on November 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Gee Whiz! Knock my socks off, why don’t you? Interesting and creative work you are into these days. Miss you!

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