AN ARTIST is carving herself a new career after turning her family’s love of puppetry into a business.
Lenka Cain Pavlickova took a short series of lessons on how to create marionettes after completing a graphic design degree in Prague, where she enjoyed playing with her grandfather’s set during her childhood.
Now, the 38-year-old has brought her skills to the North East after falling in love and settling in Seaham.
Lenka, who has spent 12 years honing her talent, has set up a workshop in the conservatory of the home she shares with husband George Cain, with her work sent across the world.
Recent orders have been sent off to America and Australia after winning commissions from collectors and educators.
She can spend up to a month on the slow process of making the pieces out of lime wood and dressing them with clothing made out of lace, leather and silk she has made from hand before they are then put together.
The bigger models, which can cost up to £1,000, and one-off commissions take the longest, with most based on fantasy creatures or the characters of witches, angels and jesters, which appear in traditional fairy tales.
After hearing the story of the Grey Lady, who is said to haunt Seaham Hall, she was inspired to create a marionette – a type of puppet – of the ghost, with photographs of the finished model captured on the town’s cliff tops.
Her work has been on the front cover of a national carving magazine and she is set to appear in a documentary on puppet makers.
Lenka said: “Some people love them, but some people are scared by them as well.
“A number of people use my marionettes for performances, but they have also been part of exhibitions, are collectors’ items and used for educational purposes.
“I love to see them being used to entertain children. some squeal with pleasure, others are absolutely terrified.”
Lenka and George, who married a year ago, spent their summer holiday travelling to Bratislava and Vienna to join in puppet festivals and seeking out new tools for her to use.
George, 53, a rep for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, met Lenka at a party when she was visiting friends in Billingham.
Lenka would like to hear from anyone who has pieces of lime wood which she can turn into a marionette.
Her website can be found at www.praguemarionette.com.