When Darren Moreash’s girlfriend at the time told him she wanted a marionette, the only ones he could find were the kind for kids. So, he decided to take matters into his own hands and carve his own.
That was 25 years ago. A quarter of a century on, Darren has turned his early attempts at puppet-making into something way cooler. From his home in Nova Scotia, he makes marionettes based on some of rock’s greatest icons. Kiss, Rob Halford, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Misfits and James Hetfield are just some of the musicians who have been recreated in miniature form.
Many of his creations are the result of requests from people who visit his Facebook page, Darrionettes Hard Rock Marionettes (opens in new tab). “I get photos of the person I’m making a marionette of and just start carving,” he tells Hammer. “I’ve been a hard rock/metal fan my whole life, so I lean more towards that.”
Each marionette (“Marionettes hang from strings – all marionettes can be called puppets but not all puppets are marionettes”) takes from a day to three days to make. Mostly they’re carved from pine, which is plentiful in Nova Scotia. “I’ve recently done some Gwar ones, and they take me the most times,” he says.
The marionettes frequently end up in the hands of the people they’re based on. “I sent photos of ones I did for other people to Judas Priest’s management and got invited to their concerts to get a Rob Halford marionette to him,” says Darren. “As soon as I walked in, he know who I was. He said: ‘I saw a pic of Ozzy with one and was wondering how to get one.’”
Some musicians have gone so far as to give him career’s advice. “I made two Cheap Trick marionettes, and got to meet them,” says Darren. “Rick [Nielsen, Cheap Trick guitarist] asked what I did for a living, and I told him I had a dead-end job I hated. He said I should be doing this. A few weeks later, they ordered a few more, which I assumed were for their collection. Months later, I see they had a new video out, I Want You For Christmas, and it was just my marionettes and not the band.”
Unsurprisingly, Kiss are amongst his favourite bands to recreate in marionette form. “So many different eras,” he says. “They’re doing a residency in Las Vegas and there’s a Kiss museum there. One of the things in the museum is a Gene Simmons marionette I carved. Aerosmith did a residency there too, and they had a Brad Whitford one.”
Other stars who own hand-crafted marionettes of themselves include ex-Mötorhead guitarist Phil Campbell, who has a full set of Motörhead ones, and larger-than-life funk icon Bootsy Collins, who ordered 20 of Darren’s marionettes to sell via his website.
Right now, Darren has just finished a couple of Alice Cooper marionettes, and he’s currently working on another Gwar one. “Every so often, someone will send me a photo of one they ordered with the person it’s based on holding it,” says Darren. “That’s always cool.”
I see Geddy Lee is trending so here's a few wooden marionettes I carved. #geddylee pic.twitter.com/unuCuFBfCxAugust 23, 2022
Happy Birthday to @RobertPlant. Here's my wooden Robert marionette watching "Robert Plant and the sensational space shifters" onstage at the harvest jazz and blues festival a few years ago. pic.twitter.com/VFEdFIZLrEAugust 20, 2022
JUST FINISHING UP A BIG WOODEN MARIONETTE ORDER AND READY TO START SOME NEW ONES. MESSAGE ME AND LET'S GET CARVING. #custom #HardRock #HeavyMetal pic.twitter.com/1lSo7RpzaZAugust 11, 2022