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Mirek Trejtnar
& Leah Gaffen

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Since 2000, we have offered courses and workshops in the art of puppet carving. Led by master puppet designer Mirek Trejtnar with American Leah Gaffen, we help our students understand the complexity and wonder of contemporary Czech puppetry. Our teaching team includes some of the best artists and craftspeople in Europe, giving our students first hand experience with the creativity and traditional roots of Czech puppet design.

Students from all over the world make marionettes with us, and then perform at Prague's most magical outdoor festivals. In addition to traditional Czech marionettes, we also offer classes in advanced puppet technology like break-away skeleton marionettes, moving eyes, automata and toy theatre construction. We provide opportunities to see puppet shows, visit museums, tour private puppet studios, visit the puppet department of the Prague Theatre Academy and go to screenings of stop motion puppet films.

Mirek is a graduate of the renowned MFA program for puppetry design at the Prague Theatre Academy. Expert woodcarver, his work can be found in London's Victoria & Albert Museum. He has designed puppets for numerous companies including the Forman Brothers Theatre. He started his puppet career in the 1980s at the Jiři Trnka Film Studio, working on internationally acclaimed films (including Jiri Barta's The Pied Piper). In 1990 he started the KID company producing toys, puppets, furniture and sculpture. His award-winning designs skirt the boundry between whimsical and surreal and have been exhibited at festivals and galleries around the world. He has taught at the Prague Theatre Academy, St. Martin's College (UK), New York University (Tisch Singapore), Aukland University (NZ), Macao and Hong Kong and UNIMA workshops around the world. In 2014 he made the animated documentary film "What to Tell the Kids" which was aired at the the 25th anniversary celebration of the Velvet Revolution. You can see some his work here.

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Mirek and his wife Leah Gaffen led their first workshop at the Macao European Festival in 1998. That inspired them to organize their first workshop in Prague in 2000. A few years later they added puppet tours to the program so students could perform at Czech festivals, and since 2012 they have partnered with Prague's beloved Letni Letna Summer Festival. PIP has taught hundreds of workshops. Thanks to Mirek's extensive knowledge and expertise in puppet technology, they have taught some of the most complicated types of marionettes: dancers, trapeze artists, acrobats, animals, break-away skeletons, dragons. They also have taught workshops on puppets for stop motion and automata design. In 2019, Mirek took the workshops online, making his expertise accessible to people around the world. Mirek has written numerous articles for the Czech Puppeteer Magazine on puppet technology and is currently working on a book.

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More about our Students

Our workshops cater to professionals and amateurs who are intrigued by the art of puppetry and willing to invest into learning from the experts. Our students include puppeteers, artists, university professors,  scene and costume designers, graphic artists, teachers, actors, film animators, woodcarvers and writers from all over the world. Our workshop offers a unique experience and provides a space for our students to feel free to learn and explore their creativity. We welcome anyone with a passion for learning and a desire to create something special.

Andy Serkis visits the workshop
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23

YEARS

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1,500+

STUDENTS

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50+

NATIONALITIES

"Puppetry isn’t a novelty or fringe art in Prague. It’s deeply entwined with the Czech national identity."

New York Times

OUR TEAM

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Zdar Šorm

Carving & Technology

Zdar worked at the Jirí Trnka animated film studio (Prague) for 20 years. He is now a freelance designer of film and theatre puppets and a furniture designer. He is the a leading experts in the technological design of stop motion, which he has made for countless Czech and international productions. 

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Ondřej Mašek

Carving & Technology

Ondřej won the award for best Czech scene designer in 2003. He works extensively with the Forman Brothers, one of Europe's leading puppet companies. He has an MFA in puppet design from the Prague Academy of Performing Arts and studied woodcarving at Prague's Arts and Crafts High School.

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Peter Varga

Directing&Manipulation

Peter is the founder and artistic director of the LokVar Puppet Theatre, a company that performs for children and adults.  He has an MFA in puppetry from the Prague Academy of Performing Arts and was a member of the award winning Dlouha Theatre Company. 

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Šárka Ziková

Painting

Šarka is a professional illustrator, painter and designer. After graduating with an MFA from the Prague Academy of Arts and Crafts (UMPRUM), she worked in the Jiri Trnka Animated Film Studio on some of the most popular Czech puppet animated films. She has illustrated children's books, designed exhibitions, designed interiors of children's hospitals, cinemas and restaurants

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Robert Patolan

Carving & Technology

Robert started out as a student at Puppets in Prague. He now carves puppets professionally with an avid following on Instagram!.

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Sota Sakuma

Carving & Technology

Sota is a puppet maker from Japan. He studied textile arts at the Tokyo Art and Design University and then came to Prague, where he earned an MFA in puppet design at the Prague Theatre Academy (DAMU). He now works as a freelance puppet designer, with frequent exhibitions in the Czech Republic and Japan. 

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​Václav Krčál

Carving

Václav studied woodcarving at the Prague High School of Art and Crafts. He worked at the Minor Puppet Theatre as a puppet carver and scene builder for many years, and he now works as a freelance puppet designer.

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Marcela Krčalová

Costumes

Marcela is an expert on puppet costumes. She has been making them for theatre and television productions both in the Czech Republic and internationally.

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Dana Bruklerová

Costumes

Dana studied restoration of historical textiles at the Prague Fine Arts Academy. She now works for Czech museums and galleries restoring the pieces in their collections. 

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Zuzana Bruknerová

Puppet Manipulation

Zuzana is a founding member of Prague's iconic puppet company Buchty a Loutky (Buns and Puppets). She has an MFA from the puppet department of the Academy of Performing Arts. 

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Dora Bouzková

Puppet Manipulation

Dora was awarded the 2022 ASSITEJ award for her innovate work in children's theatre and her puppet performances have won numerous awards at Czech and international festivals.  She teaches puppetry at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts and founded the company Puppets Beyond Borders.

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Tomáš Běhal

Puppet Manipulation

Tomáš is the founder of Toy Machine, a company that combines the tradition of Czech puppetry with object theatre, storytelling and stories aimed at both children and adults. He has an MFA in puppet acting from the Prague Academy of Performing Arts.  

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PHOTOS BY STEPHAN MCKENZIE

WHAT PEOPLE SAY

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Nina Maliková,
Former head of Czech UNMA

Mirek Trejtnar's designs capture the spirit of Czech puppetry in a very original way, and his puppets have the nobility of sculpture within them. His work represents the Czech Republic in a unique way, merging the traditions of puppetry with a contemporary and very humorous vision.

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The Herald Newspaper Scotland

Trejtnar is patently steeped in his country's traditions of visual theatre, having trained...His work undoubtedly shares something of the grotesque surrealism of Svankmajer, striking a balance between the poles of humorous whimsy and sinister grotesquery.

The NY Times

The puppet maker Mirek Trejtnar clip-clopped a red-nosed marionette across a makeshift plywood stage in his studio in Prague. This, he told me, was Kasparek, perhaps the most iconic character in Czech puppetry.  Kasparek was a mesmerizing, deeply expressive chap, particularly for being made of wood and having no movable parts of his face.

Testimonials from past students

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Puppet making is as much a craft as an art, and one of the things I love about Mirek's teaching style is that he gives as much attention to the technical construction of making a really well functioning puppet as he does to the aesthetics.

Chesley Cannon (Hawaii)
Designer, Honolulu Theatre for Youth

  • Who is the workshop for?
    We have people with a diverse group of backgrounds in our workshops: professors of design, illustrators, graphic designers, artists, puppeteers, actors, film animators, teachers, musicians, and more.
  • Who are the teachers of the workshops?
    One of the most special things about our workshop is the number of puppeteers who teach you at our workshops. The whole process is overseen by Mirek Trejtnar (who has been carving for over 40 years and teaching for over 30). Our other teachers teach carving, painting, costumes, manipulation and direct our puppet shows. Many of them have their MFAs from the puppet department of the renowned Prague Theatre Academy (DAMU). There are also many who worked in the Jiri Trnka Animated Film Studio. Our teachers speak English and have experience working with diverse groups of international students. Please see our About page for more details about our teachers!
  • Do you provide accommodations?
    We pre-book single and double rooms in the Jana Pension, www.dhotels.cz, a hostel that is a ten-minute walk from the workshop. Our students get discounted rates, and usually they are very happy in this clean, pleasant place. Most rooms do not have private bathrooms. Depending on the season, prices range from around 20-30 Euros per night. If students want more privacy or access to a kitchen, we can recommend Airbnbs and private apartments where past students have stayed. There are also hostels with dorm rooms for students looking for less expensive accommodations.
  • Can I get individual consultations?
    Yes, we can provide consultations on all questions about puppet technology by Zoom.
  • Where do people eat during the workshop?
    There are many restaurants and small shops in the area of the workshop. We also have a small kitchen where students can cook their meals.
  • Can I buy recordings of online workshops?
    We have many recordings available that can be purchased. Please see our Shop.
  • Do I need carving experience?
    No. We have a team of experienced carvers who help students learn the basics and guide them throughout the process. Our students have a mix of backgrounds: puppeteers, designers, illustrators, stop motion animators, educators, sculptors... at our workshop, you learn basic carving skills so you can continue after the workshop ends!
  • Should I bring chisels or other materials?
    No! We provide all chisels, wood, fabric and everything else that you need. If students have specific material or decorations that they want for their puppet, they should bring that with them. Sometimes students bring woodcarving gloves, but this is not necessary.
  • Do I take my puppet home?
    Yes! In our Marionette Carving and Performance workshop, students might perform with another student's puppets - but everyone takes home the puppet they carved!
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