As a ten-year-old, Jennifer Himes (’09) watched an artistic presentation at church one Sunday that would change her life forever. “I knew that being an artist was my divine calling,” she said. “That experience was what made me realize that art, specifically visual art, could be used to serve the Lord.”
In high school, her interests in visual art became more focused on puppeteering as she studied Jim Henson’s Muppets. “I decided that being a puppeteer had to be the most exciting job ever,” she said. But in college, puppetry turned into more of a hobby than a career choice. Although she still performed puppets with the Campus Church puppet ministry, she began to pursue a wider array of art forms.
“Drawing, painting, and design classes at PCC laid a solid foundation that I have built on over the years,” she said. “Learning sculpture unlocked a lot of drawing and design concepts that I had been struggling with for a long time. Without it, I never fully understood form, particularly the human form, and composition. It was as though a light clicked on, and I found myself improving in those areas.”
After earning a commercial art degree and a master’s in studio art from PCC, she began working as a production artist but soon realized it wasn’t the job for her. “I found that I didn’t enjoy the work as much as I thought I would,” she said. “After some soul-searching, I began to pursue puppetry as more than a hobby.”
In 2015, she attended Beyond the Sock Puppetry Workshop for Television and Film, a special seminar taught by professional puppeteers including Muppet performer Peter Linz, who believed Jennifer had talent. “At his recommendation, I auditioned at the Jim Henson Company Studios in Los Angeles,” said Jennifer. “That experience, and a whirlwind of events that happened after, solidified my decision to make puppetry my career.”
Throughout her journey, Jennifer has found herself returning to what she first learned. “PCC teaches art from a biblical perspective,” she said. “In Art History class we learned what the Bible says about art and God’s purpose for it. It helped me shape my own opinions and ideas about what art is and why it is a critically important part of our society.”
The more Jennifer learned, the more doors opened to her. “Sculpture, design, drawing, and painting came together to create creatures that came alive. In making puppets, I used it all!” she said referencing the skills she learned in college. At first, she worked as a freelance designer and puppeteer, launching a website and YouTube channel.
“One of the essential skills PCC’s art program taught me was how to give and take constructive criticism,” she said. “I use that practically every day. In any art industry, it’s important to have an attitude of learning. PCC taught me that.”
Because of her willingness to learn and apply herself, she now works with Universal Studios as a puppeteer for the Superstar Parade. As she uses her energetic spirit and skills to bring the Universal puppets to life, Jennifer becomes a part of something bigger than herself.
“The experience of watching and performing puppets is one of inexplicable joy that perhaps comes from the act of creation,” she said. “A puppet performance is an unspoken agreement between the performer and the audience that an inanimate object is alive. We are creating something together, and that brings us joy.”
Another recent endeavor is a job with nonprofit Michelee Puppets, performing shows for schools to encourage respect, responsibility, and positive choices.
Aside from working with Universal Studios and Michelee Puppets, Jennifer has also been asked to build and perform puppets for Jane Henson’s Nativity Story this holiday season. The late Jane Henson, wife of Muppets creator Jim Henson, created a lifelike nativity scene re-enacting Christ’s birth with a Bible-come-to-life narration. Being asked to tour with this group is a dream job for Jennifer, who has admired Jane and Jim Henson’s work since high school.
“It is a great honor to be asked to add to the work of such a remarkable person. It is everything I’ve ever wanted to do with my talents put together in one beautiful work of art,” she said. “I believe God has called me to be a light in the puppet community.”
As Jennifer continues to use her talents in puppetry, she finds herself drawn closer to the Lord. “What a magical gift God has given us!” she said. “Not just in puppetry, but in all of the arts, we are capable of implanting truth in people’s hearts in a way they will never forget.”