Working in Clark County: Kevin Gorby: Puppet Maker

By Mary Ricks, Columbian news assistant

Published:

 

Kevin Gorby was unemployed and living with his in-laws. Money was running out. He and his wife built a puppet for their daughter, and soon they had puppet parts all over the in-laws' living room. Gorby had found a new career. "When I build a puppet for my customer, I don't want it adequate," he says, "I want it to blow their mind. I want it to be the best."

Name: Kevin Gorby.

Job/employer: Kevin owns Luna's Puppets with his wife, Andrea.

Age: 26.

Education: Graduated from Battle Ground High School, attended Clark College on the Washington State University Vancouver campus for two years. After the puppets started selling I was too busy and dropped my classes.

Residence: Battle Ground.

One word to describe yourself: Inventive.

How it got started: I worked as a machinist for about five years, the last two for OnBoard Systems making hydraulic helicopter cargo hooks. The jobs were not going anywhere. Then I was laid off. We wanted to make a puppet to interact with our daughter and couldn't find anything we liked, so we decided to build one for her and try to sell some. As money came in, we used it for more supplies to make better puppets. The holidays came and we made a website and the business took off.

WORKING IN CLARK COUNTY

Working in Clark County, a brief profile of interesting Clark County business owners or a worker in the public, private, or nonprofit sector. Send ideas to Mary Ricks: mary.ricks@columb...; fax 360-735-4598; phone 360-735-4550.

I was living with my in-laws and making puppets in their living room. We finished making our happy blue monster, our main character, and decided he looked like Lenord. The name felt right: goofy, humble and sweet. Since then I have used other family names.

Most rewarding part of job: I get to meet a lot of really cool people. I fly to different areas and everything is paid for. I worked on a big show with George Clinton, the "Funk Master," and musician and songwriter William "Bootsy" Collins. Now I am making 22 full robotic puppets for a new kid show with Gary Busey and Jim Carrey.

I like our new shop, a huge garage by our house, because it keeps my family close. I don't want to miss seeing my daughters grow up.

Most challenging part of job: Deadlines. When we started we were making puppets for families, groups and for stage shows, mostly to entertain kids. Now most of our production is for film groups with immediate deadlines. They want a full cast in a week, which is a nightmare for us. I have worked for three days solid with no sleep to get the job done.

Personal/business philosophy: When I build a puppet for my customer, I don't want it adequate, I want it to blow their mind, I want it to be the best, and beat the competition. Physical effects have gone away and I want to bring them back. It is the physical puppet that draws you in.

Favorite moment of my job/career: Probably the one I am working on in Los Angeles. I can't say what it is.

Secrets: I get hired to produce a certain number of characters as puppets, but I don't know what they are doing with them. Sometimes I get a link to a website so I have somewhat of an idea but not always. I have done a couple of music videos, and months after I complete the project I will be watching television and see my puppets.

Something you would like to do over: I am pretty happy with what I have done. I have turned down a couple of jobs because the timing wasn't right.

Best feature of my community: Battle Ground is tight-knit. I don't tell many people about my work, but it seems many people in Battle Ground know about me. Everyone knows each other and, in a way, everyone looks out for each other.

What would make your community a better place: We love it the way it is.

Favorite restaurant/pub/coffee shop/store: My wife and I are vegetarians so that limits us a bit. We do like La Solera, a Mexican restaurant here in Battle Ground. And for a coffee shop, I like Old Town Battle Grounds.

Hobbies: I used to have hobbies: collecting old guitars and I was into Volkswagens. I have always liked to play around with animatronics, finding new ideas and new motions.

Volunteer activities: I don't have time to volunteer, but do make donations. I especially like buying toys for children at Christmas.

Favorite travel destination: Our favorite family vacation place is Newport, Ore.

Most interesting book in last 12 months: I like "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

One thing you want to do this year: We wanted to go to Disneyland and we just returned.

Something you want to do within five years: I have been teetering on the edge of when is the right time to expand. The expansion will be a big one and I definitely have to do it if I am to compete with big studios like The Jim Henson Company. With a bigger studio, I will need to hire more people, and it is next to impossible to find employees.

Person you'd most like to meet: I would have loved to have met Stan Winston, known for television and film special effects who was best known for his work in the "Terminator" and "Jurassic Park" series. He changed everything.

Website:www.lunaspuppets.com.

Luna's Puppets