Puppet Master | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Puppet Master

Earth Day's a tall order for Bend artist

Puppet Master
Carol Sternkopf
Bend artists Christian Brown and Teafly Peterson transformed her drawings into giant puppets.

Somewhere out there, if you look hard enough, you'll find the exact spot where nature and art collide. It's a powerful dynamic. It's also where Bend artist Teafly Peterson thrives, working passionately on her future projects, in whatever shape, size and form those happen to take.

"My two biggest influences are pop culture and nature," says Teafly. "It's a very funny combination. Andy Warhol meets John Muir. They both speak to me."

As for the rest of us, we get to enjoy the results of that rather potent mix.

Next up: her wildly imaginative Earth Day Parade contribution—one that might just come to define Bend's annual celebration of nature for years to come. Curious? All you really need to do is turn out for the event on Saturday and look up. (Or look back at this week's Source cover...) Can you spot a pair of eight-foot tall puppets casually strolling along the route?

Nice job. You've found Teafly's latest creations.

One of those larger-than-life puppets is known as The River Guardian; the other, The Forest Guardian—both done up in her colorfully vibrant blend of 1960s pop art and a timeless nature theme. "I had started drawing these characters about five years ago and the idea was that they kind of come up from the earth to protect the earth," she says.

"There's a John Muir quote: 'Earth has no sorrow that earth cannot heal.'"

Teafly, who grew up in New England, recalls a kinship with the outdoors starting at an early age. "The earth kind of takes over," she says. "We'd go camping a lot. You'd be in the woods and all of a sudden you'd see a wall, and that used to be someone's home. And it's just covered in vines, and if you dug you could find a spoon or a shoe or a sock. It's this imagery of the earth kind of pulling us back into it, and really doing what it needs to do to take care of itself, and what our role is in that."

Her role, now more than ever, is to spread that message, especially to children. Enter Bend's Environmental Center, which organizes the annual parade. Last summer, Executive Director Mike Riley asked Teafly to come up with a design for the Center's Earth Day poster. And just like that, her colorful characters, still a work in progress at the time, had found a home.

"When I started drawing these characters they were really old and decrepit, and kind of used up, and so they kind of just kept morphing," she says. "When Mike asked me to do the Earth Day poster, I was like, I have this great idea. What if I did these creatures that I've been drawing, but as 8-foot puppets?"

Once Teafly altered the design of the "Earth Guardians" to make them more child-friendly, she enlisted the help of fellow Bend artist Christian Brown to bring them to life. "Christian helped figure out how you go from a 2D illustration to this big creature and not lose the essence of it." Other artistic colleagues offered their services as well. "It's been a really big group effort," she says.

(In case you're wondering, each 8-foot puppet has a regular-sized person inside, wearing what Teafly described as a giant old-school backpack frame.) The artistry doesn't end there. There's a third puppet in the works as well, if the Center can raise enough money to finish it. Joining the River and Forest Guardians will be a similarly-sized Garden Guardian for use in its Kansas Avenue Learning Garden.

"The Environmental Center will own these and use them for outreach" she says. "The hope is they live on for years and years. My ideal is that kids use this language about being guardians and stewards—taking care of our water and our mountains. We also need to think about how much tourism happens here because of our landscape, and how that impacts the landscape as well."

For Teafly, tending to the environment doesn't qualify as a choice. If you live in a city such as Bend, she says, it's an obligation: "When you live here, you choose to be a guardian so that people can still come here and visit. That's the role you take on, to take care of it, helping that idea to become part of our community culture."

As for Saturday's parade, she has one wish: "I hope people will come out and cheer the Earth."

The Center has started an online campaign to help finish the Garden Guardian. You can donate at envirocenter.org.

Studio Teafly

1234 NE 1st Ave., Bend

[email protected]


Bend Earth Day Fair & Parade

Sat., April 22, 11:30am – 3pm

The Environmental Center

16 NW Kansas Ave., Bend



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