What is your full name?
Matthew Robert Clifford Laird
Would you like to share your pronouns? If so, what are they?
What year did you graduate?
What is your degree?
Where are you originally from?
Orange City Iowa
What brought you to WVU?
The puppetry program
Where did you live now?
What are you doing these days for work? Feel free to share anything about your career that you'd love other Mountaineers to know about you. Is there a particular project that you're proud of? Any career successes that you've achieved after leaving WVU?
In 2021 a friend and former co-worker of mine started CJS Workshop, now located in Groton Mass. I was brought on in Sept. of '22 to help grow the company and lead the fabrication team as we transition from very small 5 person mom & pop style puppet shop into a respectably sized company with nearly 40 employees. At CJS we build puppets, costumes, characters, and simple animatronics for theme parks. We've even been able to bring on some other WVU alumni including Toby Francis, Coby Greene, and in Jan we will have Tiffany Dellegatti.
Before CJS reached out to me I was in Portland Oregon having just finished up working on Netflix's production of Wendell & Wild. An amazing opportunity to work as a puppet generalist in the stop motion industry. Over the nearly 3 years of work on that film I started a small tradition called Whiskey Fridays where I walked around at the end of the week serving small drams of whiskey with tasting notes to the crew and animators. It was a really fun way of getting to know everyone, and the director Henry Selick even came out from his command cave to take part in the tastings.
The other project I worked on in Portland was Cartoon Network's The Shivering Truth season 2 at House Special. It was my first step into stop motion back in 2019. I worked as a head mech builder and in the Puppet Hospital on set. It was a lot of fun to see how many of the skills I learned at WVU and then developed over my 8 years at Animax Designs in TN were immediately or very nearly transferable to stop motion.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not working? How do you like to spend your days?
When I'm not at the shop building I like to go camping or on hikes with my dog Ishka Hammertail. I've found that New England is a hot spot for indie puppet activity, so there's no shortage of puppet slams, variety shows, and small concerts to enjoy. There's also the classic pub trivia or movie night with my co-workers, that one's always a treat.
Please feel free to share any life updates with our alumni network.
Not really sure what to write here as most of my life updates are career related and touched on earlier.
Moved out of WV in 2010 to Chicago to work in theatre. Moved to Nashville in 2011 for more steady work. Moved to Portland in 2019 for new opportunities. In 2022 my partner of 8 years and I split amicably and I moved to Mass. for my current job.
What is one thing that's bringing you joy so far in 2023?
All the laughter at CJS Workshop. I've lived through some gloomy and toxic environments over the past 13+ years and we are really trying to do it differently at CJS. It's gonna take work to keep that, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
What is one of your favorite memories about your time at WVU?
One of the best experiences I had at WVU was working on the mainstage production of Caucasian Chalk Circle. Mary's designs and Jerry's direction worked together perfectly to blend puppetry into classic theatre. Using the different types and sizes of puppets to not only increase the size of the cast but also communicate a message a class and power was a formative moment for me that I still carry in my day to day approach as an artist, fabricator, and team leader.