Peter Arthur Firmin (born 11 December 1928) is an English artist and puppet maker. He was the founder of Smallfilms, along with Oliver Postgate. Between them they created a number of popular children's TV programmes, The Saga of Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, Clangers, Bagpuss and Pogles' Wood.
Born in Harwich, Essex, in 1928, Peter Firmin trained at the Colchester School of Art in Colchester. After National Service in the Navy, he attended Central School of Art and Design in London from 1949-1952. He worked in a stained glass studio, as an illustrator and as a lecturer.
It was while he was teaching at the Central School of Art that Oliver Postgate came looking for, as Firmin puts it: "…someone to illustrate a television story – someone who was hard up and would do a lot of drawing for very little money". They immediately 'clicked' and subsequently formed Smallfilms.
Peter Firmin is best known as half of the Smallfilms production company, active 1958 to the late 1980s. Most of Smallfilms' animation was produced in a farmyard barn on Firmin's land in Blean near Canterbury in Kent. Firmin made the sets, puppets and backdrops for the programmes, often also contributing to making sound and visual effects during filming.
Alongside the work with Oliver Postgate, Peter made other puppets and children's programmes. In 1959, with his wife Joan, Peter devised a programme of nursery rhymes for Associated-Rediffusion using live cardboard animation and puppets, called The Musical Box. It was presented by Rolf Harris and then Wally Whyton. Puppets included Billy Whistle and Muskit.
In 1961, ITV commissioned another puppet. Olly Beak was a little owl made of chicken feathers stuck into a crocheted body. He appeared on Smalltime, and was joined in 1962 by Fred Barker (a shaggy dog made for Postgate/Firmin 1961 production The Dog Watch) and in 1963 by Whiffles, an otter puppet, and Penelope, another owl.
For the UK's 'Decimal Day' (15 February 1971), Muskit reappeared with Firmin and made a trip to the shops in a BBCTV schools' programme. Part of the 'Merry-go-Round' series, 'New Money Day' was designed to introduce young children to the new currency.
Firmin continued to work an illustrator. He has written and illustrated many books of Smallfilms characters, plus children's books of his own devising and books for adults including Vita Sackville-West's poetry and Seeing Things, Postgate's autobiography.
Firmin, having retired from TV production, now produces engravings and linocuts.
In 1994, Firmin provided an illustration for a British postage stamp, SG1804, featuring characters from Noggin the Nog. It was one of a set featuring characters from British children's literature. He produced further illustrations for the advertising campaign to publicise the stamps.
Firmin is married to Joan, who knitted the Clangers from vibrant pink wool. They met at The Central School of Art in London, where Joan was studying bookbinding. They were married in 1952 and lived in London until moving to Kent in 1959.