Monday, February 28, 2011

Day #26: Puppet X-Ray (a hand puppet tutorial)

The hand puppet is a deceptively simple type of puppet. You just stick your hand in it and -- ta-daah! Right?

If you were to look beneath the puppet, you would see how things really work. So, here it is: an x-ray look at a hand puppet.

When manipulating a hand puppet (or glove puppet, as our UK friends like to call them!), a puppeteer uses some sort of fingering technique. I've illustrated the most common ones below for today's post: a simple "Nerf" ball with an opening for fingers.

Head on the index finger. Thumb and middle finger make up the hands. A pretty common style to use. Biggest drawback is that you can't really pivot the head, you have to pivot the whole body.

This one is uncomfortable for me, but it works for others. Index finger holds the head; thumb and pinkie finger make up the hands.
I've never used this technique before -- but you can get a great reach for the hands on the thumb and pinkie without having to stretch too much. Downside is the thick neck.

My personal choice for most hand puppets. You can control the head nicely with the two fingers; the thumb is one hand, and the ring and pinkie finger make up the other.

I find this style a bit uncomfortable -- but what works for one person, might not be best for another.

Day #25: Spoonerina (or Today I Spent Too Much Time in the Kitchen...)

It's going to be a long night. I'm waiting for some bread to rise right now, and then I'll still need to bake it. I think I've finally mastered the art of making homemade, whole "grain," gluten-free bread. I used to bake fabulous whole-grain sourdough bread. I was even using the fabulous rye starter from Bread and Puppet of Glover, Vermont. I've had to unlearn that art and pick up a new one, though. One where I take really weird flours and combine them to make something that approximates the "flour" I had grown used to using.

It's quiet in the kitchen. Really nice. The girls are asleep. Sam is asleep -- necessary because I think he has come down with a nasty virus. (Again.) Ew. Tomorrow will be a loooong day, too!

So today's puppet is kitchen inspired: a lovely spoon ballerina made from plastic mesh (from bags of lemons and avacadoes), three rubberbands, a Sharpie, and, of course, a spoon!

Mesh Tutu
Lovely mesh "hairdo!"

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day #24: Ooey-Gooey (a brief philosophical discussion)

Ooey Gooey was a worm,
A mighty worm was he.
He sat upon the railroad tracks...
The train he did not see.

Ooey gooey!

-Ogden Nash

I should not try to watch the Oscar's while working on puppets. I lost track of time and now I have FIVE minutes to finish this post!

I was a bit stumped as I, once again, had to make a puppet away from the studio and all of my supplies... A brief look around led me to some Play-do. Not the ideal material. But we've made excellent sculptures with Play-do in our house. (My older daughter has sculpted beautiful roses.)

The red Play-do called to me. A worm, naturally.

The only problem is that, in truth, you cannot make puppets out of Play-do. I made some rods by robbing a sushi made, and was able to stage some puppety looking photos.

The "saddle" of the worm.

But, like I said, this really isn't a puppet.

It doesn't move well; puppets are supposed to move.

So I made another worm. It doesn't look as sculptural. It's not as photogenic. But it moves well and would function much better as a worm in a performance.

I confess. I robbed the sushi mats to make these rods.

So which is the better puppet?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day #23: Slinkin' Around...

Nerf-ibi the Python
Today's puppet is inspired by another fan favorite from "Trickster Tales." Namibi the Python always gets a response from the audience! She slinks onto the stage, draping her body over the tree... We love it that we can hear the children who make excellent comments. "Is that one real?" is one of my favorites.

Anansi the Spider with Namibi the Python

Our Namibi is made the same way as "Nerf-ibi the Python." The body has a metal slinky that has been stretched out inside it and covered with fabric. The head is a Nerf ball with a felt tongue and marbles for eyes. Fun and easy to do with kids!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Day #22: Pleased as Punch!

"That's the way to do it!" 

Our older daughter has a lovely Punch and Judy bank that she purchases about four years ago from the gift shop at The Center for Puppetry Arts. The bank is really hefty and has a moving frying pan.

As I was pondering what to do, my eyes rested upon the P & J baby! Oh my -- of course, Punch and Judy need a baby. So I took a peanut, wrapped it in swaddling tissue, and ta-daah! Baby!

The history of Punch and Judy is quite interesting -- and I've had the pleasure of seeing some fabulous Punch "Professors," as they are called. Glyn Edwards was one of the profs that  I met; he performs all over the UK with his wife, Mary. This history, though! Wikipedia actually has a good history of Punch and Judy, as does "The Punch Page."

The Happy Family

My husband wants us to build a Punch and Judy show...we shall see!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day #21: Beastly Traffic

Loooong day today.

Today's post is dedicated to those who have known the pain of traffic jams.

OK. None of the magazines had miserable looking people. Just use your imaginations! The sunrise was beautiful today...
The alarm went off at 4AM (and I had just finished up yesterday's blog right around midnight!). We had a performance scheduled at an elementary school in Norfolk this morning. Our departure time was scheduled for 6AM. This allowed for a great deal of "tunnel traffic" padding in our schedule. Little did we know that the military bases in the area were doing special maneuvers of some sort and had tightened up security. Let's just say that the five-mile stretch between I-664 and the tunnel took us almost an hour! The total 95 mile trip took us 3 and 1/2 hours. Yikes! (And we were able to actually turn off the truck more than once as we sat on the highway-turned-parking-lot.)

We remained in contact with the school throughout the ordeal, and they were very understanding. A school in Norfolk would have to be understanding with such a large military presence. A number of parents and teachers experienced similar delays.

We arrived a shocking one hour and eight minutes after our anticipated arrival time. We were all a bit grouchy (it was waaaay past breakfast time -- and breakfast was in the trailer with the puppets). But we managed to get the show set up quickly and were ready to start just twenty minutes past our scheduled time -- huzzah! (Special thank you to Sam and Melanie who really, really stayed focus to get set up in record time!)

I will say, it was a great performance! I think there is something about stress that keys you up a bit and increases your focus.

We were pretty stressed out, too. It has been YEARS since we were not ready to begin a show at the scheduled time. I think I was pregnant with my first child the last time we had a delay; this was well before my husband and Melanie joined the company. Once I got horribly lost heading to Keysville, VA -- but that was before the advent of GPS.

Today's puppet is really toy theatre! I have taken some of my younger daughter's cars, made little people from magazine cut-outs, and created a crayola backdrop to go along with it! I thought about making a mini-cranky (we were all, in truth, quite cranky) to create moving scenery for the background...but our time in traffic was not really spent moving much. (And, let's be honest, I have to get up early again tomorrow morning...sleep is good.) Maybe this is just a form of puppet therapy for me...

A much more interesting reason for a traffic jam: DINOSAURS!
Those people should look a bit more worried...if this were a horror flick, they would be doomed!
We did drive past Williamsburg...I was inspired!
The beautiful sunrise was a treat -- our silver lining.  After setting the toy theatre up, I decided that the traffic jam would be much more interesting with dinosaurs. I mean, traffic jams caused by too many people are rather trite...but dinosaurs would be cool. Traffic Jurassic!

Tomorrow we leave the house at 5:30am and head North on I-95 for three performances in Manassas...wish us luck on the traffic front! (And no dinosaurs!)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day #20: Moody Judy

Today was a busy day with two performances at two different libraries in Chesterfield County. We performed African Trickster Tales, which is a very high energy show! At the second show, the children were all very fixated on one of our characters: The Sky God.

The Sky God is an interesting puppet because he has a head that spins to show his current emotion. He is either very, very happy....or very, very angry! This is a character children react to very strongly. In fact, before the show began, I was talking with a mom and her daughter about the Sky God. The family had been to the show before, so they were familiar with the puppets and the story. The young girl had decided she was very afraid of the Sky God -- but she did end up watching the show and having a blast!

At the end of the show, we often do a show-and-tell with the puppets. My other performer, Melanie, and I take turns bringing puppets out in front of the stage. Today we were amused because every child wanted to see the Sky God above all other puppets. But we show him last -- the finale!

Today's puppet is inspired by the Sky God puppet whose head spins. To create our "Moody Judy," I started off with some basic household supplies: two paper plates, the paper tube part from a wire hanger, a marker, a chopstick, some rubber bands, and my husband's bright red Swingline stapler!

Step One: Take the paper tube (or you can use PVC), and cut a segment of it off. Rejoin it with a rubber band to form a "T" near the top.

Step Two: Cut the two paper plates into identical circles with necks.

Step Three: Secure the necks (from both plates) around the pointy part of the chopstick using rubber bands, a stapler or glue.

Step Four: Draw a face on each of the visible sides of the paper plate. Make sure each face looks like it's the same character -- just with a different mood. (The more drastic the change, the better!)

Step Five: Put some hair on her, too.

Step Six: Insert the chopstick with the paper plate head  into the "T" configuration. (Now there's a sentence you don't see every day!)

Step Seven: Find some fabric or thin paper to drape over the puppet's body. Cinch the waist with a piece of string.

Voila! Spin the chopstick at the bottom while holding the tube, and you can spin the puppet's head without moving the body along with it! If you really want to be clever (I'm not staying awake that late!), you can add arms!

Not bad for being away from the studio and having to search my home, eh? (I'm practicing my Canadian accent.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day #19: Angling for a cuppa

Watch out Nemo...
I know, I know...Today's puppet is really strange. I think it's because I was at the studio today doing some cleaning, organizing, and rearranging. After the retreat at Pocosin, I returned to the studio and everything seemed to be in a state of disarray. I also had time working in a different studio space while at Pocosin, and it made me rethink how I want my space to be arranged.The way I build puppets has been evolving, and I realized that I needed to set up the space to reflect this. It's still a work in progress, but it's progress!

But, back to the tea-ball. I made this scary angler fish using a tea ball, some wire, and lots of beads that my sister-in-law gave to me when she moved out of her condo in Boston. (Thanks, Katy!) It took a lot longer than I expected (which is, I suppose, to be expected) to finish this one. It was tricky getting in between the thin wire on the tea-ball.

I found a box full of lights...

Udderly ridiculous!

A cozy place to rest your head!

The wall we allow children to paint on during our open studios.
I did have a productive time today -- and it's the kind of productive time that will help me be more productive later this week.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day #18: Sock 'em!

You knew it was coming, didn't you? I mean, we couldn't have a Puppet-A-Day blog without...the sock puppet.
Yes. A real sock puppet.

Our "guest blogger" for this evening was created using one of my husband's socks (shhhh!), some rubber bands (inside the puppet to secure the sock), and some pipe cleaners I smuggled out of my daughters' room a few minutes ago (also, shhhh!). If you look closely at the back of the laptop, you can see a lovely reflection of the laundry waiting to be folded on my dining room table...

I wish I create puppets that could do my laundry -- that would be awesome.

If I ever learn how to build that, I'll be sure to make you one, too!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day #17: Give A Hand!

I just returned from the most amazing weekend at Pocosin Arts Cabin Fever Reliever. I haven't been this sleep deprived since my youngest daughter was tiny -- well, that or college final projects! Those were the days...

I took a workshop in 3-D felting using resists taught by Lisa Klakulak. What boggled my mind is that her teaching is just as excellent as her work. (What I mean is that her work is stellar AND so is her teaching -- the skill-sets do not necessarily co-exist.)  I learned and synthesized more about the felting process on the first day than I have in the past year. Part of it is that there is a value in learning from a person rather than just a book. Direct experience is so key. The other part is having an instructor who person who truly knows her art inside out and upside down. I was in the studio early each morning and left late at night (past midnight!), and so were many of the other students. It was great being creative in a group setting like that with so many ideas jumping around the room -- it was alive with creativity!

"Hand" Puppet!
So, for today's puppet, I want to "give a hand" to my instructor and my classmates who all taught me so much and made for an incredible long weekend. She's made with eyeliner, red ink, black sharpie (that I tell my children they should never, ever use on their skin), and a purple fringed doll vest. And a hand, of course!

This is a felted vessel that was made using raw wool (merino) over a resist and lightly shellacked.

Now off to bed to catch up on my sleep as best as I can...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day #16: More Shadowplay!

OK. It's true...I am off on an artist's retreat right now. I am sure that Maude and I are having a great time, even though (gasp!) I actually do not have internet access. I am sure I will make something utterly amazing while I am there. So bear with me, please, as today we have: more shadow puppets!

Grrrrrr!!!! Watch out for those teeth!

Two friends: a duck and a friendly doberman.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day #15: Shadowplay!

You know it had to happen sometime this year. Here we are with the ubiquitous shadow puppet! We'll have more shadow puppets up this year, but we will start with the kind done with your own two hands.

The ubiquitous shadow bunny!
I would like to take a moment to talk about shadow screens. You can use sheets, tablecloths or pretty much anything, but shower curtains make sharp images. The image above was taken behind a shower curtain. The image below was taken from a screen of plain linen -- I like the texture of this one, and it feels a little spooky. The shadows look incredibly different depending on the type of screen you use. For our shows, we have also used Rosco Screen, which is made especially for shadow puppets (and projection of other kinds, too).

Egyptian Cat.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day #14: Maude and I go on a road trip!

OK, I'll be honest....this is a puppet I made a while ago BUT I just did major repair to her AND she is accompanying me on a really awesome it counts. (See "Da Rulz" for more details.)

First, this roadtrip...I am off to the Pocosin Arts Cabin Fever Reliever XI. This is an artist retreat where you can take an intensive workshop in a medium of your choosing -- they have five choices this year. I am taking an intensive feltmaking workshop with Lisa Klakulak. I feel like I am off to camp! It's exciting to have time for me and a mini-vacation. Don't get me wrong, I totally LOVE my family...I just need a few days off!

Now for the puppet! Maude is a soft sculpture puppet that I made a few years ago. Her body is comprised of foam rubber covered with stretch terry. I styled the wig (I love doing that part) and had fun with her eyelashes, too. If you see me cruising down I-95, check out the passenger seat. I am totally going to put her there!

Eyelashes made from goose biots.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Puppet #13: Dino-rama

When I was in elementary school, I LOVED making dioramas. I made lots of them. The two I remember the most were the Mayan temple (complete with human sacrifice happening at the top) and the revolutionary war (complete with bloody footprints of the soldiers in the snow).

Toy theatre has a similar appeal. The dinosaur toy theater was made using stencils and some wooden dowels. Some children can be very intimidated by the idea of drawing. They worry that what they make doesn't look like the "something" they had in mind. I think that using stencils could help children get over these concerns and get on with making some puppets and telling some stories!

(Thanks, Tricia, for having great stencils at your Valentine's Day party!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day #12: Dinner Theatre, Anyone?

"I see puppets..."
Is there a national "Play with your food day?" There should be.

Above we have our watermelon angelfish. The watermelon (shaped by biting) has a strategically placed watermelon seed and a wooden skewer. Voila!  This was a collaborative effort between me and my older daughter. She did all the biting. I stuck on the eye.

Thanks, Lynn, for photographing!