Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day #82: Strawberry

My mom will be the first to share how, as a child, I would not eat strawberries. Not with a fox, not in a box, not here or there or anywhere! Fortunately, I've grown out of it. Today at the farmer's market, there was a strawberry that looked remarkably like it SHOULD be a puppet.

I can't decide if it looks best in right or left profile....

This would have probably haunted me as a child given my strong aversion to strawberries. My four year old just wanted me to hurry up already and take the picture so she could EAT IT!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day #81: Coming Soon!

Technical difficulties...this is a place holder. Need to get my puppet project, camera and computer all cooperating. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day # 80: Chick-on-the-road

Saturday we had an out-of-town gig. Knowing it was going to be a hectic weekend, I put together the puppet on-the-road. As it was verging on Easter week, I made a baby chick. I packed a bag with ONLY some yellow fabric, scissors, a needle and thread. The challenge was to use things within the truck to make the rest. Here's how it went:

I found a ball (thankfully, our children always leave toys in the truck!)

I sewed fabric around the ball...

I was really flummoxed by not having brought anything to be the beak. Looking around the vehicle, I found an extra long yellow Lego! I decided that my spool would have to work for the head structure as it was all I had.

Wings that flap by finger power!
The chick.

Fabulously authentic footage! Bumpy with radio background -- huzzah!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day #79: The Tardis does a fly-by at our studio!

If you don't know who Dr. Who is, you can probably skip this one.

A few weeks ago, I did a tribute to The Doctor with a TARDIS puppet. Tonight is the Dr. Who premiere for Season Six, and I am taking the night off and watching TV. But I really do need a night off!

For today's post, I had to revisit the TARDIS and make some improvements. In doing so, I created a new piece.
First I had to cut a door...
Then I cut out some arms from a magazine and rigged them up on a spring. One arm for Amy, one for the Doctor. This is the rear view from what will be the interior of the TARDIS.

I took a plastic tube (salvaged from the innards of a dead pen), and ran some fishing line....

And...tah-dah! Go make a puppet (or at least watch Dr. Who...).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day #78: Everybody Needs Fans!

Yet another in our serious of "Could This be a Puppet?"

Of course!

And for those of you out there who might be wondering what really happens in a puppet studio, I have some pics below from today's work!

I am preparing the owl's exterior. I am creating a lovely textured fully felted surface...but there are lots of steps to getting it done just right. The owl in the show is a Great Horned Owl; they have lots of fabulous colors and textures...so I need to make some lovely colors and textures!

First, I took three types of wool (left to right: Cormo, Navajo Churro, and a touch of Merino), and I blended them into the color you see at the right. The Churro is very sturdy and used primarily in rug making. It gives structure to the felt. The Cormo and Merino soften it up a bit and give a lovely color. I already did a swatch, so I know it turns out right!

Layers waiting for lots of rolling. Do you see the fabulously organized boxes of fiber in the background?
 Then I laid out two pieces. On the left is twenty thin layers of coppery colored Merino; on the right is the Churro/Cormo/Merino blend -- five layers.

Day #77: Ode to the Slinky...

I know you have a good imagination, so we will all pretend that this was posted on Thursday, OK?

Spring is in the air, and I am in the studio with springs! I met with a VCU class the other day, showed them some of my puppets and talked about the materials used to make them. While talking, I realized that nearly all of the puppets I had brought had slinkies in them!

Today's post is dedicated to the fabulous Slinky -- the first of many springs used in building puppets in my studio.

First I had to drill tiny holes in the wooden balls. (We all have our vices...)
I glued the two balls to either end of a Jr. Slinky.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day #76: Snail's Pace

I am thinking I should have a category of puppet called, "Things I picked up randomly and turned into a puppet." Or stuff that I discovered its "inner puppet."

Things have been moving along in studio-land. I have a number of puppets in a sort of amoebic form...almost becoming. There's a phase in building a puppet show where you feel like you will never be done. I've lived through it before, so I know it's not true. (I will be done!) It's like a phase in pregnancy called "Transition," where everything just seems like it's falling apart, but really it's a sign that you are almost done.

So I feel an odd sense of both panic and relief. Simultaneously.

But, back to the snail.

I walked in the door, looked around, and grabbed a Scotch tape dispenser. It's one of the funky ones that looks like a purple donut. I pulled out the white tab...yes!

Hmmmm....do you see it?

So, this is another object puppet possibility. Love to discover those. Especially under the pressure of having just walked in the door!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day #75: Randomly Inspired Object Puppet

I literally was doing laundry when I spotted a fireplace tool and a pair of binoculars. I decided they were destined to be together...at least for this creation. I don't know what this should be called. Is it a bug? A bird creature? Let me know what you think!

Jaws of death...

...or harmless creature?

"It" can also just stand right in front of the fireplace!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day #74: Even Creepier than the Spider...

...or so I've been told!

This was created from some magazine cut-outs, a glue stick, and some cardstock!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day #73: For the DJ in my brain who insists on playing "Boris the Spider"

Isn't it crazy when you get a song stuck in your head -- especially when you have no idea WHY it is in your head. It sort of makes sense when the songs we play for our girls get played by the DJ-in-my-head, but why is the DJ spinning "Boris the Spider" today?

I dunno.

I did find a cool spider "molting" in my studio the other day. It might sound crazy, but I really love spiders. They are fabulous bug-munching arachnids and they are such great characters in folklore and mythology. They have been credited with bringing fire to humanity (Cherokee) and bringing stories to people all over the world (Ashanti). Their webs are just amazing architectural creations, and spider silk is fabulously strong and can be quite beautiful when woven by humans.

But still, Boris the Spider? All day? In my brain?

So today, even though it bordered on the creepy, I took my spider molting and hung it from a string to create a shadow puppet on my stage mock-up. Sounds kooky, but I actually consider a good omen that a spider molted right by my mock-up...

Stringing up the spider...

Creepy, crawly, creepy, crawly...

And frustration of frustrations, blogger won't let me upload any videos right now -- not yesterday or today. I'll keep trying and update when I can. (I recorded it with the song stuck in my head and everything!)


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day #72: Spring is humming in Appalachia!

Mid-April is the time we work on our taxes. We prepare our gardens and taste the hint of summer. In Appalachia, it is the time when the hummingbirds return!

Today is a tribute to the hummingbird. I made a mini hummingbird...it's about the size of a nickel.

I found a bunch of neat facts about hummingbirds. Our new show features a hummingbird, so we wanted to know as much as possible.
  • Hummingbirds are the tiniest birds in the world, but their brain weight (4.2% of its body weight) makes it the biggest birdbrain!
  • A hummingbird's brain is 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom.
  • Hummingbirds are can remember every flower they have been to, and they know how long it will take each flower to refill.
  • Hummingbirds can hear better and see farther than humans -- they can even see ultraviolet light! They do not have a sense of smell.
  • A hummingbird's tongue is grooved like the shape of a "W" with tiny hairs on the tip to help lap up nectar.
  • A hummingbird's heart beats up to 1,260 times per minute; the heart beats 250 times per minute at rest.
  • A hummingbird's metabolism is roughly 100 times that of an elephant.
  • An average sized hummingbird will have about 940 feathers.
  • Females will lay a clutch of two eggs; the babies are about the size of a penny.
  • Hummingbirds can fly both forward and backwards; they can hover, fly sideways and even upside-down! A hummingbird wings will beat about 70 times per second. Hummingbird's wings will beat up to 200 times per second when diving.
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds have been known to travel 500 miles over the Gulf of Mexico to breeding grounds. This trip takes about twenty hours.
    • Hummingbirds need to eat on average 7 times per hour for about 30-60 seconds; they will visit an average of one thousand flowers per day for nectar. Many plants depend on hummingbirds for pollination.

    Not the best clip -- tricky manipulation while recording!

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Day #71: My Fantasia

    I love the segment in Fantasia of the Sorcerer's Apprentice. You know, the part where Mickey Mouse uses magic to bring a broom to life and have it do his chores? Well, I wish I could have brooms just doing the work of cleaning, scrubbing, or whatever around the house. Maybe they could wash all of my dishes? That would rock.

    I know, I know. Enlightened people are into the whole "chop wood, carry water" philosophy of immersing yourself in your daily tasks as a form of meditation and living in the present moment. I would just rather have most of my present moments engaged in not cleaning. Spending time with my family, time outdoors...and studio time! 

    I was wishing that cleaning the house were like operating puppets. Of course, I'm still doing the manipulating and moving, even if I can attach a string...but I can fantasize! I can even attach a string:

    OK. It's actually harder to do it with a string.

    But there is the reality...it's really just me. Cleaning. And cleaning.

    I realize that were I manipulating this as a puppet, I would still be doing it. I guess it would just be more FUN if it were a puppet...

    Day #70: Flying Thomas! (A four year old's fantasy come to life...)

    My younger daughter is crazy about trains. Totally. I don't know exactly how it all happened, but it did. She has a ridiculous number of trains (the "Thomas" variety -- thank you, Craigslist!) and knows all of their names. She gets so frustrated when you mix up Thomas with Edward or Gordon. (Sorry, they are all blue!). Don't mix up Percy or Henry either!

    I love the way she plays with trains. They have conversations, they talk, they interact, the have arguments -- they relate! And she will do it all while wearing a pink tutu.

    Yes, pink. Her favorite color.

    We were talking this morning and somehow the conversation moved to trains. Somehow? No seriously, every conversation moves towards trains. Well, today we talked about how cool it would be if trains had wings and could fly. So I had to make this:

    Flying Thomas!!
    Made with yarn and a plastic coat hanger, because that is what I had at home.

    Tricky to manipulate while holding a camera...
     But I did manage to get some footage! Can't wait to show my daughter in the morning; she will be so excited. I just hope she doesn't want me to make all of her trains fly...I'm not sure we have that many coat hangers!!

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Day #69: A Scarf Marionette

    Yesterday, I whipped up a marionette from scraps in the studio. But there is a type of marionette you can easily make from a square of silky fabric -- a great introduction to marionettes. The scarf marionette.

    I've made scarf marionettes before, and thought I should get around to putting one up on the blog. Here we are!

    One piece of fabric, wooden balls, head ball, string, dowel rods...
    Tricky to capture motion when you are manipulating the puppet and holding the camera!

     I thought about placing directions here, but I found some online... Directionss for making one of your very own! Great for children!

    View from above...sort of.

    Day #68: Studio Marionette

    We will begin with a history lesson, of sorts.

    In French, the word "marionette" refers to any kind of puppet. In English, "marionette" specifically refers to string puppets. The origin of this word goes back to the early Christian church when there would be processions of string puppets of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and other Biblical figures. So the word "marionette" translates to "little Mary," as in Jesus' mother.

    Today I was going through some supplies and found this:

    Huh? Did I mention that I really don't work with marionettes?

    attached to this:

    Double huh?
    What on earth?? I have no idea what this is or where it is from. I mean, I know what it is -- a dangling light bulb cover. Aluminum. Why was it attached to the string and hanging from a mini-controller? Well, it looked like the start of some weird marionette...so, why not?

    Some rope and part of a yogurt container -- voila!

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Day #67: It Came From My Husband's Desk (version 2)

    I was baked. Or better yet, I had baked. Two loaves of bread, two pizza crusts and crackers. Yep, crackers. The crazy things you have to do when you discover you cannot eat gluten.

    I was heading to bed waaaaay too late. And I still needed to post. I sat down at my husband's desk and glanced around. I didn't think I should cut out the picture of Lanny McDonald from his 1999 ticket to the Torotonto Maple Leafs vs. the Washington Capitals game no matter how desperate I was...though I could see how quick and easy that would be to make into a puppet!

    Tempting, but...

     Oh well. I looked around some more. Scissors, bills, keys, wallet, batteries, juggling balls, mouse pad, bottle caps...Hmmm....rubber bands...


    A little video-recording made by my husband (um, thanks, hon, I know it's really late!):


    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Day #66: Whoooooo almost forgot to do this tonight?

    Oops. I was leaving the studio and realized there had not been a post yet! I quickly cut this out, pulled out a shadow screen, taped on a rod, and snapped a photo. (Thanks, Katy, for holding the puppet!)

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Day #64: Breakfast Theatre

    Puppets: Part of your complete diet!
    Ahhh...if only I were able to devote hours each day to this blog.

    Today we will take a trip into Heidi's brain. This will be a bit of imagination theatre on your part, because I want you to envision the puppet act that I saw at the breakfast table today.

    There was one lonely leftover pancake. So sad. We were all full. The pancakes were great -- I've been working on my gluten-free variations. Today I added chestnut flour that my sister-in-law brought back from France. It gave everything an extra special touch.

    But there was one left. I hate to waste it, so I wondered if I could make a puppet...

    This is what my brain saw... Imagine a beautifully laid out breakfast table. Pancakes, maple syrup, a bowl of fruit and some almonds. Coffee. Tea.

    Cue music. (Something classical with flute.) A banana moves upright and peels itself. The peel wanders over to the plate of pancakes and taps it with one of the peel pieces. One of the pancakes "stands" up. The peel separates and morphs into the legs and arms...and hair...

    Two little almonds then leap from the bowl along with an apple slice. They bounce along and leap onto the pancake to make a face. The puppet does a pirouette, wanders around the table, burns its peel on a bit of hot coffee, explores the breakfast table...

    I could go on and on...

    I would have to build a break-away marionette (of sorts) to make this work. I'm sure if I was having breakfast with Phil Huber or Joe Cashore or Albrecht Roser I could totally have pulled this off!

    Play with your food and have a great day!

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Day #64: Cast-Off (well, actually, ON)

    I've collaborated on several of my posts. Today's post I created with some "help" from my four-year old.

    Yep. That's my girl!
    I must preface this by saying that my youngest daughter knows no fear. She is an active child who loves ice skating, gymnastics and climbing over everything. Our couch is a balance beam and a diving platform.

    So, guess how she broke her finger? Doing one of these dangerous things? No. She simply fell off the couch while watching a movie with her sister. (TV is dangerous.)

    She has been a trouper. We didn't even realize she had broken anything right away -- the child has a crazy high pain threshold and doesn't like anything to stop her. She never complained about the pain, but the big purple bruise and swelling finally swayed us that she needed medical attention. Now she has a lovely pink cast -- the inspiration for today's puppet!

    The cast was set with her hand "bent," so there is a great angle and a spot to put a long tongue. I used a bit of yellow wool roving for hair and found some eyeballs from my "stash." Voila!

    My husband was quick to point out that the cast wasn't even an hour old before it became a puppet!

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Day #63: Spring!

    It was such a beautiful, glorious day. Sunshine. Flowers. Yep! It was a great day...but I spent most of it indoors working in the studio. Mixed bag.

    On the plus side, I did receive a package in the mail -- so at least I had new goodies to "play" with at the studio. (Fiber fans will understand when I say I have the softest Cormo roving in the most luscious shades of dark moss and chocolate....Mmmmmm.... Really, it's just amazing that I haven't drooled all over the keyboard just typing about it!)

    Um, back to the post.

    I took a bit of colorful pencil-thin wool roving...

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Day #62: Charmed, I'm Sure...

    I saw this today and became inspired...

    ...to make this!

    Pretty campy, I know, but sometimes desperation is the mother of inspiration. Special film credit to my ten-year old!

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Day #61: Raccoon Prototype and Cool Torso/Spine Mechanism

    A lot has happened in the studio today -- but it's a lot in the sense that you can look at an ocean and only see the top. Most of what we've been doing has been under the surface. Under the surface of the puppet, so to speak.

    A fun character in this show is the raccoon. We need some very specific movements from this puppet. Well, OK, we need very specific movements from all of our puppets, but the raccoon is a standout sort of character. The raccoon needs to do a lot. Walk on all fours, stand upright, sniff, wiggle its backside, and swish its tail a bit, for starters. It might not seem like a lot, but we've been working on the torso of this puppet and have come up with an interesting way for it to function.

    As with most of our prototypes, we use random stuff like cardboard, tape and plastic bottles.

    I must give Melanie Johnson credit on this one -- she and I have been working on this concept together, but she is the one who has been doing the assembly work. (Thanks, Mel!)

    I must also give credit to Rey Mehlhorn for working up so many great concept sketches!

    Working on the raccoon...
    First, the raccoon is a rod puppet. It will be operated by two puppeteers for part of the show, but can be operated by just one puppeteer for some segments. The "spine" of  puppet has a spring in the middle of a dowel rod. The puppeteer holds the dowel rod with the spring segment, giving the back and torso a great deal of articulation. It looks like we can also control the backside wiggle, too!

    Hmmm...this is where I was going to insert the picture of the torso/spine mechanism...but it seems that ever-diligent Melanie has absconded with said puppet mechanism. I think she took it home to tweak it some more...and I guess I  will just be thankful she's doing that and post the picture in the space below when she brings it back!

    [Insert Photo]

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Day #60: Winging it!

    Today I have been working on an owl prototype. My materials are cardboard and duct tape.

    Gotta start somewhere!

    Before I make the "real" puppet, I work on the proportion of the puppet and basic movement. Of course, the movement of this puppet isn't exactly basic. In the works are blinking eyes, rotating head, and wings. Wings that fly!

    OK, blinking I can do. Rotating head is easy. Wings? Not just flappy wings, but realistic flying wings.

    I've spent a lot of time on You-Tube today. There are great visual references, which is what I need! These are the "wing-tips" I am saving for future reference:

    Computer animated flying bird

    How Bird Wings Work

    The Avariel

    Articulated Wings in Motion

    Four Bar Mechanism


    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Day #59: Flea Circus

    I was in the studio snacking on some raisins when I came up with this idea. Perhaps I'll do more of these in the future with staging and props!

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Day #58: Go Rams!

    They didn't win "the game," but they had a fantastic season!

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Day #57: Doctors and Scientists Shocked as Woman Gives Birth to Puppet Child in this Exclusive Report!

    A Richmond hospital became the  buzz of the scientific and medical community today when a local woman gave birth to a living, breathing puppet.

    Exclusive photo of Mary Annette!

    "It was the strangest thing," reports a nurse who spoke under condition of anonymity. "There was no umbilical cord, just a mass of strings. Then this wooden structure came out -- one of the orderlies got a splinter!"

     Doctors are baffled and unable to explain this strange event. "We're not sure how to fill out the paperwork on this one. Filing the insurance paperwork is going to be a nightmare!"

    The mother reports that she had strange, unexplained cravings throughout her pregnancy. "We brought the crib home, and I kept sneaking downstairs to gnaw on the railings. My gums were in terrible shape, but I couldn't help it."

    The baby, Mary Annette, weighed in at six pounds, five ounces. "We're not sure how to properly measure her length," reported the attending physician. "The strings are rather long."

    The parents are thrilled with their new daughter. "She has great movement. We already figured out which string to pull to make her close her eyes and sleep! Most children grow up pushing their parent's buttons, but we will definitely be pulling her strings."

    Happy April Fools' Day from Puppet-A-Day!!