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Puppet Creation Update

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by PukkaPukka, Nov 27, 2003.

  1. PukkaPukka

    PukkaPukka Member

    Hello all! Just wanted to share a few nuggets of information!

    Well, after about three weeks of doodling to find the perfect design, hunting for creation tips, and brushing up on my sewing skills (if you count that before this, I couldn't sew worth a darn - lol!), I have managed (gleefully) to finish my first puppet (Codename: "Wotsit"). It is very "Muppety" in style (moreso reminiscent of a Fraggle if I do say so myself), and I have found out several things in the time it has taken to create "Wotsit" that I would be happy to share:

    First off, let me just say that these are just my personal preferences, and should not be followed as gospel truth (although I was quite surprised at my work - for a first attempt at an entire puppet). Still, these methods worked for me, and you may find the information useful. So here I go...

    1) I looked to a generic model for my head - in this case, Wembley - and followed with a side profile sketch which I doubled to map out the 3D head in advance (to get a general idea before I cut into the material). After the side profile sketch was completed, I copied that sketch, and added in the approximate location of facial/head features, and I estimated space for the mouth insert also.

    2) Cutting begins! After pinning the design to my chosen fabric that is doubled over, I cut out my pattern that I had drawn, not forgetting to leave a one-inch hem (to aid in getting a more solid stitch, and to improve the overall look of the finished product), and I left some space at the base of the neck for tucking into the body, but more on that later.

    3) Well, here I tried my first-ever attempt at sewing. I don't think I did too bad of a job, if I do say so, but then again, I know my stitches could be stronger :) I just kept repeating my mantra of "straight stitches, follow the outline" over and over (LOL - not really...I just concentrated hard), and before I knew it, I was done with the head (except for the mouth region - I stopped sewing at the underside of the nose, about 1/10th of the way under the ridge (look at Wembley's nose for an example..right under that "bulb shape" is where I stopped), and I continued just at the top of the lower lip down to the neck. Woo-hoo! So far, so good!

    4) Next, I cut out my mouth plate. Here is where I differ greatly from that of most puppet makers here. Instead of plastic material or muslin covered wood, I simply used navy coloured felt (my own artistic license - I didn't use black to be sorta original..hehehe!), and cut it to approximately fit the mouth (but leave the felt reasonably invisible when the mouth closes). Once I finished cutting the felt, I cut a piece of foam to fit said piece, and stitched this together with the felt. Then, I stitched this whole mechanism into the mouth, trying to preserve proper spacing to avoid visible mouth material, and flipped the design inside out to check the status of my stitch job. Yay! Everything's going great so far!

    (NOTE: In the step below, in case you're following along, the eyes should be added with the puppet turned the correct way out...remember that everything is reversed during the stitching!)

    5) Eyes, eyes, eyes! I shopped around about eight different stores before I found the right combination to suit the look I was going for. My ideal combo was 1 & 3/4" (At least I think this was the size, give or take...) styrofoam balls , and a packet of fairly large googly eyes. For my ideal eye, I cut the googly eyes open and extracted the black pupil that I glued onto the (convenient) moulding mark on the ball (kinda like a small divot). The eyes have that "Muppety sheen" that I misinterpreted as paint (Terry, I may be wrong on this....correct me if I am), and from what I can tell, it is possible to replicate this look the easiest with styrofoam and plastic pupils. I'd love to hear everyone else's ideas!

    (NOTE: In affixing the eyes, what I did to avoid the loosening of the ball on the puppet head during times of great use, is pre-stuff the head with batting (available at your local Jo-Ann Fabric Store), and then, using a pin, stick it through the batting and the fleece at the appropriate place, and impale the styrofoam to the hilt of the pin. This should set the eyes in place. Then stuff to generate the desired effect.

    6) The torso. Wow, this section was a heck of a lot easier than I expected. Given that in the steps above, the head is now complete, I simply drew a freehand pattern for the body (nothing special, just...well, a body drawing), pinned it in the same manoeuvre as the head, and cut the fabric, then, I stitched it together, and then stitched it to the head. Always keep in mind that for the best time (and one that is easier on your nerves) you should pin the pieces together first in the desired location(s) for sewing. Now on to the arms and hands!

    7) Ah, the last steps (since this is a legless puppet). Again using the same method as before, I just approximated size and cut the fabric accordingly with my pinned design, and stitched the pieces together to form the arm. I then stitched these (with one end open) to the side of my puppet's torso. (NOTE: Keep in mind the proportions and locations of your creation's limbs!). With these attached, I packed the arms fairly tight with the same batting I used for the head, and then continued on to the hands. With them, I (yet again) cut a pattern (slightly bigger than usual, due to the hand-arm proportions I desired, and stitched them together and turned them inside out (if you have trouble popping the fingers out all the way, try using a pen or pencil to press the finger out - that worked for me!). I followed this by attaching them to the arms, and stitching a small hole in each wrist joint for each arm rod (optional). As I have been trying to find the correct material for rods, I have left this open for interpretation. For now, I have pinned my puppet's wrists to its torso - this works wonderfully until I can find a good idea for arm rods. It was suggested to me by BlueFrackle (thanks, mate!) that I use bicycle spokes, but I want them to be as invisible as humanly possible, so I am at a loss. Either way, the puppet is fantastic now that it is finished, and I just added a few finishing touches by stuffing the torso with batting appropriately, and testing it out with lip-sync. This works wonderfully also, and the foam mouth plate is a dream to control! Other than the mouth, no foam was used whatsoever, and i feel much less restricted with this type of puppet...at least in a mouth motion sense. Everything from start to finish has been wonderful, and I cannot wait to start building clothes for it! (And no, Wotsit is not into nudism LOL!)

    Anyone else's input would be much appreciated! I will post pictures as soon as I get them taken appropriately (front, side, top, rear, open mouth, closed mouth, et cetera). Thanks for reading this long and (hopefully not) boring post :) Keep Fraggling everyone!

    >Adam Harwood
    AKA PukkaPukka
  2. leliebel

    leliebel New Member

    I'msorry,but I'mj lazy todat,don't you have any pictures?

    FISH'N'WOLFE New Member

    It's great to hear that you're using styrofoam balls and the black dots from the googley eyes! I build professionally and use that same method. For the sheen (I do not do this since the puppets I build are for TV, and the glare from the shiny eyes does not work well on camera I've found, although if the eyes are small it should be fine) clear epoxy is mixed and poured over the eyeball. Messy, but works great! :)

  4. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Personally, I hate working with styrofoam balls for a number of reasons. The best, easiest way I have found to reduce the glare from "shiny" eyes is to sand the surface of the eye and then paint it afterwards.
  5. Yahnke

    Yahnke Member

    FISH'N'WOLFE- what does it mean when you say you build professionally? How do you get into that. I am in a career path right now that might lead to some substancial "down time" or maybe even a switch. Art is a passion of mine and building puppets would be a dream. Do you have to have "formal" training or does a sweet looking portfolio the key?

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