Monday, December 7, 2009


Here, have it you vultures!
Everything I have found so far on the actual construction process, from patterns to polyfill! This is cobbled together from so many sources I wouldn't know who to start thanking first, but it has helped me tremendously so far (all three puppets).


Working top down, we start off with an basic and more importantly FREE pattern for a spherical moving mouth head. The pattern can be printed out and pinned directly to the foam (I recommend using 1/2 inch because anything thicker is a terrible pain to hack through with a razor). He also includes a video showing where to put the contact cement and how to adhere the halves.

Ok this next one is a bit of a hit or miss. Yes, it's in spanish and yes, there is some music that sounds suspiciously like a lounge rendition of The Girl From Ipanema but this was one of the first videos I found to show the process in near-entirety. I thought it was helpful just to show how something that looks like an inkblot test turns into a puppet head.

This one is fantastic and even gets a little into fabric draping and patterning, watch all nine parts. Great way to show how an idea gets from paper onto your hand, also I love that he kept in his error with the head shape since I had the very same problem and utilized the solution he shows.

Down to business site about materials, construction and really creepy MSpaint x-ray drawings of what puppet skeletons look like.
Another photo-documented pattern process. A little bare bones on the actual explanation but great for seeing the process and stimulating creative juices. (Gwoss, it's a nun)
Anyone with a wrinkle in their brain probably knows already that a bunch of these guys put together make a ball (a beach ball even has them separated into color blocks for gods sake) but it took this slap in the face explanation, pattern included for me to realize it! Like they say, eight of them make a perfect sphere but by varying the mount and their size you can get just about any round, regular shape. Obviously cut the pattern in half for hemi-spheres etc.
(P.S. You're probably going to want to magnify that guy a bunch before you print him out because the size it is right now is good for a finger puppet and not much else!)
Seriously, almost everything I know so far as come from this one tutorial. Not so much anything with patterns and drafting since I haven't tried anything that resembles that cat, but the techniques and materials he discusses are INVALUABLE. I particularly recommend the pages on draping and patterning a "skin" or "fur" for your puppet:
Would be creepy if it weren't so helpful (cute?)
The page on the stitch to use to hide seams effectively
Does the "muppet stitch" really exist?
I'm not sure if you can quite tell what he is describing with the stitch, I'm doing a little goof-proof diagram to demonstrate it if anyone is confused, please let me know and I'll post it.
Very basic (the tutorial I used to make that terrible, weird, blue ghost bustin' fellow in my second post) type of moving mouth puppet with arm rods. The good news about this guy is he's great for practicing (if you are performing and not just building) the talking/movement techniques, since he's got all the basic parts but you don't have to worry about ripping his eye off accidentally.........accidentally.......acci-

Watch the whole series, this is only part one.

Project Puppet's tutorials on adding facial features, posable hands and a free pattern for a basic t-shirt for yer pup.
Another Project P. link, this one for purchasable patterns for a wide variety of pups, including a new one for LIVE HAND GUYS! WOAH!
AN APPARENTLY INVALUABLE BOOK ON FOAM PUPPET CONSTRUCTION! I can't vouch for this one personally, never having read it but Amazon's handy little "I wanna see yer goodies, book" feature proves that this is certainly something to have when starting out. Except that it would make me obsolete....Catch 21...
By someone named Josh who is a genius and hand painted as many leopard spots as there are stars in the sky. Seriously though this thing is amazing, one day I'll be linked in a blog too.
Dream Big.
Beautifully rendered puppets
For beautiful freaks like us, they watch the world of puppetry and report back everything worth knowing. I spent an inordinate amount of time on here last night and can warn you from experience not to get involved if you have an addictive personality.
What the Hellmans?
Old Fraggle patterns?
I don't know guys, I feel a little dirty posting these even second hand. I haven't tried them (I'm clean) but maybe it'd help if anyone's doing a similarly shaped pup (NOT TOO SIMILAR).
Watch their videos (Omar's Mother etc.) and tell me those aren't the most beautiful puppets you've seen north of the south pole. I must say, I think the worm with the Brooklyn accent killed a little of the magic and he looks a little too much like a ween for comfort but P.H. is doing some really really incredible stuff. If I ever become a genius I am applying for an internship with them.
The quality of this post has deteriorated so rapidly! I'm in a bit of a rush and didn't sleep much last night so I'm not quite in my prime, sorry for the lack of puppet professionalism I guess. AND GOOD LUCK! I actually have even more than this, so if anyone in the world found this helpful let me know and I'll post more.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nice on my eyeballs

Wilkins and Wontkins
from the 1957 commercials for Wilkins coffee that Henson did. I love the way these guys look, they are so clean and simple and still in excellent shape after half a century (we saw them in person at the muppet exhibit at the Michener Museum). I call them "the clean guys". Kev tells me I like them because I'm German and we love to be perfect and neat and tidy. After seeing his sketching style it's clear to me he is decidedly Un-Deutsch, I love watching him draw though.

Puppet Heap's video "Ye Ballade of Ivan Petrofsky Skevar". I love their dark settings and music paired with vibrant characters who all have a kind of gnarled, surreal quality to them that reminds me of the Indonesian shadow puppets. This video was made using a different kind of light play however, using transparent characters and a projector.The also brings to mind my next inspiration;
The Triplets of Belleville

It has this incredible darkness that I would have to have watched the movie more recently to describe better, but I am drawn to everything that has a similar feeling. Something about the dull colors and extreme caricature of everyone, I don't know. Smacks of Edward Gorey without falling into the "mall goth" Nightmare Before Christmas. I'm getting so off topic here...

Hand Carved Wooden Puppets

The two above are from Puppet Heap's Facebook and are perfect examples of what I love about this style of puppets. I have no idea if they are actually wood or some other sculpted material but the dark, slighty worn appearance is something you can never get with foam and bright fleeces. It's easy to get stuck in some kind of "artsy" rut when you use these kinds of guys though; start making shorts with creepy plinking circus music and weird angles and leave everyone wondering if they have just watched some weird puppet snuff-film. Maybe not, I don't know.

Kev Kelly's Comics
I know, one letter away from grown men wearing bedsheets and burning crosses, but I'm just not the kind of girl who can spell "komics" with a "K" and look myself in the eye afterward. Without getting too drippy about how great friends are for inspiration I'll tell you that this comic and its fine feathered fowl is what got me wanting to make puppets. I wanted to bring these guys to life, don't they just look like they'd be so much fun to throw around? You can't make a good puppet without a great character sketch to base it off, and lord knows I wouldn't be writing this right now without 15 years of marriage and a whole lot of bubbles.

Snuppers so far

My very first attempt at a hand-warmer with a face. He looks like such a little spaz and reminds me of the kids I hated as a camp counselor. He's basically just two doll-shaped silhouettes cut out, sewn together and turn inside out. I stuffed his fingers and hands with polyfill and crammed a mostly shapeless blob of 1 inch foam in his head.

I really don't like this weird little ghoster so I gave him to my mom who does an after-school puppet club with junior high kids.

This is Harry, the second puppet attempted. Kev and I made him a few weeks ago from character design he did for a monster sketch. Harry has no arms and a vicious taste for friendship. Wish he didn't come out so perfectly cylindrical, he looks a little like a trash can though I'm sure I would loose a finger if I mentioned it to him. My room is a god awful mess and you can see tons of other started projects in the background, there is a half skinned head next to harry in the second picture. I'm going to clean up today...

Thaaat's more like it. Kev and I both got copies of the Glorified Sock Puppet Pattern and decided over the weekend to each make a guy. I haven't seen Kev's finished yet, but he is blue and his name is Scram! My fellow has only one arm done and looks kind of like a used car salesman/ Charles Manson but I finally feel like progress is being made. I'm still trying to figure out how to attach arm rods (which would probably be easier if I actually finished his second arm) AND I CAN'T FOR THE LIFE OF ME FIGURE OUT HOW TO MOVE HIS ARMS AND MAKE HIM TALK AT THE SAME TIME.

It comes with practice obviously but I'm still trying to figure out some secret puppet code that Jim Henson has buried with him.
Too soon?

Dear Waiting World

I have recently been thrown headfirst into the world of puppets and puppeteering and with the help of my wonderful friend Kev, have begun work on what are hopefully the first of many puppets.

We hope to start a real blog as soon as we have some more guys completed, and have better documentation of the building process, but this is just a place for me to stow ideas and keep my poor catastrophe of a brain from overflowing.

You'll have to excuse the poor quality of most of my pictures so far, as they come from my cell phone. I'm still working on getting a real camera.