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Dream Tale Puppets

Building Tabletop Puppet – Third Session

After putting papier-mâché over the head of the puppet, creating the hands and the arms, and painting the puppet, it is time to add the hair, body, and costume. To add the hair, you will need a hot glue gun, protective gloves, and a small piece of cardboard. A small mistake while using a hot glue gun could lead to a painful burn. For safety reasons, please make sure a grown-up family member or a friend either assists you with the gluing, or does this part of building the puppet for you.

You will find material for your puppet’s hair in your bag. This could be raffia, yarn, string, a clothesline, or strips of fabric. Some characters do not have hair (e.g. the guards). Instead, they will have painted helmets.

 

You will find two or more small bundles of strands tightly tied in the middle. Some of you may find a string wrapped around a piece of cardboard. Look for the place or places where it is tied. You may see the knot on one side of the cardboard or on both sides. If it is on one side, cut the bundle in the middle at the opposite side of the cardboard. If the bundle is tied on both sides, cut it on both sides on the edges of the cardboard.

 

In some cases, the bundles are taped in the middle and at the ends. If you see the tape in the middle, remove it before gluing. If the ends are taped, keep them like this for gluing. It will make it a little easier.

Wearing the gloves, squeeze out a bit of glue on the top of the head, where the forehead ends and you want the hair to begin. Spread the glue onto a small area of about one or two inches in diameter. Let it cool down for a minute or two. Using a piece of cardboard, check that the glue is still sticky, but has lost some of its fluidity. Add a little more glue in the center. Let it cool down again for about a minute. Make sure the glue is still sticky, and place the middle of the first bundle of hair onto the glue. Still wearing the gloves and using the piece of cardboard, press the hair into the glue. While the glue is cooler but still sticky, and while wearing the gloves, you may adjust the hair on the head a little.

Follow up with the next bunch of hair and glue it behind the first bundle. Check how many bundles you have and how you would like them to be placed. You may see the gaps between the bundles, especially in the middle of the head where they are tied and glued to the head. It is OK. The audience will not see it, and even if they do this would be part of the aesthetic.

After the glue is cold and it holds the hair nicely in the middle, you could still glue the hair onto the sides of the head. Remember to do this only on the places covered by papier-mâché. At this point, if the ends of the bundles are taped, you may remove the tape. Then uncover the side of the head by moving the hair to the opposite side of the head. You may need to hold the hair. With the uncovered side of the head up, squeeze out a strip of glue onto the side of the head. Wait for this to cool down a little so it does not drip but is still sticky; then, holding the hair off the side of the head with glue on it, turn the side with the glue down and let the hair dangle. Then slowly move the head to its normal position, and, wearing a glove, try to control where and how the hair is glued to the side of the head. Repeat the same with the other side of the head and its back.

If you find the hair of your puppet is too long, you could trim it using scissors.

Remove the rubber bands and unroll the fabrics. Find the big piece. If you have two big pieces you can choose one or use both. Some of these big pieces have a small hole in the middle. This is for the neck of the puppet. If you don’t see a hole, make one. Fold the fabric in half and again in half along its length and cut off the corner as shown in the pictures below.

Find the fabric tubes for sleeves. If you have one long tube, cut it in half. If you have more tubes, you may choose which one to use and how to use it.

Remove the rubber bands and unroll the fabrics. Find the big piece. If you have two big pieces you can either choose one or use both. Some of these big pieces have a small hole in the middle. This is for the neck of the puppet. If you don’t have this hole, make it. Fold the fabric in half and again in half along its length and cut off the corner as shown in the pictures below.

 

Find the fabric tubes for sleeves. If you have one long tube, cut it in half. If you have more tubes you may choose which one to use and how to use them.

Before cutting the sleeves to the desired length, you need to make sure you know how long the arms will be. You don’t want the hands to be dragged on the ground. You will need a gap of at least three inches between the tips of the fingers and the ground when you hold the puppet above the table edge. This means that the proportion of the size of the hands to the length of the arms will be different than that of a real person. Usually, for a real person, the arms are three times the length of the hands. For a puppet, the arms can be the same length as the hands, or twice as long.

 

You may want to try it by attaching the arms to the shoulders before you put on the sleeves. This way you can figure out how long the sleeves should be. Remember to have at least an inch-long excess rope at the upper part of the sleeve to be taped to the shoulders.

 

Find a piece or pieces of wood for the shoulders. If you have two (or three) pieces, this is to give the shoulders more weight in the center, so they will not move up so easily when you lift up the puppet’s hands when acting.

 

Insert the rope of the arm into the sleeve by taping it to the end of a brush. Then tape both the rope/arm and the fabric tube/sleeve separately to the shoulders. Be aware of the position of the thumbs. They are usually in front. If you have the excess rope, leave it long for now. It’s good to put on the body/costume first and see how it looks, and if necessary adjust the length of the arms.

 

Use the paper tape provided, or you may also use duct tape if you have some at home. Duct tape will make the connection a little stronger.

The simplest way to create the basic costume/body of your puppet is to simply hang the bigger piece of fabric over the shoulders. This could be enough. The pictures below show how to “sew” the edges of the body/costume by using a stapler. Of course, you could sew it by hand, or if you have a sewing machine at home, ask a grown-up to sew it for you. Remember to leave slits on the upper part of the costume so you could easily stick the hands through.

Some of you may have a big part of the fabric already sewn on the edges. If this is the case and you have trouble sliding the hands through the slits, make the slits bigger by cutting them.

Some fabrics are different on each side. In such a case you may want to decide which side goes up and is visible. When you sew you may want to make the seam hidden. To do so, fold the fabric from the outer side inside, sew the edges, and then flip the inside of the costume out.

Now you are ready to “slide” the arms into the costume/body. You can use the slots on the sides of the shoulders, or as I do it in the pictures — through the opening on the bottom and then through the slits on the sides of the shoulders.

Use other pieces of fabric, and if you find any, other elements to further shape the costume. Draping the fabric over the shoulders is the simplest way to do that. Play with the shapes, sizes, patterns, and textures. The next pieces of fabric could have bigger holes cut off to serve as a cleavage or collar. You may associate these pieces with parts of clothes worn by real people. They could resemble vests, aprons, belts, collars, or capes. However, do not limit yourself to the realistic depiction of real clothes. Your puppet and the character it represents live in a fantastic, fairytale world. You can enjoy cutting, binding, suspending, draping, wrapping, and creating a composition of pieces of fabrics. You may like to cut small pieces of fabric and glue them to the other pieces of the costume using hot glue. You can use all provided fabrics or choose the pieces you like the most. You may add materials you find at home, but please try to stick with the colors chosen for your character.

After you have chosen the costume and hung it over the puppet’s shoulders, it is time to give your character its head. Insert the rope of the neck into the hole or holes in the costume, and then thread through the hole in the wooden shoulders. Some of you have two or more pieces of wood; thread the rope through all of them. Tie the rope and create a big knot so the shoulders, the entire body, arms, and costume are securely suspended from the neck.

Check whether you want to adjust or add anything.

See what your character looks like when you hold it above the table.

This program is supported in part by grants from the Falmouth, Mansfield, Mattapoisett, Mid-Cape, Carver, and Middleborough Cultural Councils, local agencies which are supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency

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