Another key member of the ‘Peta & the Whale’ team is champion maker/painter/artiste Joe Blanck. We were fortunate recently to have a tour of his excellent new workshop and studio space.
‘Peta & the Whale’ is a puppet show about a little girl trying to understand the creatures of the deep. Her grandpa was an old sailor and what he knows of the sea is in direct contrast to her romantic inclinations. ‘Peta & the Whale’ will premier at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2015. For this finance free development showing, director Philip Millar invited Franciscus Henri to perform as Grandpa and Jhess Knight as Peta with Danny Miller and Victoria Osborne as puppeteers. The showing was part of La Mama’s Festival of Puppetry in July 2015. Music was primarily sea shanties performed by Franciscus Henri and we were mega thrilled The Dreadnoughts agreed we could use of their version of Old Maui for this ‘Making Of’. Please check out our Pozible Campaign to help build some of the big whales pozi.be/petaandthewhale and we look forward to seeing everyone at the North Melbourne Town Hall in September 2015!
It’s ON! It’s finally happening! As of 10pm 21st July, our Pozible campaign to raise money to build and perform ‘Peta & the Whale’ at this year’s Melbourne Fringe is underway. Tons of wonderful rewards on offer including some very special events. Please visit http://pozi.be/petaandthewhale and help make the show a reality.
or Working it out as you go along
or Finished beats perfect
or There must be more to life than this
Scribed by Victoria Osborne Mon 26th Jan 2015
Much thanks to Fallen to Flux for the use of their song, From the Outside Looking In
RAW INGREDIENTS: Scrap foam (air conditioner filter foam is open cell foam which is much stronger than conventional mattress foam or ordinary polyurethane foam. Try upholstery offcuts, foam suppliers, op shop cushions etc) spray glue, contact cement, PVA, hot glue (plus gun), scissors, pins, cotton tape, gloves, strong thread, cotton thread, tape measure, thick card, fabric, textas, pencils, paper, latex, whatever you can beg, borrow, steal …
PATTERN: Draw some pictures, fine-tune a design. Think very simple. This puppet is to be a Muppet/Neville Tranter style hand-in-head. Think character. Who is this life you are making? What are they thinking? What do they know? (Dr Puppet’s aim is not to explore character but to swiftly show basic making techniques.)
MOUTH: Trace around hand for mouth template using folded paper or card. Hold mouth template like a taco shell. Recreate in firm card or thin foam. (Could cut in two pieces and hinge with cotton tape. Mark out location of finger/thumb loop. Make sure loops cover fingers comfortably. Make holes/pierce cardboard to sew through. Sew loops (or glue). Alternatively, can sew glove fingers together. Glue/sew glove to mouthpiece. Can cut off thumb and move to centre. Can you get your hand in and out easily?
CRANIUM: Glue head foam to mouthpiece. (This can be solid piece of foam like half an egg if desired.) Mark centre of mouth and foam. Cut slot for mouthpiece. Insert cardboard into cut slot. Gel bond (or hot glue) for flexibility. Contact adhesive can be stiff. And stinky. OPEN A WINDOW! Apply contact to edge of mouth, front and back and inside slot. Once contact is tack free (two surfaces are dry to touch, touch-dry, see instructions on tin) bring surfaces together. Avoid gluing right to the edge so there won’t be a hard glue line on the surface. Tweak head shape. How does it sit on your hand? Where will the back seam be? Try to avoid seams in the front. Draw trim marks on foam. Apply glue to cut surfaces. Use heat gun (hair dryer) to dry glue surfaces quickly. Bring seam together and press shut. Glue back seam. Experiment with squeezing to shape head, or add more pieces of foam. Trim head. Should there be further shaping? Pin to test darts. Cut out darts. Glue darts and shape head.
JAW/MANDIBLE: Trim lower jaw (if necessary). Shape piece of foam to jaw (mark) Crush/bend lower jaw into foam cushion. Mark centres. Cut in slot – depth of a few mm – or in this case a third of thickness of foam. Glue on foam to cardboard mouthpiece. Check marks line up and it’s really on the right way. Finish gluing seam (or sew). Cut around back of neck so it’s easy to get hand into mouth.
HEAD: Shape head. Carve around mouth to shape lips (chamfering). Try adding different bits of foam to make different shapes of head. Cheek pieces? Brow? Pinch to make nose? Where might eyes look best? Mark where to glue. Straighten gluing surfaces. Glue onto brain addition. Trim brain area. Choose some test eyes. Try different eyes. Try another set. (Chosen eyes are caps from hotel shampoo bottles but deodorant balls can be effective. More carving. More trying. Different nose? Nostrils? Carve cheek pieces. Use paper to mask places you don’t want to spray accidentally (over-spray). Glue cheek pieces on cut side so smooth surface is on outside.
COVER HEAD: Create smooth impermeable surface. This can be done by spraying with a layer of glue or covering puppet with nylon pantyhose. Could put a layer of Dacron over head before covering to provide extra smoothness. Then Neville Tranter, for instance, paints/stipples surface with latex, which you can paint. Stippling is applying latex to a small lump of foam and dabbing on sparingly, as latex can make the skin stiff and heavy. Dr Puppet chooses to cover this puppet with lycra.
- Mouth interior – in this case faux chamois/felt – cut to size
- Mark pattern
- Press correct mouth interior in to fit.
- Spray both surfaces with glue and carefully align. TAKE IT OUTSIDE.
- Prepare lycra to cover head.
- Pin mouth pattern – cut mark inside mouth – consider seam fold.
- Pin in centre – test seam placement.
- Work out where lycra will sit. Pin lycra. Want as few joins and seams as possible. How will you cover the seams? Hair? Nose? Hat? Beard?
- Big and bold tack lycra along front of mouth to hold in place.
- Flip fabric forward and spray glue on back side of fabric and on foam head.
- Ease glued surfaces together as smoothly as possible.
- Cut away excess foam.
- Carefully handsew seam at front underneath. (Could stick on goatee or stipple latex or silicone over surface of whole thing to hide seams).
- Lycra folds can be worry lines or wrinkles or disguised as eyebrows.
- Trim excess lycra.
- Unpick tacking.
- Carefully handsew (or quickly hotglue) rolled over mouth to skin seam.
- Continue easing and pinning to minimalise seams.
- Sew centre chin seam to be smooth and tidy. (Sewing through glue is slow and uncomfortable.)
- Try a nose.
- Cover nose with lycra.
- Hot glue nose to face (in this case making more seams trying to hide one!)
- Hot glue in eyes.
- Hot glue folds of fabric around eyes.
HAIR: (Q: Is it an abominable snowman? A: It’s certainly abominable.)
- Glue hair to head.
- Glue hair down back of neck to disguise seam.
NECK: Try different necks – maybe an old sleeve? Or sock? Or other fabric – chamois or stretchy lycra. Cut out neck tube like a sleeve. Sew it. Pin neck to head – rolling seam over to prevent fraying.
BODY: Find a suitable shirt to stuff. One that’s past caring. Make foam shoulder/chest piece: half a cylinder. Check position of darts to shape form. Mark centre – cut dart. Double check shapes – cut additional dart if necessary. Glue – using contact cement. Add piece to back – this will be the section that rests on your forearm to support the shoulders. BE CAREFUL WITH THE SCALPEL! IT’S SHARP! Glue in place and test fit. Mark and glue lower section to help shape the shoulder/chest piece. Cut sections to allow forearm to rest comfortably in position. Trim away foam. Adjust contours of shoulders & neck opening with roll of foam. Glue outer edge, test shape and fit, trim, then glue inner edge to neck. Roll – neck edge – ease into position. Test fit head. Fit shoulders to shirt – pin and test fit.
ARMS:Start with cardboard tube. Measure to centre but cut on angle. Aprox 200-220 mm for upper arm. Cut with hacksaw. Mark out foam for arm – allow a little more at the top for shoulder. Remember – measure TWICE – cut ONCE.
CONJUNCTIONS: Trim and adjust neckline. Trim and smooth interior. Cut and dart – glue. Joint upper arm to forearm. Trim foam at elbow to make clean join. Glue and join. Test fit arm position. More tweaking neck – dart at front. Checking adjustment
HANDS: Make pattern for wire within outline of your hand. Wire coathanger – finally useful. Bend carefully to shape. Mark joints and bends. Keep checking against pattern. Check fit inside glove. Check pose against hand. Cut foam pattern – wide – allow extra. Glue, squeeze foam to shape over fingers. Stuff foamed hand into glove. Ajust wires to shape. Test fit on arm. Drill holes along top edge of upper arm tube. Sew heavy duty cotton webbing to upper arm for stronger attachment to body. Simple alternative for hand – stuff glove with foam – chopstick helps with stuffing. Pin and sew hand to arm. Double-check orientation of hand/wrist to elbow. Sew shoulder webbing to chest/shoulder section. Double check orientation – does it hang correctly? Pin and sew. Continue stiches along to edge of foam. Sew other hand.
FINALLY: Add additional foam to torso if necessary to shape body, fill it out a bit. Dart as necessary to shape torso. Cut and glue dart. Fit shirt/clothing. Adjust, pin into position. Sew into position around neck to keep collar lined up. Paint, makeup, decorate, dress …
There are as many ways to make a puppet as there are puppets. The only way to find out is to make a puppet.
(Q: How do you make a puppet? A: You just make a puppet.)
Action on the website has been modest, to say the least, in recent months (years?) Mainly because the day job continues to quite rightly get the lion’s share of attention. The Walking With Dinosaurs beasties are being readied for another jaunt around the US of A. Here we see Mama Brachiosaurus getting a road test in the CTC carpark. This is four shots with the A99 and a 24mm wide angle stitched together with the aid of Photoshop. Looks like the extra money spent on the polarizing filter was well-spent as I’m pretty happy with how the clouds came out. Oh, and the dinosaur.
And to go with the photos from the annual book, here’s the talk that I presented at the 2009 event. Lots of puppets, lots of dinosaurs and lots of dinosaur puppets. Also I managed to cover a fair bit of the origins of The Creature Technology Company.
Some days manage to bubble over with job satisfaction. Yesterday, despite a few hiccups, managed to pack in the following;
-listening to Victoria’s radio doco on the way to work, an excellent piece featuring Felix’s voice as well
-another day spent fiddling with dinosaurs at the main gig, Creature Technology Workshop
-leading a Puppet making workshop at the Arts Centre with a group of enthusiastic and attentive Grade Fives
-performing at The Variety Collective with Sarah Jones, Lana Schwarz and others, presenting some new poems by Ken Koala
-discussing puppet mechanisms at length post-show
Went to bed tired but happy.
The Fourth Puppetry(and animatronics) Summit was a boon to humankind, a joy to behold and an outstanding amount of fun crammed into a few short days. After a little bit too much pre-event panic (for me in any case), all seemed to go remarkably well and there was plenty of entertainment, catching up, chatting and puppetry related business. Many thanks to the industrious and enthusiastic organizing committee; Annie Forbes, Sue Wallace, Nancy Black and John Barcham.
Day One for me involved a couple of Puppet Doctor sessions with Dr Tim Denton and Dr (or possibly Nurse) Steve Coupe. Some advice was distributed and hopefully some puppets may either be on the way to recovery or about to undergo new treatments as a result of our prescriptions.
Day Two was full on. I presented my talk on Animatronics, watched a fabulous session on Digital Puppetry (the way of the future?) with Dominic DiGiorgio, Frank Newman and Lynne Kent introduced by Richard Bradshaw. After that, a brisk stroll into my work in progress workshop with Dan Hurlin. Dan was extremely generous and supportive and likewise the disconcertingly large group of observers who had turned up. Thankfully everyone was very helpful and I think I’ll be able to steal or borrow several good ideas from the session to finish the piece (currently titled “Mr Punch is Ready for Love”). A beer and chip later and it was time for the cabaret. Ken Koala was scheduled to kick things off with his theme song and a poem, followed by a reprise of the piece we presented at St Ali’s during the Comedy Festival. I was very fortunate to be accompanied by the talented Lana Schwarcz and of course the wonderful musical genius of Derek Rowe. Derek was handed his script a good hour before the show (which is not entirely unusual for us ) and he delivered a wonderful introduction to the intellectual underpinnings of contemporary puppet theatre. As the photos suggest, it all went downhill from there as Lana and I waggled dollies to the best of our ability. In retrospect, the appearance of our feet under the makeshift playboard may have enhanced the piece although sadly it was not entirely intentional. People were amused and that was the main thing.
Any puppet weekend which leaves you inspired and keen to create is obviously a very good one.
Having berated the offspring for not completing homework on time, I’ve noticed that there’s still quite a bit of prep for me for the upcoming Puppetry Summit.
I’ll also be part of the Puppet Doctors with Steve Coupe and Tim Denton. And I’m doing an interview with Tim Johnson from Dreamworks Animation about the making of ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. And I am planning to complete my transforming marionette in time for the cabaret. And I’m looking forward to all the other talks as well. It will be a busy and entertaining start to July.