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puppetry with transition Year sessions 2- 6

Session 2: Research, Design, and begin Head building

1. Showed the my own Tic Teac show reel as they came in as an example of Table top performance (albeit on a larger scale). Told them about dates of performance in case they wanted to see it. No takers for that, but it was not very ’local’.

2. Welcomed back and gave general introduction to the session. Showed them the group tables where I prepared labels taken from their ’passports’ the previous week - possible categories of shows/films that puppets might share. They chose one table to sit at according to a possible category of story that interests them, although these may not become their final groups for working in, the puppets at one table may become influenced by each other as they are made together and it might be helpful if people interested in similar stories have puppets of the same scale for example. The categories are Cooking; Singing (music); Mermaids / Fairy tales; Accidents; bullying. It will also encourage them to begin to think about story connections between puppets as they make. I could hear this happening in the room as they worked.

2. Gave out their passports for life and checked they have folders in which to keep all their work (offer that they can leave in room if they like).

3. As Feeding/inspiration: showed a you tube film of Hans Jürgen fettig’s table top puppets, how he uses geometric shapes and shadows in place of eyes to let the audience’s imagination do the work. I am not sure that they found this as interesting as I do but they did seem to graps what I asked them to do next so it served its purpose at least.

4. Research and design drawing. Felt their own heads and used paper and pencils to break down the head into basic geometric shapes. Looked at proportions together, of head and body, asked a volunteer to stand so we could work out our ideal height of puppet for their comfort (60 cms) and subsequent size of head approx 10 cms tall). They then did design drawings for this. Showed them design drawings for Dwiggons marionettes and my own ones for Tic Teac, but also mentioned how puppets can break the rules and be caricatures of human form. 

5. Demo, head building, to the scale we had decided. papier mache balls, bottle shapes, egg cartons, etc. letting materials give you ideas, playing with different shapes in different places, etc. Start w neck base on card. Asked them to build basic head structure (leave fixing eyes till later)and let them at it. By then they were eager to go.

6. Before they tidied up I encouraged them to collect necessary remaining materials for next week. 

Session 3: Finish head building. Hand Building.

1. Checked in re notebooks/folders, design materials in them etc, this isn’t happening yet.

2. As some of them had come in late the previous week and didn’t really get a chance to choose seats in the various themed groups I asked were they sitting in the right place with regards to these, and some changed places the motivation for some of which I suspect were social rather than thematic but that is ok too.

3. Invited them to look at each other’s work before we started, to share ideas and learn from each other and as the puppets would be performing together. Checked in / reminder re head building - have they all done necks and bases? Used image resources / inspirations from Art Teacher Association workshops where they had built similar heads which I had on a memory stick. You can see similar work here under a years practice.

4. Did Hand Demo as a few were nearly ready for it. worked out scale in relation to their puppet heads (but again remembering puppets can use exaggerations of scale for character illumination) Broke down into basic shapes, drew onto milk bottles with permanent markers, cut and bent fingers etc. i also showed an alternative way of making it from newspaper. One student wants to make really long thin fingers so she is going to bring in wire next week.

It had been my intention that when all the building was done I would give a papier mache demo, but the early birds were confident they did not need this and I observed that they seemed well used to it as a medium. I did however mention that I recommend that the 1st layer should be newspaper, 2nd layer newsprint, 3rd layer brown paper or tissue paper then paint.

There was a lot of pleasure in making evident in the room and I was impressed with the standard of the work and their confidence and independence. 

5. Before they went invited them to look at each other’s work again, and reminded them to keep collecting materials, bring notebooks etc.


Session 4: Building with papier maché and  tissue or brown paper colored maché.

1. Exhibition again. Showed them their images up on checked in with thereabout this and about Mr mc Ardle’s suggestion later in the session that he put them up also on the school website. Everyone happy about this.

2. Demo papier maché, talked about different colours for different layers. Showed some building tricks - cheeks and wrinkles, balling up wet mache and then covering with layers, or folding and building like that.. Told them I will demo eye lids later, during the final layer. Talked about colours of final layers, using tissue to mix colours showed sample heads. Showed painted one also, and as it has caved in used it also as an example of what happens if you cut corners on papier mache and do it too thin. Demoed hand covering also. 


Session 5: Neck and Shoulders

Let them know that next week we will be half way through our time together so we should be aiming to finish our puppets soon to give us time to devote to learning how to move them, create a playlet or short film for them etc. They are thoroughly enjoying making, however, and I suspect they will not be rushed!

Checked in with where they are at. 

As I am trying to move them towards finishing soon as I want them to have time to learn how to move them and to do something with them I had another go at recommending that they make glove puppets instead of Table top as it is a simpler form not requiring the same extent of body building and where your own fingers provide a nice simple neck mechanism. But they were firm in their unanimous decision and not to be shifted! Then I offered three options for neck mechanisms as this has an impact on papier mache finish and needs to be dealt with now. The first, my recommended, was the ’simple’ where there is no mechanism: you turn the puppet’s whole upper body, it is all attached in one piece. The more complex possibilities are where the neck turns within the shoulder or chest cavity (I showed Mary Mary and Coraline puppets again as examples of this), and a further example (using the Ilse puppet) where there is a kind of fabric hinge support front and back - on our case made from sock fabric - to allow the movement of the head while still keeping neck in position. The majority of the class were happy to go with the simple option. So I demo-ed this first and we discussed shoulder proportions (one and a half heads widths wide) and advised them to build these (from their cardboard base pieces or plastic bottles) before papier machining today so they could begin to extend this down neck and out and around shoulders to strengthen everything in a piece.

About a third of them opted for the more complex mechanisms however so I took them aside after this and we discussed and worked out how they could adapt my more complex mechanisms for their puppets.

I also talked to them then about creating a hand grip or handle on the back of the head, unless they were happy enough about simply operating the head from the back of the neck. Again I had some enthusiasts who wanted to create the more complex hand grip and showed them how to carve two ’caves’ in the back of the head to admit fingers and opposing thumb - but allowing the operator to swap hands, but most of them taped on milk bottle handles and then papier machined them into place later in the session. 

I visited the art teacher in the next room briefly, who is very enthusiastic about the proceedings as she regularly makes puppets with her exam students, and has been in a couple of times to check progress and show us her won sample puppets. She had offered me some scrap foam so I collected this as soon I hope we will move onto the body building and this light material will be useful.

Prep for Session 6 Wrist and lower arms. Eyes

Exhibition again - encourage them to see how each has met the neck and shoulder challenge. 

Demo lower arm making, from cardboard rolls, cut and tightened to appropriate size, and encourage them to attach arms to these before they begin the wet work of papier maché which they can then use to strengthen this joint. For those who like a greater challenge I will also offer a wrist joint option using scrap fabric. We will also put in elastic loops in the palm of the hand for hand operation and prop handling so we can papier mache these in place also. 

Hopefully they are at their last layer of papier mache on the heads and I can demo eye insertion, making of eye-lids to hold in place etc. 



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