Playing Pinocchio! - Week Three

Playing Pinocchio! - Week Three... by Suzanne Kendall

Today, after a couple of weeks of watching demonstrations and listening to talks about puppetry, our puppetry class became practical. I must admit to feeling a little nervous when I was told we would be making muppets! For all intents and purposes we are defining muppets as moving mouth puppets. Many people think that Jim Henson invented the term by blending together the words 'marionette' and 'puppet' but there is some controversy about this... nevertheless, back to muppet making: I might have been a board-treader at school but was never particularly arty or crafty. Art classes were all very well but design technology terrified me - all those glue guns, scalpels  and cutting machines! Today there were glue guns. And scalpels. And electric bread knives!! There was also foam. A lot of foam! The stuff of which muppets are made...

Ordinarily you'd start with a block of foam which you would cut and carve to create the various components of your muppet. But after X number of such muppet making classes, the Little Angel Theatre had accumulated bags of foam off-cuts so we recycled them. In fact, I preferred the off-cuts to a blank block of foam as they had more character depending on size and shape.

We were invited to dive into the pile of foam and choose a few pieces to work with. Essentially, we were looking for two main parts which could fit together to become the muppet's head - top and bottom - separated by the mouth which we would make later...

Here are the pieces I selected. 

I was a bit stuck for ideas at first so decided to make my muppet an accessory out of some other materials. I fashioned a dainty little hat out of black foam and some coloured fur. It looked like a wedding hat / fascinator and it was from this small thing that Maud was born!
A muppet called Maud!

Her hat inspired her hair, her eyes, her nose and her lips. And later, I gave her a beauty spot t'boot! Her character grew as she physically materialised. She's a northerner  (I've given her a Lancashire accent), she goes to a lot of weddings, and she's single so she's always eyeing up and flirting with the male wedding guests! 

I've not had much of a chance to play with her yet - but these are my basic ideas. 
After creating the top and bottom of the muppet's head, the mouth is created. This is also where your hand fits in order to operate the muppet. It's made using a folded piece of cardboard which is attached to both the top and bottom of the head. Some holes are dug into the foam above and underneath the cardboard's attachments for your fingers to fit. Your top 4 fingers slide in above the muppet's top lip, and your thumb under the bottom lip. So if you open and close your hand, the muppet's mouth would open and close. 
I look forward to next week when we'll be doing some more work on sculpting our puppets and in bringing them to life...! 

Suzie x


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