Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It's all over save for the little party hats, and once again, I'm relieved. Not that I dislike the Christmas season. It's just that this is the second year I have managed to be sick. Christmas 2008 was such a viral disaster in this house that we skipped it altogether. This year everyone came to my house, so skipping Christmas wasn't really an option. Ibuprofen and adrenaline got me through the day, and hopefully I have not given any of our 18 guests the gift of flu.

It was a lovely day with family and good food, and when everyone went home, I went to bed and stayed there for the best part of four days. Today I finally felt well enough to do a little work in the studio, and to walk the dog on the path overlooking the links. It was blustery out, and the water was a dark gray-blue today. I never tire of staring at the sound as I walk. It is different every day, and always beautiful.

In the studio, I finished beading the grid piece, which makes me happy. Now I can get a backing on it, and move on to other projects that are simmering in my imagination. I have Plans.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Here are some quick photos of an undressed puppet. I made the heads from papier mache (newspaper strips and liquid starch) over balloons. Then I added features with Celluclay. Chins were wadded up newspaper taped into place, with a "skin" if Celluclay molded over that. Arms were crudely carved from pink insulation foam and covered with the newspaper strips and starch. Thumbs were a separate piece of carved foam taped and toothpicked on. After the heads and arms were dry, I painted them with a fairly thick layer of Liquitex modelling paste, then sanded them a bit smoother when that was dry. After that came a layer of gesso, and a bit of color to emphasize the features.

I made the neck hole a bit larger and jammed rolled up cardboard in to make the neck. I devised a way to cut a hole in the back of the head, and stick a dowel handhold in. Inside the head cavity the dowel also jammed through a hole I cut in the "neck" tube. there is also a smaller dowel that threads up through the neck and into a pre-drilled hole in the handle dowel, up inside the head. This was because the heads are fairly heavy and I wanted to make sure that the handle would not become loose when they were being used. Then I filled the heads with that spray foam insulating stuff from the hardware store. I figured that would fill the hollow heads, and lock everything in to place, and it worked like a charm. When it gets hard, it is almost like styrofoam. What useful stuff! That is the orange gloop you can see. The shoulders are made from two pieces of corrugated cardboard with holes, jammed up on the neck. The upper arm segment is a tube I sewed and sandwiched between the shoulder pieces. I stuffed it lightly, sewed an elbow joint, and shoved, glued and gaff-taped the hand/arms into the ends of the tubes. The shoulders are hot glued together, and to the neck. I also sewed the arm tube to the shoulder on each side just to make sure it didn't shift. The "working" hand has another dowel attached. I drilled a hole, shoved the dowel in, and hot glued. All pretty funky and non scientific, but it works.
When they were finished I propped them up on the bar stools in the kitchen, and gave Mr. B a bit of a turn when he left for work at 5 AM the next morning.
Below are the puppets with their "handlers" on stage.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another Play

Another play under my belt, or maybe I should say out from under my belt. The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge opened last Friday. The set was less complicated to paint, but I was still up to my neck in it, because I built the puppets. This play is a rock and roll take-off of Dickens' Christmas Carol, and we decided to have the parts of the children Want and Ignorance played by puppets. Although I spent many years as a dollmaker, and have extensive papier mache experience, I'm just not much of a puppet person. The director (a former puppeteer, for all you Murphy's Law fans) wanted puppets built life size in a bunraku style, so I spent a lot of Googletime looking at construction methods. Bunraku puppets are really pretty darn cool! But alas, ours needed to be operated by one inexperienced stagehand each, so the ones I built were perhaps more of an homage to bunraku than the real deal.  I took some construction photos, and will post them as soon as I gather them up in one spot. In the meantime, here is a rehearsal shot of our play, which opened to rave reviews, by the way.