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.