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My friends, I have been making puppets

by Sayraphim on October 15, 2009

Teaching rounds are good but work-intensive, which is why I’m a little quiet around here at the moment…BUT

After our show Everything Will Be Ok, finished, it sparked a puppet making frenzy. I have embarked on attempting one of each style of puppet there is, from materials found around the home.

Firstly: The Bunraku style puppet from toilet paper rolls, foil, kebab sticks and wool:
There is a lot of controversy about use of the term “Bunraku”. Either it’s a certain style of puppet that usually takes two to three people to manipulate or it’s a very specific style of puppetry that only ancient Japanese people can do, the secrets of making them are closely held and no-one in the Western world can know. Japanese puppeteers can train for up to 10 years before they’re allowed to puppet anything other than a foot. This is why I have referred to this as a Bunraku ‘style’, rather than the actual puppet type, I don’t tend to like to enter into fights that don’t seem to matter. And, after all, they didn’t have toilet paper rolls in ancient Japan. Dontcha just LOVE craft materials?

The next guy I made is a rod puppet from dowel, felt, some stuffing, a coat hanger, an old pillowcase and two buttons:


The wrists spin quite a lot, being due to the fact they’re just plaited wool. I’d want to look at another way to do it next time. But these are all test puppets so I can learn to make them and we can learn to puppet them. So for a first effort, making it all up as I went along, it’s not too bad.

And this rod puppet from pencils, scraps of leather, some left over scraps of the aforementioned pillow case, a wooden bead and another coat hanger:


This guy (and his lady puppet) are tiny, about a hand and a half high. The culmination of hot glue and thick leather in the joints have made them both a little hard to manipulate, but I’ve learned heaps from it to make the next lot.

I’ve got the rod puppet and the bunraku style puppet photographed step by step, I can write a tutorial for either but the bunraku is pretty damn easy to make. You imagine the joints of a human and stab corresponding holes in the toilet rolls, thread them through with wool… And if you happen to have half a role of cheap aluminum foil the head practically makes itself! Left over theatrical props are dreadfully useful for this type of thing.

I’m such a fan of puppets. Little inanimate objects that are endowed with life, it’s right down my alley!

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