Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hillsboro Handmade Parade puppet workshops

stapling giant puppet headsDonovan Zimmerman of Paperhand Puppet Intervention invited us into his Saxapahaw studio these two Saturdays.

giant puppet heads made over clay armaturesHis group is doing their annual show these weekends and you should go if you can. Here are some puppet heads from the show.

Backpack rig for huge puppetMark Donley (shown here demonstrating a backpack rig for a huge puppet) works for the Hillsborough Arts Council. He's from New Orleans and had a lot of experience there working with parades. He's currently organizing the Second Annual Handmade Parade, taking place on October 17 2009.

making cornstarch glueTo ensure a plethora of odd creatures on the street that day, he offered a workshop, over the course of two Saturdays, teaching the art of huge puppet making and giving us all a huge space, all the tools we needed, and giant vats of cornstarch glue so we could kick-start our own puppets.

giant buddha puppetMost of his giant heads (like this Buddha) are papier mache directly applied over clay-sculpted heads, but that would be an impractical method for churning out street creatures over the course of a weekend, so he showed us how to take cardboard, which is FLAT, and make giant heads, which are ROUND.

statue of liberty puppet headThis gorgeous silvery creature was made with cardboard, not clay.

how to make puppet heads from cardboardDonovan took a large lozenge of cardboard, slashed its perimeter, rolled the slashes towards the back, and stapled them together with his ultra-cool Rapid 31 Sword-Point Stapler which I immediately went home and ordered. Why had I never seen one of these before? Why have I had to live my life without it?

giant heron puppetThen Mark and Donovan discussed ways to mount and rig the puppets. Some are three-person puppets (one for head, two for hands) the giant heron here is a six person puppet, others can be worn by just one hardy soul.

puppet backpack rigIf you can find an old backpack at the Goodwill, you can remove the frame part and use it to support the stick that holds your puppet's head above the crowd.

rigging a backpack to carry a giant puppetDonovan generously gave me this one for my puppet head, so I guess I'm committed to going to the parade!

a puppet backpack made of pvc pipeIf you can't find an external-frame backback, you can make a rig out of PVC and use fabric bands to keep it on your body.

mark donley wearing a puppet backpack rig and bambooMark demonstrated a lighter-weight version with bamboo poles and showed how the backpack frees the puppeteer to work the arms without assistants.

how to rig a puppet headHere's an approximation of their suggestion for rigging the head itself: bolt a furring strip to the back of the head (they use washers made of smashed-flat beer bottlecaps) and mount a pvc pipe to the wood. The long pole will slip into the pvc casing, and you tie the whole assembly together with a carriage bolt through both the pvc and bamboo.

building a bat puppetAs the workshop was winding down today, this group of teachers was working desperately to get at least one layer of paper mache over their giant bat.

easter island puppet head in truckI tossed my still-wet head (folks said it had an Easter Island feel) into the truck and left.

Here are two other happy twosomes of puppet makers and their output:

crow head puppetThis looked like a cuttlefish for a long time but is a crow's head.

spider puppetI thought this one was a rhinocerous beetle but it's actually a spider.



At 8:30 AM, Blogger peteguts said...

Way "cool"

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous novelera said...

Excellent post about creating these wonderful big puppets. Nearly every year I attend the Carneval parade in San Francisco. This parade is NOT when Mardi Gras or Brazilian Carneval take place. Too chilly and rainy in SF then. Ours is Memorial Day Weekend and is quite a wonderful spectacle. Puppets like those you show are part of many of the floats.

That workshop looks like it was fun!

At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post. we're getting ready for a halloween anti-nuke parade, looking for inspiration. Thanks!


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