Sunday, February 6, 2011

Puppet Materials?

We need to decide what to make our first puppets out of. Ideally they will be a puppet-building practice exercise for our real main-character puppets, so we should make them out of whatever we plan on making Lucy and Oscar out of. 


Jonathan, Kirsten, and I were thinking about the pros and cons of felt vs. wire frame with paper mache, and hand puppets vs. stick puppets. 

Felt: we don't know a lot about it, but it seems like a cool material, and could end up being really nice looking and sturdy. Where do we get the wool? How hard is it to do? Could we have easily moveable joints?
Wire frame + paper mache: Jonathan made a wire-frame prototype for Don Quixote that has really well-functioning joints and looks good. The paper mache would be the questionable part regarding appearance, and possibly durability/good motion.

Hand Puppets: Easily moveable mouth, but that would use up one whole hand, and would also possibly make the puppets really big. If we used just one finger to move the bottom jaw, the size issue might be remedied. Do we need a moveable mouth?
Stick Puppets: No moveable mouth, but we could probs move two arms instead of one arm and a mouth. 

We would like to start building our self-puppets on Friday at Kirsten's dad's office at 10:00am (there's a Ben Franklin very nearby, so we could tromp over and make our first materials purchase there), so spare a couple thoughts for the material and design questions here before Friday.


  1. Hey I know alll about felt. The easiest way to get the wool roving is to order it online, I can ask the textile dept at vcu where they get theirs from, they order it in bulk. It's a super easy process, but I prefer needle (dry) felting because it's less messy and stinky than wet. We could have easily moveable joints too. It would be the same process as a wire frame with paper mache, but we would just felt around the wire rather than paper mache it.

    I think the paper mache v. felt thing is more a matter of appearance. For the size puppets we're making, the wool wouldn't be a huge drag on our budget by any means.

    We could use hand puppets for closer shots, and stick puppets for when the shot is more zoomed out and we need a sense of scale/movement of the characters within a larger space.

    I have class til 1:50 pm on fridays, would I be able to take the bus to the office?

  2. Alternatively, we could also sew our puppets together with fabric and stuff them. We have access to more than one sewing machine, but we're not making anything that large so we could just do it by hand a la my slug.

  3. I am more and more convinced that we could do this easily without moveable mouths, although I think a joint in the neck is necessary for turning the head back and forth (looking around, shaking or nodding the head).

    Felt sounds pretty great to me, and from what you made on Friday, it looks like we can get pretty specific shapes, right?
    Barrage of questions:
    Can we get really small details too? Perhaps facial features would be cut out from felt cloth or something...?
    When we get the wool would we dye it ourselves or would we order it in colors?
    When you say we'd build it around a wire frame, would we use something as detailed as Jonathan's Don Quixote or would we just make a wire stick figure so that the felt could attach to the ball joints of the wire structure?

    I get the impression that felt would look a little better than sewn/stuffed puppets (might just be a personal preference, and an excitement for playing with felt.)

    Also, ahh! Sorry, didn't mean to schedule during your class. If its okay with everyone else, we can easily switch the time to after your class - say 2:30? If Kirsten or Allie can give us a ride there one of them could swing by and pick you up coming out of class, and we could call it 2:00...?

  4. Yes you can get very specific shapes.
    We can get small details, you just have to be careful. Also it's okay if we make mistakes, because those are very easily fixed in felt as well.

    If we get felt cloth, it would probably be more difficult to manipulate, because the felt is industrial quality, meaning that the fibers are pretty stuck where they are. If we start with roving, there's more wiggle room.
    We could either dye the wool ourselves or get it pre-dyed colors. The textiles dept at VCU has a dye room that we could use. The primary issue with dyeing is that it takes a lot of time--both for the dyeing process and for the wool to dry.

    If we get pre-dyed wool, it might not be the color we want but we can just mix different colors together with a carder, kinda like with paint (ish). The textiles dept has a carder too.
    For a wire frame, either works. I used chicken wire to felt around for a textiles project last semester that worked fine. The amount of detail of the wire frame only depends on whether or not you want the puppets hollow or made of felt completely. Making hollow puppets would cut back on both weight (and the structural complications that go along with it) and material (ultimately meaning cost).
    Also, to dry felt we would need both the wool and felting needles, which are available at craft stores only sometimes. You can buy felting kits, but they are more expensive than they're worth.

    I would recommend buying in bulk through an online retailer, but shipping time is time lost for working. If we buy online, we probably won't get our supplies for puppet-making by Friday either.
    Is everyone in the group going to work on puppets together, or is this when we start differentiating jobs? I have a concern that if we are all working on separate puppets, they might not look very cohesive.

    If we are all working on puppets, perhaps we should delegate assembly-line jobs, like one person creates hinge/joint mechanisms, one person makes the wire frame, one person felts the big parts, one person does the details.
    Sorry this comment is so long :/

  5. Felting sounds good, and I would gladly take my place on an assembly line as wire manipulator. We'll just have to deal with the shipping time if that's the best way to get felting supplies.

    That might not spell doom for the friday meeting. We'll need to focus on structure and controllers before we start felting. Puppetry is about movement.

    I think we should treat these first puppets as prototypes for our characters, even though we just need them for the photo shoot.

    long comments ok

  6. agree agree agree - Kirsten and Allie, does this all work for you guys? and does the friday at 2ish thing work for you?

  7. Yes, everything works for me! Felt puppets sound amazing!

  8. The textiles department orders from here:

    but they primarily get their stuff from a guy with no website and a phone number. I don't know if it's cheaper or what, but I have his information and we can ask him for color cards, or look at the ones they have in the dept.

  9. This is a place that sells felting needles:

    They advertise felting needles on the websites of places like joann's and kmart, but I've never seen them in stock when I actually go to the store. We can always check ben franklin though, since we're already going there for supplies

  10. I am excited about ordering from this mysterious feltman.

    If we're planning on buying A Lot of supplies at Ben Franklin, we should call Deborah today to set up a time she can call in our money.

    It might behoove us to stop by Lowes beforehand to get wire and washers and anything else that could come in handy. I'm thinking about joints and hinges, especially.

  11. Is there someone you can ask about any price difference btw. the two? Also do you have any idea of how accurate the online colors are? (Will we get our order of blue and it's actually teal or something?)

    I think talking to Deborah today is a good idea - even if we don't get anything from Ben Franklin's, we should definitely get those things from Lowes. How much info does she need about exactly how much we're buying? (Can we say 'We're buying sundry supplies today, probs under $75' or does she need a more specific figure?)

    If you guys are all riding with Kirsten then I would say stop by Lowe's on the way, and I'll meet you guys at the office (I am going to be in the west end and driving back for the meeting at 2:00).

  12. Aaaaa also, Deborah did say that thing about telling her what we want and she'll order it for us from that other place... (that was a little confusing, but I think she wants us to not buy directly from stores because she can get a better price?) That could be annoying, but might help us on the felting-needle end; if she's calling in an order then they'll definitely be in stock rather than us driving out to kmart to be disappointed.


Fill me with your thoughts.