Tuesday, February 28, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Neck, Step 1


Measure around your hand and forearm to get the neck sleeve width. Making the sleeve fit comfortably is important - doing otherwise will limit the manipulation possibilities. Using your measurements, cut a large rectangle out of fabric for the puppet’s neck.

Monday, February 27, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 13


1) Use your own arm as a guide to figure out the orientation of the puppet's elbows and wrists.

2) Pin the hands in place.

3) Using a sturdy needle and strong thread, sew the hands to the arms. The hand material will be difficult to sew through because of the glue, so stitch carefully.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 13


Cut off the excess fabric as close to the seam as possible. As you cut, the scissors will pinch the fabric and help the glue to bond. If there is an area where the fabric is separating, glue it with a little contact cement.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 12



After the Super 90 has a chance to sit for about 30 seconds, place the hand palm side down on one side of your fabric. Fold the other side of the fabric over the top of the hand and press down. Make sure you press firmly all over the hand paying special attention to where the two sides of fabric come together.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday Fun, Tim Miller


This rat puppet was made by puppet builder Tim Miller. Along with being a talented builder he is also a very skilled sculptor. Professionally he has sculpted portraits for the best including Sideshow Toy, and McFarlane Toys. His most recent projects include the sold out Kit Fisto from the Star Wars prequels, Napoleon Dynamite, and Jackie Robinson.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 10


It's time to fabricate the puppet's hands. The technique I'm going to demonstrate is a bit quick and dirty, but it will save you from doing a lot of sewing. If gluing isn't for you, simply use your hand pattern to create a top and bottom piece. Cut them out and sew them around the foam hand. If you're using shiny material like spandex sewing is your best choice because the glue doesn't adhere well to those materials.

If you're gluing, spray Super 90 on both sides of the puppets hands. Remember that when ever you are using contact cement wear latex gloves, use a respirator, and work in a well ventilated area.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 9


Apply Barge Cement to the flat tips of the puppet's fingers. After about 30 seconds pinch the finger tips to round them.

Monday, February 20, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 8


Use a Sharpie to mark the desired length of your puppet's fingers - if you want all the fingers to be the same length, skip this step. Using your mark as a guide, pinch the armature wire through the foam with pliers or wire cutters. Once the wire is cut, use scissors to snip the foam to the same length.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 7


1) Use a Sharpie to mark the desired placement of the puppet's fingers on the outside edge of the palms.

2) With an exacto blade puncture a small hole at each mark.

3) Apply Barge Cement to the base of each finger, and around the outside edge of the puppet's palm.

4) Once the glue is ready, incest the armature wire into the holes, and press the fingers onto the outside edge of the palm.

5) Once all of the fingers are in place. pinch the outside edges of the palm together to give the hand a nice finished look.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 6


Apply Barge Cement to the flat ends of each of the puppet's fingers. After about 30 seconds or once the glue dries, pinch the sides together to make the fingers round.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday Fun, Chensational Puppets


This cute cat puppet was made by Toronto based puppet designer and builder Kanja Chen. His company Chensational Puppets offers a variety of high quality puppets at affordable prices. In addition to being a puppet builder and a professional puppeteer, Kanja is a full time teacher in the Toronto Public schools. He regularly uses many of his puppets to teach children ranging in ages from 4 - 7 years old. To learn more please visit chensational.com, or view more of his puppets on his Flickr photo page.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 5


1) Snip eight pieces of armature wire that are about a half an inch longer than the fingers.

2) Lay one strip of wire onto each piece of foam keeping about half an inch of wire exposed at the bottom of the finger.

3) Spray with Super 90.


4) After about 30 seconds, or once the glue has dried, fold the foam onto it's self like a taco sandwiching the wire inside.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Puppet Fest MidWest


PuppetFest MidWest is an independent, annual puppetry festival that is presented, organized and financially supported by puppeteers as a gift to other puppeteers. It is an affordable puppet festival, with an emphasis on showing and teaching the traditional skills of good puppet theater.

Festival attendees participate in a four day in-depth workshop, and watch world-class puppet performances. The workshops and performances will be lead by some of the top puppeteers working today: Drew Allison, Nick Barone, Luman Coad, Pam Corcoran, Phillip Huber, Lynne Jennings, Paul Mesner, and Jim Napolitano.

Puppet Festival are a great place to learn new puppet building and performing skills, meet interesting people, and network with other puppeteers. For more information visit puppetfestival.org.

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 4


Spray an even coat of Super 90 onto each piece of foam.


Let the glue dry for about about 30 seconds, and then place the foam piece with out the armature onto the foam piece with the armature wire and press down. Make sure the armature wire says is place and is firmly sandwiched between the two pieces of foam.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Online Puppet Company Directory


I was just checking the Puppetry Home Page today and discovered that they are no longer listing performance companies. The up keep and link maintenance alone is an unending task, so I don’t blame them. The good news is I found a new site (through the Puppetry Home Page) that has a list of 2168 companies in 72 countries. Check out Titeres, and visit the Worldwide Directory.

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 3


Bend armature wire to fit inside each of the puppet's palms. Make sure the wire is at least a half an inch from the edge of the foam.

Monday, February 13, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 2

Just like most cartoon characters many puppets have four digits on each hand. I've found that unless they are really skinny, giving your puppet five fingers looks crowded. Making the three fingers and thumb for each hand will require a total of eleven separate pieces of foam.


1) Cut out the palm from the hand pattern.

2) Trace the palm four times onto a sheet of half inch foam, and cut out with an exacto knife.

3) Measure the length of the longest finger.

4) Measure the width of the same finger and multiply it by three or four, depending on the desired thickness of the finger. This may take a little trial and error, if necessary experiment with a scrap of foam.

5) Using the length and width measurements, draw a rectangle on butcher paper and cut out.

6) Trace the finger pattern eight times onto half inch foam and cut out with an exacto knife.

These hands will also require armature wire, but not yet.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Hands, Step 1


Now we are ready to make the puppet's hands. Begin by drawing a pattern for the hands on butcher paper. I like puppets with large hands - they look particularly good on skinny arms, and they make for an expressive puppet.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Arms, Step 4


Feed the stuffed liner into the terry cloth tube. An advantage to using a stuffed liner with material like terry cloth, is it will keep the arms from stretching. The liner also keeps the stuffing evenly distributed, and it gives you an invisible elbow.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Fun, Jim Henson's Puppet Improv


For the past nine months Patrick and I have been taking puppet improv classes at the Jim Henson Company with Groundlings performer Patrick Bristow. Now a selection of puppeteers from that class, (including Brian Henson and Bill Barretta) are taking the show to the Aspen Comedy Arts Festival in March. I was fortunate enough to participate in the second puppet improv show that played to an invitation only audience at the Jim Henson Studios a while back, and I know this show will be hilarious. If you are planning to attend the Festival don't miss Jim Henson's Puppet Improv.

For more information check out Andrew's post on Puppet Vision, the Aspen Comedy Arts Festival, and Muppet Central.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Arms, Step 3



1) Trace the same pattern that you used before onto your arm material. In my case I'm using the terry cloth that I dyed orange with Rit Dye.

2) Pin the arms so they can be machine sewn.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Arms, Step 2


Make an elbow by machine sewing a line right across the middle of the puppet's arm. Next use batting to stuff the two sides of the fabric tube. Do not over stuff, or under stuff the arms - they should be slightly flexible and yet not too stiff.

Monday, February 06, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Arms, Step 1

Now it's time to make the puppet's arms. I am a fan of skinny arms, they give your puppet a great range of motion and lots of movement possibilities (read more about spindly arms in Puppet Design). I also think it's very important for puppet arms to have elbows and not bend like rubber hoses (unless that is an effect you are trying to achieve). The technique I'm going to show you will teach you how to make skinny arms with an invisible elbow.

1) Draw your puppet arm pattern out on a sheet butcher paper, and cut out.

2) Trace your pattern onto a piece of thin cotton material. This will be a liner and not visible so any material will do.


3) pin the material so it can be machine sewn.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Ears and Tongue, Step 7

Now I'll attach the puppet's ears to the head.


First find the proper placement. You want to make sure the ears are an equal distance from the top of the head, and in line with one another. If you are having difficulty centering them, take the puppet to a mirror. This is a technique I use when sculpting, it helps you to see imperfections. Once you've got the ears in the right spot pin them down.


Using the same stitch I described in a previous post, sew the ears to the head.


The head is nearly finished. Next I'll begin work on the puppet's body.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Ears and Tongue, Step 6


Pin the pink Muppet fleece to the front of your puppet's ear, and the orange terry cloth to the back. Using the stitch I detailed in a previous post, sew the fleece to the terry cloth. Do not sew the bottom of the ear - we'll be sewing that to the puppet's head.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Yet Another Nice Note

Here is another nice note I received from a new reader:

Wow - what a great find! I'm trying to get into puppets as both a creative outlet and for my church. I've just ordered the foam book/video - but your posts look even better! What a great find and thank you so much for sharing. This is wonderful material. I'm going to track back and try and follow it from the beginning, I'm really excited to follow along and get my own going!


B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Ears and Tongue, Step 5


Use Barge Cement to glue the tongue inside the puppet's mouth.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Another Nice Note

I’m glad so many people are finding Puppet 101 helpful. I wanted to share another nice note I got from one of my readers:

I've been looking all over the web for some step-by-step foam puppet construction. I couldn't find anything. Then, I stumbled upon your blog. It's all the info I could hope for, so I just wanted to say... Thanks.

- Michael

B.A.R.K. Production Journal: Puppet Ears and Tongue, Step 4


Sandwich the puppet's foam tongue between the two pieces of Muppet fleece you cut out. Using a simple whip stitch sew the two sides of the fleece together. Once you have sewn the tongue, use a straight pin to pick the fibers out of the seam. This will make it virtually invisible.