I recently went to a Shadow Puppet workshop at Art Matters run by the inspirational Lynne Firmager. I thought I’d share the process with you. Shadow Puppets are a traditional form of story telling in many cultures, the most famous of which are Indonesian; they can be highly intricate or very simple.
1. Draw a character onto a piece of card (cereal packets etc are ideal), it doesn’t have to be human, the only limit is your imagination. If you’re easily intimidated by drawing, it can help to copy from a photo.
2. Add details within your silhouette and cut them out with a scalpel, being very careful with the blade. Save the plastic wrapper from sweets and stick them over the detail to give colour to your shadow puppet. You can paint your puppet if you wish.
3. Choose how you want your puppet to move and divide it into sections. Cut out your design and punch a hole in both pieces, then join with a paper fastener. You can see my fox has a join in the middle and at the tail; whilst my naked lady (above) has lots of joints for her limbs.
4. Now its time to fix sticks to your puppet. We used gardening sticks but any long stick will do. Create a simple hinge by folding over a small rectangle of cardboard. Tape your stick to one side of the hinge, and tape the other side to the back of your creature, so the stick is at a right angel to the puppet. Attach one stick to each part of your puppet.
5. Art Matters provided a screen, but if you don’t have one you could easily make one by hanging a white sheet from a laundry line and shining a lamp behind it. Hold your puppet close to the screen for a sharply defined silhouette.
What I love about shadow puppetry is that it’s not the puppet itself which is the aim, but its shadow. This gives a living, ethereal dimension to what in the cold light of day is simply an old cereal packet and lots of sellotape.
My next task is to create a shadow dustbin for my fox to rummage through! The next workshop Lynne runs will walk us through creating scenery and putting on shows with our puppets. People came up with a really interesting mix of puppets, including a tree moving in the wind, an owl and a teenage girl.
I like the effect of the lady’s shadow, its like she’s getting dressed in a tent and the viewer is intruding on a private moment!