Ever since I was a child I’ve been drawn to puppets. There’s something about their jointed limbs which is very appealing; I had a pair of Pelham Puppets which were my favourite toys. When I saw Isobel Smith of Grist to the Mill was delivering a two day course in Exquisite Small Puppets at Phoenix Brighton, I couldn’t resist.
Isobel began by introducing us to her own puppets, gorgeous colourful characters, each one unique and full of personality. The other participants were from a wide range of backgrounds: animation, toy making, art psychotherapy and textiles.
We were each given a chunk of super sculpey polymer clay and jumped straight into making heads, hands and feet for our puppets. We baked them in an oven at 130 for 40 minutes, and they hardened as they cooled. I decided to make characters from Great Expectations, above is Estella before firing and painting.
One lady created a school boy puppet who was a combination of all her sons, complete with big boots and a cigarette. I love his freckles. We painted their faces with acrylics and a bit of PVC glue to help it stick.
My Miss Havisham has arthritic hands and dusty skin, I deliberately ripped her lace dress and stained it with tea and grey paint, to show she’d been living in it for years. Her eyes are vacant and her nose is fine. I will make her a musty wedding cake covered in spiders and cobwebs.
Estella is unfinished, I need to make her a purple dress. Pip and Magwitch are to follow.
“Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces – and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper – love her, love her, love her!”
? Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
We ended with a candle lit ceremony to bring our puppets to life. Baring in mind the breath and pause of the puppet, its intentions, direction of its gaze, and pace of movement. I was captivated.
I’ve signed up for an eleven week puppet making course at the world renowned Little Angel Theatre in Islington.