My last blog post followed my process of designing rod puppets, through to building their pipe and plywood cores and bulking these out with carved blue foam. The next stage is to realise the fabrication, which is when the characters really start coming to life.
Before covering the puppets in fabric I wanted to make sure that their body surfaces were extra-smooth, so covered the blue foam in a thin layer of wadding.
I'm fabricating one puppet at a time, with the aim of finishing one per week. I've started with the lion, going by this illustration for the general final aesthetic and colouring:
After covering him in wadding, I started to think more about how I would make the mane. I felt that it needed some sort of structure as the base for covering, so started to build up blue foam shapes which emulated hair.
At this stage the lion was ready to be covered. It's important that the 'skin' of a puppet doesn't hinder its movement, so I chose a fabric with plenty of stretch in it. This also means it can be pulled nice and taught over the foam, creating a finish with minimal creasing. I dyed stretch jersey a deep caramel for the main skin, and also a variety of scrap fabrics for the mane covering.
Pinning the fabric to the foam is helpful for initial positioning, especially on more detailed areas like the face. The fabric is secured by either glue or a hidden stitch, whichever is more appropriate.
The covering process is quite organic - it's hard to 'pattern cut' for it as such. It's a case of pinning, cutting and re-pinning until a nice smooth finish is achieved.
When the basic covering of the body was finished, I started thinking more about the textures and shades of rusty orange I wanted to cover the mane in. I narrowed down my dyed fabrics to my three favourites and cut them into lots of strips - strips shaped like the blue foam underneath. Following these contours, I built up layers of these fabric pieces to create the look of a flowing mane.
My lion puppet is now fully covered, but there are still many details and stages of rendering to go through before he's finished. This guy is looking forward to having eyelids, whiskers and a tail to name but a few things! Let's not forget that all-important kingly crown.
Stay tuned for my next post, which is likely to include some photos of this guy finished and Rudolph's covering in the works.
Thanks for reading!