Enthusiasts for all things puppety, Phlippa Robbiins and I are in the early stages of our first collaboration as artists. To kick-start the process we’re both making some glove-puppets. My first effort is a cyclops, begun in Philippa’s kitchen last week, and finished yesterday here at Ty Isaf. He’s made of gessoed papier-mâché and painted canvas.
No special reason for making this particular character, beyond the fact that I produced a ‘pop-up’ paper-engineered cyclops for my folding-books project last year (see above) and I liked him so much that I thought I’d make a glove-puppet version.
Above: drawings for the puppet.
Above: gessoed papier-mâché marked in Conté pencil to see if the shape needs any adjustment before being painted in shades of grey and black.
Above: once the head has been painted, the fangs are added.
Above: the head and hands are fitted to the painted canvas body, and chest hairs are knotted in.
Above: finally, a one-shoulder garment is made from a loose-weave textile painted to look like animal skin.
This was just a little project to get myself into the swing of ‘making’. The cyclops may not appear in the exhibition, but I’ve enjoyed thinking my way into the various processes required to produce him.
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He is Polyphemus, tricked by Theseus, yes /no? Well, bless him, he looks like he’d be yelling out “Nobody” and getting a tad annoyed!
Love as ever
He is indeed. (Well spotted!) I always loved that story, with the men clinging to the bellies of the sheep in order to escape. But the bit with the stake through the eye makes me wince, and I don’t want to put my cyclops through that! I don’t think he’s going to eat anyone anyway.
i *LOVE* this guy!!! a thousand questions, beginning with one: how did you make the shape of his head? i am trying to make something three-d, and i keep staring at the head and knowing that if i try to put paper over it now, it will cave in.
my favorite line: “and chest hairs are knotted in.” ha!!
this guy is awesome.
First make a rough head shape in balled kitchen-foil around a sturdy cardboard tube that forms the puppet’s neck. (The tube is the housing where the operator’s index finger lodges to work the glove-puppet. The finger needs to fit quite snugly so that the head doesn’t wobble about.) Begin working over the top of the foil with torn-off pieces of brown paper gum-strip, the kind that you have to moisten with water. I use pieces about the size of a large stamp. To begin with the moistened gum-strip won’t want to stick to the kitchen-foil, but persevere and eventually you’ll get it roughly covered. The shape will be wet, wobbly and fragile, but set it aside to dry and then start adding more gum-strip. Work in even layers of gum-strip, filling out the shape and strengthening the sculpt. (Build the hands the same way.) Gradually the head begins to take on solidity. When it’s more or less what you want, add more layers until it feels sturdy when dry.
Brush with gesso, adding layers of the plaster mix until the head is well covered. (Each layer must dry before adding the next.) When the head is as you want it, sand it to your preferred finish. I like my surface quite rough. Paint as desired.
This technique is reliable, though it takes practice to be able to sculpt the gum-strip as you want it. Don’t give up. You can work very quickly, especially if you hasten the drying by putting the sculpts into a low oven. I finished the head and hands of the cyclops in about a day.
ah thank you so much, i have a wire shape but this will help me infinitely. you are amazing!!
You can make quite a reasonable shape with the balled-up foil. Not a lot of detail, but a good support for the laminate of gum-strip. And if you get too frustrated trying to stick the first layer of gum-strip onto the foil, you can get a better grip by wrapping the foil shape with masking-tape, which the gum-strip will more readily adhere to.
I love his chest hairs and his one roving eye… too covetable to be scary Clive! I saw Philippa’s exhibition in Abergavenny and it was great to see that drawing up close of the puppets in Belgium so I anticipate intriguing creatures emerging from a collaboration between you both. I also quite fancy joining in with making a glove puppet too and it reminds me that I must send you a link. E mail to follow.
So pleased that you saw Magical Thinking, Lesley. It was a great show, and the gallery hung it beautifully.
I agree with Peter, he’s AWWWESOME, i can practically hear him going ‘grrrrrrrrr’ while he’s stomping about being very angry, the perfect cyclops. That drawing in red crayon is marvellous too, full of energy
Hello Phil. Glad you like the little one-eyed chap. He was just a bit of fun really, but a lively addition to the puppet cabinet nonetheless. Should have got him finished for Halloween, but I started too late. He does stomp and growl very convincingly, though I think he may be a bit of a cowardly lion behind the bluster.
Nothing like working in red crayon to get the energy flowing!
This sounds such a wonderful idea…..a really exciting get-together of talent. Can’t wait to see the end result! I love the Cyclops….especially his hands and that rather Rimmel nail varnish…..
What colour might that Rimmel nail-varnish be? Cyclops Noir?
Yes…that’s on his right hand….on the left hand I think it’s ‘eau de cyclops’…a scratch n sniff nail-varnish.
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Endearing and charming in a way. But then you think about Stephen King or even The Monkey’s Paw and you realize that it can be the cutest, seemingly funny haint that can become the monster under the bed. Puppets by nature are both humorous and….otherworldly, inhabited by spirits unfathomable, and made to charm us then ….grab us (whether for comic relief or the grand scare)!
I thank you, Wordmeister, for adding ‘haint’ to my lexicon of what may be used to describe an apparition. I love the getting new words, and I can see I shall get a good many from you.
A puppet by its nature is a construct out of which an appearance of life can be conjured, and so despite the modern perception of the cute, child-oriented puppet performance, for me it will always be one of the darker arts. After all, is there anything more chilling than a ventriloquist’s doll? Oh my!!!
Oh yes! And when we think they are saying ‘a gottle of geer’ they certainly are not….they’re saying ‘I’ll throttle you here’. Is it me or is it cold in here?? 🙂
I feel the spirit of M R James in the air. He didn’t write about puppets, but he did conjure a pretty scary haunted doll’s house!
I reckon Jeffery will increase your Southernisms! So glad you’re collaborating with Philippa…
Ah yes, it was only a matter of time before Philippa and I were going to try and work out a way of collaborating.
I didn’t realise ‘haint’ was a ‘Southernism’. I must brush up my accent.
Awesome! I love this 🙂
I do think that he looks cute and ‘a bit cross’ rather than fierce and scary though!
This post reminded me of my ‘Artlog Puppet Challenge’ suggestion I made a few months ago. If you are still interested I did write a bit of text on the theme,
which I can send to you?
P.S. ‘the chest hairs are knotted in’ description made me laugh (though i’m not sure why?!)
You’re right, Peter, he is on the cute side of fearsome.
Oh my, I’d forgotten your suggestion. (Sorry, too many things going on in my head this year!) Yes, please send the text. I wonder what Artloggers might make of a puppet-making challenge. It would be quite an undertaking for those with limited time, but let’s discuss and try and work out between us whether it could be made to work.
‘Knotting’ is a wig-making term, used when individual hairs are secured into a mesh foundation by knotting. The cyclops just has a scattering of chest-hair made from button thread, so nothing very fancy, but the term still holds.
Ah, now I see! thank you for explaining the term ‘knotting in’ 🙂
Love the idea of a puppet-making challenge!!!
It was Peter Slight’s brainwave, so he must take the credit. I’ll discuss the matter further with him and we’ll cook up a scheme. But I’m glad you think the challenge a good idea, Shellie. Will you join in?
Ooooh…yes! Like a shot!
Great! Then we’re off! (-;
So….do we have a theme for our darling puppets? Love from Excited of Hereford xxx