pour encourager les autres

Artloggers’ fingers have been busy busy busy, and today, by way of an encouragement, I post a cache of images sent to me and to curator Peter Slight by some of you already underway with the Puppet Challenge. A number of contributors are still in the world of notions and sketches, while others have been off from the starting blocks like steeplechasers, and are already on a second… or in some cases a third… puppet.

Philippa Robbins has been preoccupied with making puppet heads for some months.

I’m not too sure whether the most recent (see below) is for the Puppet Challenge or for a separate puppet-related project that Philippa and I are working on. I suspect that at this point it doesn’t really matter. She’s been making no preparatory sketches, but just confidently launches straight in with the making and gets wonderful results.

Ruth Barrett-Danes takes as her theme The Mistletoe Bough, a song of the 1830s that recounts the cautionary tale of a playful bride. In a game of hide and seek with her ‘lord’, the unfortunate closes herself into a heavy oak chest that becomes her tomb.

‘At length an oak chest, that had long lain hid,
Was found in the castle — they raised the lid,
And a skeleton form lay mouldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!
O, sad was her fate! — in sportive jest
She hid from her lord in the old oak chest.
It closed with a spring! — and, dreadful doom,
The bride lay clasped in her living tomb!
Oh, the mistletoe bough.
Oh, the mistletoe bough.’

In Italy, Anna Marchi has her sights set on the darkly glittering tale of Duke Bluebeard. At her blog she engagingly describes him as:

 ‘but a shadow, pale blue in the face.’ 

… which I like rather a lot.

Like Ruth Barrett-Danes, Nicky Arscott has found inspiration in a song. She writes:

‘The figure is Lillie Flower, a tragic heroine from a folk ballad called ‘Jellon Grame’. Her horrible lover kills her, as usual. It’s all a bit violent and tragic, but I quite like the idea of being able to stitch her up and bring her back to life again.’

Caroline McCatty is excavating inspiration from the Chinese fairytale of The Flying Ogre, in which the eponymous giant disguises himself as a little girl. This carries Caroline into the wonderful world of transformation puppets… a tradition that I love… and I greatly look forward to seeing how she manages the trick. She writes:

‘I had the idea of making a little girl glove-puppet whose head will open and the ogre will be inside.’

It looks as though beasts and animals are to feature quite a lot. Val Littlewood has made this atmospheric sketch of a dragon puppet she plans to make:

Lynne Lamb’s second puppet of the challenge is a wolf:

Chloe Redfern has plans for King Arthur on his steed:

and illustrator Judy Watson is exploring the idea of the kangaroo Greyfur from the Australian fairytale Whispering in the Wind.

We will be posting occasional updates of puppets in progress, so please keep us up to speed with your ideas and work. In the meantime you may enjoy casting an eye over the Guides to Puppetry I’ve been offering as inspiration. Click to find find posts on Glove-Puppets, Shadow Puppets and Marionettes parts 1 and 2 . There’s also a post on Dada and Constructivist Marionettes of the Twentieth Century. (You can’t say I don’t cast my net wide!) Still to come are posts on the Japanese puppet-tradition of Bunraku, Rod-Puppets and Hybrid-Puppets.

8 thoughts on “pour encourager les autres

  1. A very exciting crop of ideas/puppets in the making in this post – as Phil says, it’s inspiring to see such variety. I am really loving trying out new ideas and am boggled that, over the years from art school onwards, I have drawn puppets, painted puppets, photographed puppets but never actually made any before! So hooray for the Artlog and Peter’s idea for the challenge – it really is opening my mind up like the hinge on a treasure box! Thank you.

  2. Well, this post really is a great encouragement; i think what is so useful is seeing how many different kinds of puppets there are and how much wider is the scope for inventiveness than i’d previously imagined – I’ve been thinking in quite conventional terms and this outpouring of creativity has inspired me to try and be a bit more bold. I’m also drawn to the notion of transforming puppets you mentioned, so that’s going to keep me busy!
    I’m looking to try using some fairly thin metal rods to move a puppet and not quite sure how to get these together at the moment , so any suggestions welcome – would you use coat hangers , or are there such things pre-made you can buy?

    • Phil, don’t use coat-hanger wire. Too bendy. For the articulated Mari Lwyd done for The Mare’s Tale filmed sequences, here in Aberystwyth I found a bin of thin steel rods in our tiny but all-purpose art/craft shop. But I could just as easily have got away with using thin garden cane, which has the added advantage of being easy to paint with black gouache. (For the filming I coated the steel-rods with matt paint, but had to re-do them frequently as the gouache scraped off the metal too easily.)

  3. I love the variety there is. How many ways can we create little lives? I have to say we are currently at an impasse due to a cracked headstock on the tripod (and a mountain of primary school marking to boot). The weight of the better lens swings the head around and we end up animating the wall.

      • No. The housing for the tightening screw on the tilt handle has cracked right across. We can’t complain, my husband thinks he has had the tripod for 36 years. In which time it has travelled far and wide. My lovely Dad sent us a replacement; we have the legs but the new headstock doesn’t come ’til Tuesday. I am now searching across the internet to see if anyone “breaks” old tripods for parts as I really like our old one. In the meantime thought I might try out some alternative heads for Bloduewedd in her owl form and maybe feel brave enough to make her in her flower form. Find that a bit scary as I not the most figurative of artists. Also realised this reply is turning into a posting of it’s own!

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