Peter Slight’s Gingerbread Zombies

My friend Peter Slight made these Gingerbread Zombies after he saw the characters developing in the sketchbooks for my forthcoming Hansel & Gretel picture book. (Random Spectacular, November 2016)

Since Peter brought them here in a carrier-bag, they’ve been hanging out in the upstairs sitting-room where I suspect they watch the ‘Horror Channel’ when my back is turned. They’ve been almost impossible to live with since I told them they’ll be going to London for the book launch, and now they are way too excited!!!

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Hunter’s Lodge

Today in the post, a surprise from my buddy, artist and designer Peter Slight. His fondness for the folkloric character, Herne-the-Hunter, has resulted in this splendid tea-towel!


Here at Chez Ty Isaf we have no dish-washing machine, and so tea-towels are de rigeur. Can’t wait to be doing the drying with this bad boy!

The tea-towel is produced by ‘To Dry For’, and goes by the title of ‘Hunter’s Lodge’. (Of course!)

This is a return for Peter to the theme. He made a splendid Herne-the-Hunter puppet for the Artlog Puppet Challenge in 2013.

And this is a graphic made by him for the Artlog Puppet Challenge.

My thanks to you, Pete. You are a star in my firmament of friends! I’m glad to see that ‘Spidey’ is with you, still happily residing in your hair!

Peter Slight and his Gingerbread Zombie Workshop

Peter Slight is still working away on the Gingerbread Zombies he’s building to help Simon Lewin and me promote the edition of Hansel & Gretel we’re making for the Random Spectacular imprint of Saint Jude’s Prints. You can see an earlier post about what Peter’s been up to:


In this trial illustration, Gretel whacks a Gingerbread Zombie to biscuit crumbs!

Here’s how things are progressing, in Peter’s own words.

1) I whittled the figures down to a more accurate shape.

‘thinning’ the width of the polystyrene was the hardest part. I had to take a bit of artistic licence and in the end I opted for a cross between ‘gingerbread’ thickness, and ‘shortbread’ thickness. If they were too thin they would not be very strong and would also risk looking inconsequential on top of their tumps. (I hope this will not upset the gingerbread purists, causing them to begin baying for my blood!)

2) Next was ’filling in’ along the edges of the figures with the air drying clay. This was to build up the sides all the way around to the same ‘level’. (Where the coat hanger wire runs around the edge of the figures it creates a ‘ridge’ the width of the wire.)
By preparing the polystyrene like this, filling in holes and building up ‘levels’ etc, is an important step prior to covering the figures with their ‘sheets’ of air-drying-clay. (Think of a layer of sheet icing rolled out and laid over a cake. More on that later.)

3) The tumps have been covered with clay and are ready for sanding and covering with the grass texture. (I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s commonly used in model making.) The white ‘sticks’ poking out are chopped up cotton buds stuffed into the holes where the figures leg wires go, otherwise the holes would get ‘lost’ under the clay never to be seen again (this has happened on several occasions on other models, much to my consternation!)

Since taking these photos I have begun covering the figures with the clay, section by section.
They are starting to take shape.

Peter Slight, Gingerbread Zombie fabricator

spideys habitat

The splendid Peter Slight was the curator of last year’s Puppet Challenge here at the Artlog, and can be seen above pointing out the last known whereabouts of his arachnid friend, ‘Spidey’. Peter is in the process of making models of Gingerbread Zombies, inspired by characters from the picture-book of Hansel & Gretel I’m currently working on in collaboration with Simon Lewin at Saint Judes’s Prints. (See drawing below.) Peter’s models will help us promote the book at its launch. (And who knows but that enthusiasts might be able to purchase a Gingerbread Zombie of their very own, if Peter can be persuaded to make some more!) The figure will be finished in an epoxy material, which is how Peter made this Krampus figure for me.)

Here he writes about the process of making.

Progress report so far: 1) I decided to make a paper template of the figure (as though he is lying flat) and then ‘trace’ around its outline with coat-hanger wire. (This seemed like the simplest approach, but will also make the model extremely robust – by my models standards at least.)

2) I was then able to bend the figure into his ‘pose’ and stand him up on a rough tump, to see how it would look. (I left wire trailing from his ‘grounded’ foot to act as a secure fixing point. This also allows him to stand on one leg in a more dynamic pose whilst still be very safely attached to his base)

3) After some adjusting to his pose, I filled in the space/cavity within the wire figure with pieces of polystyrene.

4) After double checking everything fitted into place and filling in some of the larger gaps with smaller pieces of polystyrene. All the polystyrene pieces were glued into place.

After doing my initial sketch by taking elements from several of your designs to create a kind of composite figure, I decided that it looked too much like my own interpretation of the theme and not enough like any of your own designs. So I started a second gingerbread man based on your lumbering ‘karloff’ one, and this will be as close a facsimile to your own sketch as possible.

Since taking the photos, I have started carving the figures and tumps in earnest. They are progressing well. The shape and method of construction has made them surprising easy to make (so far)

Peter Slight January 2015

Peter Slight and the Killer Gingerbread Zombie

Peter Slight is making a three dimensional ‘Killer Gingerbread Zombie’ to help in the promotion of my Hansel & Gretel from Random Spectacular when the time comes. I love Peter’s delightful figures, hand-carved in mixed-medium, though with all the gleaming perfection of plastic toys. He made a wonderful blue Krampus for me (illustrated below) after seeing a collage I’d produced of the demon that comes at Christmas to spirit away naughty children.

Here is our conversation about living dead gingerbread.

  • Peter S: I’ve attached my favoured sketch of the zombie gingerbread man. It’s pretty close to my original sketch of him, but incorporates the tump and stray Allsorts, which I think do make for a stronger design. I tried out some more ‘dynamic’ poses but they all looked like he was diving to save a football! My models usually take on a life of their own and tend to evolve as I’m making them, so it may not end up looking exactly like the sketch, and is therefore more of a guide than a rigid template. What do you think??
  • Clive H-J: Those eyes might be smaller and set higher in the brow, to give a more sinister expression. And he’ll need a texture to suggest gingerbread, or he could look like an evil jellybaby! But I think it’s all looking most promising. I do like the Allsorts, which somehow contextualise everything better.
  • Peter S: Yes, I see what you mean I will change the eyes and send you a revised sketch. Do you imagine them as concave, inset dots or as small convex ‘mounds’? 
  • Clive H-J: In my drawings I’d imagined them as holes, so that when standing against the light the zombie’s eyes would evilly glitter. Could that work? If not, then tiny currants probably, pressed in like you sometimes get on gingerbread.

  • Peter S: He does look a bit like a jelly baby in my picture, ha ha! 
  • Clive H-JNothing wrong with Zombie Jellybabies!
  • Peter S: The shading lines make him look more rounded and ‘doughy’ than he will be, and give no impression of his actual depth. (I’m intending to make him quite flat with rounded off edges like a regular non-meat eating gingerbread man) I didn’t put any texture in the sketch because i didn’t think I could show it accurately or without it looking visually confusing. The texture will be created using the rough scouring side of a sponge impressed into the clay whilst still wet. I’ve tried it before and it gives a very good biscuity effect, which can be lessened or added too depending on the number of ‘dabs’ applied with the sponge.

Here’s the delightful Krampus demon Peter made for me last year. It stands 13 cm high.

Halloween Greetings

Above: character study for the Witch in my forthcoming picture-book from Saint Jude’s Prints based on the fairy tale Hansel & Gretel

Halloween is being celebrated here at the Artlog with a post about one of the projects that will be occupying me over the forthcoming months. Simon Lewin of Saint Jude’s Prints has offered me the wonderful opportunity to make my first artist’s ‘picture-book’, which is to be my own dark and twisty adaptation of Hansel & Gretel. I produced a text and images for a re-telling of H&G that appeared in the Saint Jude’s magazine Random Spectacular 2 a few months ago, and though the current project took off from that re-telling, it’s completely different from its predecessor in all aspects.

Artwork for Hansel & Gretel in Random Spectacular 2

A finished page from the magazine, with artwork by me and design by Simon Lewin

I made many images in the process of preparing my contribution to Random Spectacular 2, and it was while playing with those ideas that I realised just how much I wanted to explore the theme as a full-blown picture-book.

Character studies for Hansel & Gretel

Below: Gingerbread Zombies


An exciting add-on to the project, is that my friend, artist/maker Peter Slight, is going to be producing a prototype Gingerbread Zombie model, and with luck, by the time the book is ready to launch, it will be on hand to help promote the publication!

Below: Gretel gets mad!

Henceforth images from Hansel & Gretel will be appearing sparely here at the Artlog, as we want to have plenty of surprises in store for when the book is launched. But to celebrate the serious (and exciting) business of beginning the project in earnest, here is a preparatory drawing showing the Witch and her evil Gingerbread Zombie henchmen in pursuit of the hapless children, amid a fusillade of confectionary.

Happy Halloween!

The Puppet Challenge Part 12: Peter, Ben, Lucy and Lynne

Peter Slight, Ben Javens and Lucy Kempton, with a guest-appearance by Lynne Lamb

Peter Slight initiated the idea of a Puppet Challenge at the Artlog, and thereafter researched and approached many of the artists and makers who would go on to produce puppets for it. Last year his jaunty artwork (see above) announced the Challenge, and thereafter he compiled a number of the ‘puppet posts’ that we jointly provided to encourage the contributors. I am much obliged to him for all his hard work.

Peter Slight: return to the horned man

Peter Slight set his heart on making a ‘horned Man’ puppet from the outset of the Challenge. I’m touched that he chose a folkloric character close to my own heart. It’s no secret here at the Artlog that last year Peter tracked me down and identified me as the anonymous designer of a theme-park attraction that long pre-dated my career as a painter, in which a horned man made an appearance. Peter says that seeing my work on that project when he was at an impressionable age, definitely tipped him into the love of British folklore that informed his choice of career as an artist.

Peter writes:

“If all the artists who you have inspired dedicted just one piece of work to you, it would amount to a LOT of work! I myself was inspired by your work over 20 years before I even found out who you were! (And I’m still being inspired by you.)”

“Thanks again, I can honestly say this is one of the best things I’ve ever been involved with, it’s been a real pleasure and privilege doing my little bit.”

Above: the puppet as originally conceived by Peter

Below: his Horned Man as realised.

Ben Javens: Jack-the-Green

Like Peter Slight, Ben Javens is an illustrator, and it’s interesting how both have brought the style of their more usual work to their puppets. Anyone knowing Ben’s graphic output would immediately recognise this Jack-the-Green puppet as being his.

Ben Javens illustration: All Around my Hat

Interesting too, that neither Ben’s Jack-the-Green or Peter’s Horned Man have arms, which lends them a particularly naive charm. I think they hail from the same universe.

Lucy Kempton: Fairy Melusine

I was delighted when I heard that Lucy Kempton was making a version of the French sorceress, Melusine, because it was a tale that I had discovered when studying the ravishing miniatures of the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, in which in flying serpent form, she makes an appearance. That’s her above the red-roofed tower to the right.

Lucy writes beautifully of the story, and so I shall leave her to tell it in her own words, as well as with a lovely quote from Jean d’Arras.

“I chose the mythical figure of Melusine, who is something of a favourite of mine. I was determined to make her from old felted jumpers, old t-shirts, scraps of wool and other textile and knitting-related materials which were waste or which I had already, and knowing I would leave the making of her quite late and be short of time, and that sewing to any kind of perfectionist standard often discourages and deters me from finishing things, I would deliberately make her in a rough and improvisational manner. In fact on researching the story, I learned that one of the best known versions of it from the Middle Ages was that of Jean d’Arras, and was part of a cycle of stories designed to be told by ladies at their spinning and needlework, which seemed appropriate.”

“The tale goes that Raymond of Poitou, founder of the House of Lusignan, came across a beautiful woman, Melusine, in the forest one day. Instantly smitten, he proposed marriage, and she was happy to consent, only exacting the condition that he should never seek to find her on a Saturday. She bore him many fine children and brought him much wealth. Of course in myth, as in life, if you make someone promise things like that, the one thing they want to do is break the taboo and find out. Raymond had to go looking, and found Melusine at her Saturday ablutions. (In some versions simply in the bath at home, and in others in a forest pool or spring, the kind of place associated with her.)”

“Oh dear, she was all serpentine from the waist down, and, many of the tales say, with a double tail!”


“Raymond was shocked, as was Melusine.”

“Then she was furious.”


“But also deeply saddened. Jean d’Arras has her say these words:”


Ah! Raymond, the day when I first saw you was for me a day of sadness! Alas! for my bane I saw your grace, your charm, your beautiful face. For my sadness I desired your beauty, for you have so ignobly betrayed me. Though you have failed in your promise, I had pardoned you from the bottom of my heart for having tried to see me, not even speaking of it to you, for you revealed it to no one. And God would have pardoned it you, for you would have done penance for it in this world. Alas! my beloved now our love is changed to hate, our tenderness to cruelty, our pleasures and joys to tears and weeping, our happiness to great misfortune and hard calamity. Alas, my beloved, had you not betrayed me I were saved from my pains and my torments, I would have lived life’s natural course as a normal woman, I would have died in the normal way, with all the sacraments of the Church, I would have been buried in the church of Notre-Dame de Lusignan and commemorative masses would have been observed for me, as they should. But now you have plunged me back into the dark penitence I have known so long, for my fault. And this penitence, I must bear it until Judgement Day, for you have betrayed me. I pray God to pardon you.

“Though some say she forgave him his curiosity and for seeing her, but couldn’t do so when later in a public row he called her a serpent. She resumed her serpent form and disappeared back into the forest, never to be seen again.  But she’d got to found the royal house of Luxembourg first.”



Lucy was not the only contributor to turn to Melusine as as source of inspiration. Lynne Lamb too made a puppet of the siren/sorceress. Lynne has already featured in the Puppet Challenge with her fantastic wolf puppets, but as she also made a marionette of Melusine, I’m adding it here, to keep Lucy’s version company.

Below: Lynne’s Melusine being made.

2014 Artlog Open Exhibition: The Puppet Challenge Introduction

The Puppet Challenge is the third annual ‘Open Exhibition’ at the Artlog, and the one that has had the longest lead-up. It has generated far more subscribers than either of the previous exhibitions, and as such I shall spread it over a number of posts throughout the rest of the month. The exhibition was the idea of Peter Slight, who both suggested it and then set about researching and inviting participants. At the Artlog all-comers have always been welcomed to the open exhibitions, but this year, in addition to those who volunteered to take part, Peter actively sought a commitment from many artists and illustrators he admires, and just about all of those approached, accepted.

Peter’s enthusiasm and his love of the subject matter run throughout the exhibition, and I should say a word about how he and I came to know each other, because it’s germane to the theme of the Challenge. Many years ago, when I was disentangling myself from a long theatre career that I had grown disenchanted with, I was invited to concept-design what for want of a better description might be called a ‘ghost-house’ for a theme-park. I was dead-broke and I accepted the offer. It was a big project and I worked on it for a long time. The theme was ‘myths and folklore’. For reasons I won’t expand on it wasn’t a very happy experience, and at the end of it I was glad to be finished. Through no devising of my own, my name hadn’t been publicly attached to the project, and there was… and indeed I believe there remains still… no credit to me on site for writing the scenario and script, or designing the environment and characters.

Above: my character design for a troll

All this was before my career as a painter, and frankly I was later relieved that the episode had been lost, fallen into the no-man’s land between my time in the theatre and what came afterwards. I hadn’t given the project a thought in years when, unexpectedly at the Artlog, a comment appeared, naming the park and the ‘attraction’, enquiring whether I’d had anything to do with them!

Peter Slight was the writer. I confessed that I had been the designer, and offline I agreed, not without misgivings, to an extended interview with him. I dug out my designs and e-mailed copies to him. I reminisced and explained candidly about why I’d been happy to forget about the experience. Peter wrote back that the attraction had hugely impressed him when he was young, and he’d visited repeatedly with his family because he loved it so much. He maintains that my work on it influenced his career-choice, and he continues to track down long-buried information about the attraction in preparation for writing an article about it. The article has yet to appear, but nevertheless, here I am, decades on from my theme-park project, with Peter, probably its only remaining fan, curating a Myths and Legends Puppet Challenge at my blog! We have, needless to say, become good friends.

Back to business. There is always a ‘drop-out’ from projects as complicated as this one, but very few ‘challengers’ have chosen not to complete. By contrast there have been many requests for extra time, citing reasons both plausible and along the lines of ‘the-dog-ate-my-homework!’ and beyond. In all cases extra time has been granted. (And continues to be granted, given that the exhibition is being stretched over the rest of this month.) I completely understand how sometimes an idea has to ‘cook’ for quite a while, and there have been a fair share of makers who have cogitated at leisure and then produced at breakneck speed. There have been those who have worked steadily at their puppet projects throughout, and some who attacked the work with immediate and almost unbelievable gusto, producing not one but many puppets.

There are puppet films and animations. We have stop-motion and video performances. Some of the results remain incomplete, and are to be shown as works-in-progress. What blazes through the whole, is a commitment by artists and makers to challenge themselves, even when the journey is freighted with doubt and a sense of being perplexed. Some ‘got it’ from the start. Others battled courageously in the face of what they perceived to be their own failures, though refused to give up. It’s been exciting and heart-warming to watch. Wherever possible, and when asked, Peter Slight and I have offered advice and suggestions. Already I see evidence of exposure to puppet-making changing the ways in which some artists approach their daily studio practice, reminiscent of my own epiphany when I began to invent and construct maquettes as a way of building compositional forms. Makers are using their puppets as models, or plan further puppet-making, or puppet films. Some challengers, Peter Slight among them, have fantasised about running away to be itinerant puppet-showmen, carrying their casts of characters in puppet vans and carts, like the puppeteers of the past. One, Andrew Grundon, is actually making his dream a reality, and I’m sure I’ll be posting more about that in the future.


The curtain is about to go up on the 2014 Artlog Open Exhibition, The Puppet Challenge. The cast gather backstage, and there is anticipation in the audience. Soon I’ll post the first instalment of the exhibition. Well done to all who got this far, and good luck to those still racing to the finishing line. (I’m quite sure you’ll all come up trumps in the remaining time.) Right now my thoughts are with the family of Rachel Gibson, who was to have taken part in the exhibition, but who died unexpectedly before completing her work for it. We can only guess at what she may have produced.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Chapter-headings in this post by Peter Slight

Make way for Mummenshanz

mummenschanz 5

Hello, Peter Slight of the Puppet Challenge here.

Mummenshanz are a Swiss mask theatre troupe founded in 1972 and still going today.

Much of what they do is mime based, usually with a comical and surreal vein running through it. They also create some truly astonishing full body costumes and puppets made from all manner of things, usually quite mundane household items, which they bring to life in odd and unexpected ways. The characters they create dance and interact with each other using precise economic almost balletic movements which I find compelling to watch.



mummenschanz 3

Having seen lots of clips of Mummenshanz I still find it hard to acaccurately  describe what it is they do!



Their appearance on the Muppet Show in 1976 helped to push them into the mainstream.



The name Mummenshanz is German for ‘mummery’, or a play involving mummers. Mummer is an early modern english term for a mime artist.



It’s interesting to note that many of the comments left under the Youtube clips are divided between gasps of delight and shudders of horror.

Mummenshanz may be the visual equivalent of free-form jazz, you either love it, or want to pull your ears off and run away. I will leave you to decide which camp you fall into after watching them in action here


puppet challenge logo

Peter Slight and the friendly fish

As many visitors here will know, Peter Slight is guest curator for this years Artlog online exhibition, the Puppet Challenge. His delightful graphic designs that regularly pop up in the Puppet Challenge posts, have been one of the great and unexpected pleasures of this project.

puppet challenge logo

While Peter is a tremendous supporter of other artists, he’s quite shy of the limelight himself, and so I’ve decided that todays post is not going to be Peter writing about puppets, but me writing about Peter.

You might remember the wonderful little figure of Krampus that he made as a gift for me last year.

Most of Peter’s creations, his meticulous models and his paper-sculpture pictures, are on a relatively small scale. One of the earliest paper-sculpture pictures he made was of a boat burial with a grave-marker above it. It was the first appearance of what would become the Friendly Fish

The Fisherman’s Grave

Friendly Fish began to appear in Peter’s sketchbooks. The artist was exploring the idea of saints and beasts… a subject close to my own heart… and drawings evolved of a saint and his dog, and what might even be a charming take on Saint Kevin, with the nest resting on the saint’s head like a beached boat.

From the drawings you can see that Peter had begun to imagine a figure in the round, albeit flattened out, as though the original paper sculpture of the grave-marker had uprooted itself and gone walkabout. As the image evolved, the artist settled for his subject on Saint Neot.

Peter writes:

‘St. Neot was a monk and hermit at Glastonbury Abbey in the 9th century. Neot is said to have worked miracles with animals and birds, but is particularly linked to a story involving a holy well an angel and some fish. According to some sources he was only 15 inches tall.’

The original scheme had been for a statue of five and a half feet high, but Peter’s discovery of the legendary saint’s tiny stature pointed the way to a different scale, and the finished work stands at two feet, excluding its oak plinth.

Peter writes:

‘The idea was a natural choice for my first sculpture. I hardly noticed it evolving over time. To me, it felt as though it just slipped into being. I plan to revisit this theme and particular saint again, in some form or other.’

Friendly Fish was made in an edition of nine, one of which can be seen in the Pride of the Valley Sculpture Park near Surrey