Fog witch grip, shoulders and elbows

Control These puppets at their base, are rod puppets, mostly with internal rods. What you’re looking at here is the grip and shoulder bar of the fog witch. The grip is the bit that looks like a ray gun. Now, normally, I wouldn’t have the shoulders above the grip, but in her case, her head is even with her shoulders, so it makes sense.

Take a look at the handle. The ergonomics of a control often gets ignored by a lot of puppeteers. Lord knows I did until I had a nasty wrist injury. My occupational therapist at the time rebuilt the handles of several of my puppets and totally changed the way I build puppets. Ideally, you don’t want to have to grip the puppet, because a) the energy that you spend on doing that is tiring and b) the added tension makes your performance less fluid.

This one is called a basic pistol grip, for obvious reasons. See the little nubbin at the top right of the handle? That’s to keep your hand from sliding up the handle. At the base is another nub which cups under the bottom of your hand and adds some stability. You can release your thumb and loosen your fingers with this handle and the puppet will stay in your hand.

The idea is that you want to leave the muscles in your hand free for fine manipulation and use the larger muscles in your arm and shoulder for the lifting. Make sense?

When this is finished, I’ll wrap it with cork tape or leather to control sweating and give a little bit of traction.

Cutting spring steelWe don’t want a lot of visible structure in the fog witch, so I’m making the arms out of spring steel. It’s tough enough that cutting it with wire cutters is difficult, but a dremel tool with a cutting blade works just fine.

This photo shows me prepping for that. I’m not crazy enough to try to take pictures and run power tools at the same time. Were I really cutting sparks would be flying.

Sparks aplentyAs they are here! I’m blunting the ends of the wire so that it doesn’t poke out and cut someone or cause wear in the puppet.

Blunting ends Along those lines, I cap the ends of the wire with leather — well, in this case, plether, so that the wire won’t rub directly against the fabric.

Simple cloth jointThe elbows of this character are a very simple cloth joint. This allows movement in any direction, which is handy because the shoulders of this character rotate in a fixed plane.

Basically, I lay my spring steel on a piece of cloth, glue it down, then fold the cloth over to make a tube and glue it in place around the steel

Quick hingeThere are other more graceful ways to make a shoulder joint, but this deals with most of the issues I have. I needed the joint to rotate at the center of the shoulder bar, instead of being attached to the top or bottom. I bent the wire into a box shape, slipped two cotter pins on it and then placed those at the ends of my shoulder bar.

The problem with this joint is that the wire wants to slip through the cotter pins. I used leather stops to control that, but it’s not particularly clean. I’d rather have used shaft collar, but there weren’t any in the shop.

Sprung upright I’m using elastic cord to spring the shoulders so they are upright. The fog witch’s elbows point to the sky.

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3 Responses

  1. Jen

    Thanks for posting these updates- it really is a fascinating process to see in progress. I don’t
    think that I’d ever considered what an art it really is.