More fishy stuff

Emily DeCola's design drawing for fish Emily DeCola has been hired to create puppets for the African Children’s Choir. She started with these design drawings and has hired me to help her build the puppets. My primary job on the fish is to take her drawings and translate them into patterns that can be quickly reproduced for the sixteen fish puppets we need to make.

Patterns for the fishThe patterning itself involves a lot of tracing and testing. Here are the patterns for the male fish in a neat pile. Even though I create these patterns through the process of piecing a fish together, I still won’t know if they actually work until I try to make a second fish.

Male fish, test This is the test fish. You’ll notice that a lot of the pieces are still represented by paper.

For a dress at this stage I would have used muslin for the pattern, but for this I need to make certain that the things I use for the “muslin” have the same properties as the final product. There isn’t a good substitute for the ethafoam (the blue stuff). But, see how the belly of the fish is black? In the finished puppet it will be brightly colored and made of a similar but different material. Since I had a substitute available, I used that because it is cheaper than what we’ll use for the final product.

Male fish, test 2 We had four people in the shop today and working together this is as far as we got. We had one male fish pinned together and…

Female fish, test
…one female fish pinned together. A lot of this time was spent figuring out patterns or cutting things out. These are fairly simple puppets but there are sixteen of them and that just takes a while, even if you think things are going quickly.

I’ve got some video for you to show how quickly things can go.

Did you know you can support Mary Robinette on Patreon!

5 Responses

  1. John Burridge

    Wow — I loved the video! I nearlly got up and went to the local hardware store to get a heat gun — are these the same kinds of heat guns used to melt paint off of houses and would a hairdryer work (for melting foam)?

    I’ve always wanted to make large animal masks, but using willow wands or other plant-based materials seemed to be too large of a time investment — this looks like it would dramically cut down construction time.

  2. Mary Robinette Kowal

    Thanks Peterbilt!

    John: Yes, that’s the same kind of heat guns as one would use to melt paint. But really make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. We’ve got a ventilation hood and even with that and a respirator I limit the amount of time that I work with this.