Posts Tagged ‘The Puppet Kitchen’

A varied day

Today was one of those days that looked like I had nothing on the calendar and then I was out of the apartment all day. I started with breakfast and tea with a friend, then trotted off to the Puppet Kitchen to show some of the saw players I met this weekend around. From there I went to rehearsal for Tiger Tales.

There was some writing on the subway but I only managed to get 455 words in today. That brings me close to wrapping Chapter 5, which will hopefully happen tomorrow.

Again with the elevator

I got stuck in the elevator again today.  Granted, it wasn’t long this time, but I did just sort of start laughing.  

I was heading out to go to the Puppet Kitchen and decided to drop the trash off in the basement on my way.  The thing about the basement is that there’s not another way to get to it except by the fire escape outside, which isn’t really an option.  I got to the basement, put my trash in the bin and got back in the elevator to go back up to the first floor. The door closed and nothing happened.

You know how it is. You push all the buttons, hoping one of them will work. What was interesting this time was that I was next to the routing machine and could hear it clicking as it reset everytime I pushed a button.

I rang the bell. Then I twittered.  And then I called Rob. 

Pretty quickly this time, I heard people through the shaft trying to figure out where the elevator was stuck.  They got me out in about ten minutes. It’s a little silly.

On the other hand, it’d be a great setting for an elevator pitch.

Twitters for 10-17-08

  • 07:15 At the puppet kitchen, treating the wood witch’s arms to look like tree branches instead of aluminum and dowels. #
  • 08:27 Hands are sculpted. I’ve restricted the elbows so they don’t spin around like a zombie’s. #
  • 08:43 Adding strips of mache to the arms to give a treebark texture. I’m getting a little tired of having my hands in goo. #
  • 09:43 Finished the bark treatment on the arms. Oddly, I can’t find the hair dryer with which I usually speed the drying process. #
  • 09:45 After some thought, I’m going to papier-mache the wood-witch’s face instead of casting in neoprene. It’ll be significantly lighter this way. #
  • 11:40 And I’m finished with the top part of the face. The bottom mold is very small and should go really fast. But first, lunch! #
  • 11:51 Just passed a mob of high school girls who were screaming “Vote for Obama!” They were obnoxious yet cute. #
  • 14:00 Just looked at wildly over-priced typewriters. Sigh. #
  • 14:48 Woot! The upper face came out of the mold beautifully. #
  • 15:17 I just listened to Tanuki Kettle, by Eugie Foster, on PodCastle. Excellent story and nice reading. tinyurl.com/tanuki Recommended! #
  • 17:57 Car on fire at 4 and 2. I called 911 and the firemen came so fast that they must have already been called. #
  • 18:50 Trying to pick stone witch puppet up from rehearsal. We can’t find it. Makes me nervous. #
  • 19:01 Found the witch. Whew. #
  • 20:00 Back to the papier mache mines. Mmm… goo. ##
  • 21:11 Switching from wood witch face to stone witch arm. #

Twitters for 10-16-08

  • 00:46 Back at the Puppet Kitchen and doing cleanup. I got to paint tonight, which makes me feel good. Painting and sculpting are my favorite bits. #
  • 13:51 I’m watching the debate, which I missed last night. I’m struck by the fact that when McCain misrepresents something, Obama smiles. #
  • 13:54 Huh. Just noticed that both candidates are lefties. #
  • 14:33 You know, my mind was made up before the debates, but I watch them so I can discuss issues intelligently.Be nice if McCain discussed issues. #
  • 14:35 He just can’t stay on topic. #
  • 14:41 I am now understanding why so many people are making cracks about Joe the Plumber. How long before there’s a Hollywood movie by that title? #
  • 14:58 Some puppet traditions decide character’s size by rank and importance. Camera just zoomed on Obama. He’s bigger in frame than McCain now. #
  • 14:59 And they cut away to wide shot, coming back, they’re the same size. Odd. #
  • 15:01 Did McCain really say that it’s okay to have teachers who aren’t certified? How does military service = good teacher? #
  • 18:49 Good heavens. Rob and I are at home at the same time and are both awake. We’re even sitting down to have dinner together. #

Stone witch face

Stone WitchThe third witch is supposed to look as if she’s made of stone. I began with blue foam and roughed it out as if I were actually carving stone. The clay on the face is to give an example of what she would look like if she were wearing a mud mask as a disguise.

Stone face piecesI paper-mached the pieces separately and then put a base coat of acrylic and spraypaint on the pieces. When I sprayed the pieces, I kept the black can very low, in relation to the pieces, so it only hit the high points with paint. This creates an illusion of shadows that are softer than what I can do with a brush.

Painted stone faceAnd here she is glued together and painted. The designer, Michael Schupbach, wants her to look like she has gold inside, so I’ve painted the deep cracks with gold glitter paint.

Twitters for 10-15-08

  • 01:35 I just finished macheing the stone witch’s head and am cleaning up to head for home. I think tomorrow I get to paint. Yay! #
  • 13:40 They are testing the fire alarm in the building. We are not amused. How long does it take, really, to figure out that, yes, it makes noise. #
  • 17:13 The green at Madison Square Park is totally surrounded by shakepeares. I wonder what’s going on? ((A shakespeare is an ellipsoidal light for theater.)) #
  • 17:36 If you’re going to KGB tonight, I’ll be at the Puppet Kitchen which is just a few blocks away. Let me know if you want to see the witches. #
  • 19:17 KGB is so crowded tonight. Hot, too. #

KGB tonight

If you are going to KGB tonight and are curious about the puppets I’ve been working on, let me know. The Puppet Kitchen is also on 4th, mere blocks from the bar. I’ll be heading back to work afterwards.

Woodwitch construction

Cutting shoulder yoke The Woodwitch is supposed to look like she’s gathered a bunch of sticks and built herself out of them. I did a technical sketch on the large drawing of her and then dived in. This is the shoulder yoke. After cutting out the shape on the bandsaw, I drilled two holes for the support poles. These also allow me to put a saw through and cut out the middle.

Raw wood It leaves crazy amounts of splinters and, um, my cut was not exactly symmetrical.

Sanded yokeFortunately, with the aid of my dremel tool I was able to take care of both problems at once. Even when the edges are as egregiously rough as that, I always hit the corners with the sander to soften then. I don’t want a sharp edge chewing through a puppet or puppeteer.

WedgeNow this bit I’m pleased with. The supports from the shoulders come down to a point. I’m using bamboo for them because it’s incredibly light and strong. The only problem with it is that you can’t drill holes in it without seriously compromising the structural integrity. The solution is to basically tie it together. By adding this little block in — see how nicely I’ve created a hollow to cup the rods — I’m able to glue as well as tying the rods.

Waist handleFor the hip plate I’ve taken a two inch thick piece of bass wood and shaped the hips and handle out of one piece. There is an interesting tendency for comfortable handgrips to have an, um, distinctive shape.

The inside of fake twigI bought a whole bunch of fake greenery in the floral district and stripped the ends of it to expose the wire inside.

Wiring twigs to waistThis gets wired to the hips so that the twig skirt has a solid base.

Wire abdomenA continuous piece of spring steel goes from the hip plate, held in place with plumbers epoxy, and up to that cute little triangle wedge I cut earlier.

Branches installedSo here she is with her branches installed. I’ll be treating the grabber arms so they look like branches as well. She gets a dress which will cover the midriff and a new head.

Woodwitch headThis is the sculpture of the witch’s head. I’ll have shots of making the head later.

Twitters for 10-13-08

  • 01:19 It is never completely comfortable to be alone in a building, to know that one is alone, and to hear something fall over. #
  • 01:34 I think I’ve hit the point of diminishing returns. Time for me to head for home. #
  • 02:36 I was writing to someone and started to type, “my friend” & almost vomited on my keyboard. I think McCain spoiled those two words for me. #
  • 12:39 Too crowded with people at the shop to work. It’s frustrating. #

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.

The next project: MacBeth

I’ve started a new project, building the three witches for MacBeth. Yay! No dead dogs!  This is for the Puppet Kitchen with Michael Schupbach designing.  It looks like it’s going to be a fun gig and I’ve got full permission to post process shots as we go.

Today wasn’t very exciting in terms of having photos to offer you.  We met with Emily De Cola, who’s directing the puppet movement to talk about the physical requirements of the figures.  I also headed into the garment district to pick up fabric swatches.  These are going to be beautiful but creepy puppets.