Aug 16, 2013

Making Felt Handpuppets.

50 cent soft toys, ready for making into fingerpuppets.
Lately I have been buying little soft toys, cutting open the bottoms, and sewing in a finger of a winter glove, to create finger puppets for the kids at school. I have made the class a little theatre out of a large cardboard box, and gave them my first 20 minute performance of "the 3 little pigs and the wolf". I actually wrote a script for it. 
Most of the children had never seen a puppet performance, and were speechless when the puppets asked them questions. The children (7 yr olds) looked at each other, and then a few answered the puppets' question. ( yes, thats' a lovely house build of straw...) But by the end of the story they were happily helping the wolf blow down the the piglets house, and shouting at the pigs that the wolf was coming down the chimney! (you can't do that with t.v.!)
Now they can use the puppets on rainy lunch days, and make up their own stories. It is excellent for the shy kids and those with language problems, because they have to follow sentence and story structure, and their speech has to make sense. It also takes planning and cooperation with the other kids. And of course if you are introverted, well, it isn't you who is speaking, it is another character altogether, so you can make it say whatever you want.
The teacher was very pleased with me!

When I was a child in The Netherlands, I remember many happy rainy afternoons at friends' places, playing with puppets and a little wooden theatre with curtains, and sometimes we used a small lamp covered with a scarf for special effects. We'd spent hours to get our story together, and then we would perform it for our friends in our group, while someones' nice mum would get us lemonade and biscuits.
Those puppets were the plastic head variety.
I remember that after a while, your fingers would hurt from the rough opening, and the cloth bodies were always too big for little childrens' hands, the fabric would have to be folded in your palm so that your opposite fingers could reach the puppets' hands.
And I never understood why there was a priest or pastor character. What could you do with him in a story with princesses and bad wizards and treasures and suchlike?

The kind of hand-puppets I used to play with.
Primary school children in The Netherlands didn't go to school on Wednesday afternoons. I don't know if they still do now. You got to play with your friends in your neighbourhood all afternoon, and on rainy days you were allowed to watch a little t.v. , when they would show childrens' shows. One of the shows in the very early 70's was a puppet show called "Rikki en Slingertje". It was about the magical adventures of a boy and his very cheeky monkey. The theatre itself was in the city of Haarlem, very close to where my great-aunt and great-uncle lived. They were childless and my brothers and I stayed with them very often in the school holidays to be spoiled. One day my younger brother and I were allowed to be at 1 of the performances in theatre "Merlijn".
 Very exciting when you are 6! It seemed fantastical and colourful in my memory, since our t.v. was black and white. No doubt it was all simple puppets and cardboard props.

Stage 1 basic shape
So of course this post leads up to something, and that is my own felted puppets. Above the wet-felted basic shapes, they are slightly smaller than my own hands, which are petit, but I can get in them . Two fingers fit in the "neck".
Stage 2 profile
The rest of the puppet is build up with uncarded coloured wool, needle-felted around the neck. The facial features are added on and needled into shape.

Stage 2 face on
Stage 3 profile
I added more colour, wrinkles, got the nose down to size, then the eyes, very important for a puppet. Eyes connect the audience to the character. Eyelids were added, then facial hair with angora curls, including eyebrows, moustache and (real) goatie beard.
 I tried to keep the face in neutral emotion.
A large turban was twisted and needle-felted into place. I added lichens that had fallen out of the tree outside, by covering them with very thin wisps of wool, and needle-felting them into place.

stage 3 face on.
My Wily Wizard from the Woods, still needs some hands. But I love him already!


vee said...

Keiknap!!! Maar brrrrr gaan de kinderen er gene schrik van hebben ??
Schitterend hoe je vertelt over vroeger....ik ben van Belgie maar het is hiernog altijd vrij op woensdagnamiddag hoor moeten kinderen naar ballet, muziekschool, zwemles, judo, tekenacademie
Allemaal tof hoor, maar idd wij moesten samen spelen en heel af en toe tv kijken
Titatovenaar en kunt u ons de wegnaar hamelen vertellen meneer ???

Elmtree said...

Thanks Vee, no I don't think kids would get a fright from him, he can be quite shy.
But I used to be scared watching "kunt u ons de weg naar Hamelen vertellen meneer" and would watch from behind the couch, hahaha! with just my eyes peeping out over the top.
I just read some of your writing and it was very amusing. You make some gorgeous things!