Introduction: Upcycled Puppet
AGES: 12 and up
So I was wandering around my house and realized: I have lot of stuff. Random scraps of fabric, old album covers, incomplete board games ECT…So you may be wondering, did I decide to throw these things out? Heck NO! I I decided to try to teach myself something new,so I combined everything I found into one fabulous (yet slightly creepy) puppet, Countess Franny Von Shufflebean to be exact. And with a few rummagings through your recycle /trash bins, you too can create your very own puppet companion to entertain your children, torment your friends, or simply, like mine, live in my studio and brighten my day!! **This puppet-making adventure is just that, an adventure. You will need to be open to the idea of playing through the process, seeing what works for you. There are not exact measurements to follow, no pattern or professional methods. It took me about a week to figure out and finish this project and, while at times, I felt like Doctor Frankenstein, the over all experience was lots of fun and I now have another outlet for my creativity!
Step 1: Round Up Your Supplies...
We will be working from the top down, so we start with the
You will need: 1. Large piece of cardboard. Brown paper bags, paper towel roll (Any cardboard that is easy to bend. I choose to use a combination of all 3; in addition to an old album cover. The thicker cardboard was used for the face, arms and legs).
2. 12 OZ PLASTIC BOTTLE
3. CLEAR PACKING TAPE
5.HOT GLUE GUN
6.PAINT BRUSHES, FILE (TO SMOOTH DOWN GESSO ONCE IT DRIES) SCISSORS, EXACTO BLADE, BLACK MARKER
**Remeber, your trash/recycling bin is your friend! Look at old cleaning supply/shower products for your bottle. Packing supplies for the foam, paper grocery bags,cereal boxes,old clothes for fabric scraps... use your imagination!. Also, I reccomend keeping a sketch book handy and sketching out ideas for the overall look of the puppet**
Step 2: Heads Up!!
Take your plastic bottle and mark out a shape for the forehead. I wanted a feminine/dramatic one, so mine is high and then slopes down. With your exact blade carefully cut along your guide. (I cut about 1” off the sides/half inch off the middle). Once you have cut open the bottle, stuff your foam all the way down, leaving at least an inch above this new opening. We are now rounding out the head. Trim any excess foam with scissors until you have a nice head shape. Cover foam with packing tape.
Step 3: Face Time
Now we will build up the face. This step takes the most time. Cut out a piece of your thicker cardboard (paper towel roll), line it up with your bottle face shape you have just cut out and tape it on. Use thicker paper for the face so it can withstand the hot glue you will be using. You can cover the rest of the bottle with a lighter paper (paper bag). COVER ALL PAPER WITH PACKING TAPE.
- Once you have that, take your black marker and lay out a rough sketch of the face you want. It may be helpful to cut a few small templates from those shapes to use in the next step. Tear up small pieces of foam for these areas Get the foam as close to the shape and size you want, but don’t stress, you will be covering it with more paper.
Step 4: Face Time Continued..
Use your hot glue gun and attach the foam to the areas you want to accentuate (I chose cheeks, lips, eyelids and nose).
Once you have the foam in place, you will use your precut templates from the previous step to cover over the foam. With your hot glue gun, apply over-lays (cardboard should be flexible and easy to sculpt for a few seconds once it is on). Work in one area at a time, and one side of each piece at a time. Keep layering foam/cardboard until you achieve the face you want. I layered about 3 times on the cheeks alone. **Keep in mind you need to leave space for the eyes**. Cover face in strips of packing tape, and lastly coat entire head (minus foam top) with Gesso, set aside to dry. **Any rough areas you can file down and reapply gesso**
**See hairpin note in step 15**
Step 5: Gathering Supplies for the Body..
Now lets gather supplies for the body, woohoo!!
You will need:
1: Plastic container (I used Clorox because the size is enough for the whole body, and its super easy to cut)
2. Pre drawn patterns for the body shape (can be whatever you want, just keep in mind how all of it will fit together). You will need to cut two of each.
4. More cardboard!!
5. Hot Glue Gun
6. Plastic spoons (for the arms/hands), and any thick cord (handles on large shopping bags work great!) you will be using those for the legs. Also, hairpins (metal) to connect all of the joints)
7. Gesso, brushes, black marker, scissors, exacto, and packing tape
Step 6: Body Work
Grab your Clorox container and remove the label. Trace all 4 patterns of the surface; they will fit if you mess with the layout a bit. Once you have them cut out, attach them with tape, to their “twin” on both the inside and outside, so that they have openings. They both should have a bend to their shapes. They should be wide enough to stand on their own.
- Once you have attached those, we start building up the top portion. **You will want to consider the finished look for your puppet and build those areas up accordingly** For mine, I chose to build up a chest, and added cardboard sleeves to cover the opening at the top, and used corrugated cardboard for a corset. Again, use foam/paper technique to build up areas and once done, cover whole pieces with tape. Regardless of your design, make sure the top is closed off and stable, able to accommodate your head and arm pieces. I placed foam in to bridge the gap, and to create a shelf for the future arm hinges. I would recommend applying all pieces with hot glue and reinforcing them with tape. Once your piece is covered with paper, apply tape to entire surface area. Paint with gesso and set aside to dry.
Step 7: Body Work Continued...
You should have a small opening in the bottom of your puppet torso. Make 2 cardboard tabs and attach (with tape) to the top of your “Skirt” piece, one on each side and slide into place. Seal with hot glue and set aside. (My torso measured about 10 ½” once connected).
Step 8: Arms, Legs, Hands and Feet, Oh My!
Grab those spoons! Cut them into 3 pieces for arms/hands. With your marker, sketch out desired hand shape and cut with exacto knife. The concave part of the spoon will face in towards your puppet, making the convex part the back of the hands. Next you will build up the arms with foam. I chose a simple, cylinder shape by applying one small strip of foam to each section, wrapping it in tape, wrapping it in cardboard and wrapping that in tape again. **Keep the ends open so you can attach the moveable joint pieces.** I also built up the hands, and covered them in paper. There should be a hollow space between the back of the spoon, and the attached paper, what would be the "wrist" area** Paint with Gesso and allow to dry.
- Grab those hairpins. If you use Bobbie pins, you will need to pull them apart into a wide V shape. Slide the open end into where the “elbow” section would be. The tension should hold the pin in place inside the arm piece, resting against the cardboard sides. Take another pin; hook it through the piece you just installed, and place the open end into the next piece. To secure them, I added a touch of super glue inside the arm pieces.This space should eqaul about 1/2". Do the same for attaching the hands to the lower arm; the closed end of the pin should slide into the hollow space between the paper and the back of the spoon and should shove into the larger,arm piece. Add super glue for extra hold, there should be NO moving pieces between the hand and the LOWER arm. For the top of the arms, you will need to create hinges that allow movement. All you need is to take your thick cardboard, cut into a small piece, one for each arm. One end should slide into the arm (may need to trim that end of hinge piece) and the other will eventually be attached to the foam shelf I made earlier. Piece should bend in both directions, covered in tape (I used black duct tape to hide it better).
- Grab the cord you have collected, and cut it into a total of 4 pieces, these will be your legs. Tie a large knot at the bottom of two pieces. Again, build the leg pieces up with foam, tape, and finish them with cardboard (wrapped in tape). You will be attaching them the same as the arm pieces. My legs measured 13" and that includes the 1/2" gap for the joint connection. Finish them off with your choice of shoe shape. I chose a simple triangle cardboard piece glued on the top of the knots, and the same shape applied to the bottom, and taped together on the sides.
Step 9: Head and Neck
Grab your head, I mean, your puppet head! As you did in the beginning, we are going to make a guide, this time for your jaw line and chin. I used the same shape I did for the top of the bottle, but flipped it so the chin was the longer part and the jawline went upward and curved.Cut along that shape. Next, take that new piece(not the head) and cut down to the size of 3” What your left with should be the original opening of the bottle and the neck. Cut out a hole in the remaining foam inside the head, to fit and glue in this new piece. The "neck" should go into the foam about 1/2" to make it stable and reinforce with tape. **Keep in mind, the head will hold up much of the weight of the puppet, so make sure its strong** Cover the new exposed area in paper and more tape. (My head ended up at 7”, chin to top of forehead and the neck measuring about 3"). The addition of this piece will also keep your head resting above the shoulders.
**AT THIS POINT YOU
SHOULD HAVE SOMETHING THAT RESEMBLES A CREEPY VOODO DOLL, COVERED IN GESSO. DO NOT ATTACH ANY PIECES YET. YOU WILL WANT TO PAINT THEM FIRST**
Step 10: Eyes and Hair
It’s time to hot glue on some hair. I chose synthetic weft and covered the top of the hair in rows. You can add as little hair or as much as you wish. I recommend pre cutting your strips and working from the bottom of the back of the head, up. **Turn and look at the profile of your head to determine where you want the hair to start**
Step 11: Gather Your Accessories!
Now for the fancy stuff! Anything works for this section, Scraps of fabric, glitter, feathers, anything!
1. Acrylic Paints
2. False Lashes, Buttons, Tweezers
3. Super Glue
4. Fabric scraps
5. Needle and thread
6. Pencil, Marker, Scissors, Needle Nose Pliers (for any hard to reach areas inside of the torso)
7. Synthetic hair wefts
8. Hot glue gun
Step 12: Hair and Makeup, Woohoo!!
Grab your buttons or snaps and place your eyes. Use your hot glue gun to stick them on.
PAINT!! Paint your new puppet however you choose. I used Liquitex Acrylics and painted in multiple layers. The paint should dry relatively fast, so you can revisit and build up areas quickly. Use more paint then water. Once your painting is complete, you can begin to add any accessories (I added tons of fake eyelashes, beauty marks..). I also chose this point to style the puppet hair. Just remember, if you chose synthetic hair, you CANNOT use heat tools unless otherwise noted on the packaging. I did because it was heat safe synthetic.
Step 13: Wardrobe
Get some clothes on that doll!! Now, you can choose whatever you want, but I would suggest some sort of stiff material as an underlining base for your costume. I simply used scrap fabric that I had stiffened with spray paint. This will allow your puppet to sit up on its own. All other fabrics I simply draped, cut and sewed right onto the form.
Step 14: Get It Together!
The last thing to do is attach your pieces.
-LEGS: I sewed nylons onto my legs, leaving excess material at the top, which I then duct tapped to the inside of the lower torso piece.
-ARMS: I attached them, with duct tape, by the hinges I had previously made.
-HEAD: Create a cardboard cylinder (with foam center) to stick INTO the bottom of your neckpiece. You will want it to be long enough to hold the head slightly above the shoulders. (Mine was about 3” long). Take this piece and create a foam base for it. The base will rest in the bottom, of your torso piece. Cut out a hole to accommodate the cardboard cylinder piece. Shove piece in (about halfway into foam), hot glue and tape together. I reinforced the whole thing with black duct tape. It actually should resemble a joystick! It should fit snuggly into your bottleneck piece. and stabilize the head. **This should be the last piece you attach** Hot glue it into place inside of the torso piece and reinforce with duct tape**
Step 15: Strings!!
You will need:
1. Paint stirrers.
2. Nylon thread
3. Measuring tape
4. 1 large hairpin **I would highly suggest attaching this prior to gluing in your hair. All you need to do is plunge it in the top center of the head, and hot glue in place. MUCH easier then doing at the end**
Grab your paint stirrers. Simply make an X shape with them and attach. I used black duct tape. This worked well because I had to do some adjusting with the sticks and strings so it was easier to remove the tape when needed.
Simply measure how long you will need the strings, once you have that figured out; subtract the height of the puppet. (Mine was 28” with her hair). I suggest having someone help you with this part. String the head first, and work from that height. This is a very basic string method; you can find more advanced ones on the Internet.
-1 STRING FROM THE TOP OF THE HEAD (hairpin) GOES INTO THE CENTER OF YOUR X SHAPE
-2 STRINGS, ONE FOR EACH ARM. ATTACH TO MIDDLE ELBOW JOINT. GOES ON THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR X (TO THE LEFT AND RIGHT OF THE CENTER HEAD STRING)
-2 STRINGS GO ON THE SHOULDERS. THIS WILL HELP TAKE THE WEIGHT OFF THE HEAD. I TIED THEM THROUGH THE ARM HOLES, 1 ON EACH SIDE. PLACED BETWEEN THE ARM/HEAD STRINGS.
-1 STRING PER LEG, ATTACHED TO THE KNEE JOINTS PLACED ON THE OUTSIDE OF ARM STRINGS.
Now, your puppet should be done and ready to take on the world!!