To be honest, you can use just about anything. I've seen them made of wood, cardboard, paper, metal, glass, plastic, assorted fabrics, etc.
If $$$ is an issue, start looking around the home for junk that you can recycle. Old rain jacket with a hole in it? There's a puppet or two. A bunch of empty tin cans? A robot puppet if you don't own tin snips, anything at all if you do.
See what I mean?
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Thank you, GuardianFox,
I apologize if my posting was vague - i was constrained by the character limit and a rather specific subject.
While i do sometimes make non-shadow puppets out of almost anything, the shadow theatre i've been working with has so far focused on Western European shadow puppetry (sometimes called 'ombres chinoises'). The black matte board i've been using has four problems, which i am trying to overcome. They are...
1) The thick stuff is hard to cut & eats X-acto blades like candy.
2) The thin stuff gets floppy when the weather is humid.
3) If i want less floppiness, i have found no better solution than to polyurethane-coat all the puppet pieces before assembly. I dislike the added labor, the fumes, and the fact that the puppets are still pretty fragile.
4) The thick stuff (1/16") makes for heavy puppets, is expensive, and still weak when delicately cut.
I'm seeking a material that may not exist, but hoping that if it does, someone here will suggest it.
Specifically - i seek something light, thin, easily cuttable yet rigid, durable, opaque, environmentally friendly, and inexpensive.
Well, I intended shadow puppets from junk, but the traditional style you're working with does change my answer..
Coroplast - A corrugated plastic. It comes in sheets and is relativly easy to cut. It's often used to make real estate and political signs. It's also frequently used for making semi-permanent workstations in factories. The stuff looks like corrugated cardboard, but it's made of plastic. Totally waterproof. It is light, but probably as thick as 1/8". You can find it easiest by calling a sign shop.
????????- I've also seen a foam-core board that has a layer of plastic on each side instead of the usual layer of cardboard. These things are used for backdrops in presentation booths, because you can pin lots of stuff to them. I saw the material at Walmart in a prepackaged kit, but I'm sure someone knows what the material is called and where to get it.
Again it's a three ply thing, one layer of thin plastic, a light foam, another layer of plastic.
Thank you so much for your suggestions. Very helpful. I'm going to see if our local materials exchange has the stuff used. Both kinds, that is.
Ciao - z
Best of luck!