Introduction: Building Audrey II Phase 2

About: I am a theater artist with a taste for the unusual. Bones and metal, iconography and the media, rough textures, blatant symbolism, and a slant towards the surreal, I limit myself to no media or style. I'll try…

Phase II of Audrey II is bigger than her previous form and begins to show a little malice as she begins to take the lead of Seymour for her own ends (though is still rather somewhat cute and animalian). As with all her forms, Phase II has specific needs for the production as well. She needs to:

  • Be held by Seymour for the extent of her appearance on stage.

  • Be able to be manipulated by him without (for the most part) giving away the conceit that she is a puppet.

These are much more simple requirements than the previous and later forms, making this version of Audrey II primarily a simple hand-puppet. Seymour’s arm is hidden inside of her by use of a dummy arm on the jacket he wears for this scene, which also helps to support the puppet allowing him to use his other hand in his acting.

Given her growth in size and attitude, Audrey II Phase II has these thoughts behind her:

  1. She's bigger than the previous phase, and even begins to show some baby teeth.

  2. She's still fairly goofy looking, as she doesn’t begin to speak yet, and still is a childish little thing.

  3. Her colors have begun to intensify, and she's begun to take on a head-shape more similar to her later forms.

Other than this her design considerations remain the same as the previous and later forms as an overall concept.

Step 1: Materials

Phase II of Audrey, as with Phase I does not require a tremendous amount of material or a solid armature as she is still relatively small. She is composed of the following materials:

  • 1” Upholstery Foam

  • Craft Foam

  • Cardboard

  • 1” Elastic Strap

  • Faux Terra Cotta Plastic Pot

  • Milliskin Matte Spandex Fabric in White, Daffodil Yellow, Magenta, and Apple/Kelly Green, as well as a Neutral Color

  • Nylon Strap

  • Plastic Parachute Clips

  • Thread

  • Hot Melt Glue

  • Acrylic Paint in Evergreen, Apple Green, White, Red, Purple, Blue, Aqua, Yellow, Orange, Brown, and Black

Pardon that I cannot list specific volumes of each, as I was buying bulk amounts for multiple forms of Audrey II, I don't have much by way of estimate for each. For the second phase, they are all in small amount, less than one sheet of foam and a few feet of the other materials with yardage.

Step 2: Part 1: Head

The construction of Phase II is very similar to phase one, simply larger and more detailed than before. As with the previous phase, her head consists of an upper and lower jaw (this time more distinct from one another) and each is composed of a piece of foam cut out in a butterfly-like shape and hot-melt glued together into a dome-like form.  A concave line will give an outward protuberance, and a convex one will give an inward dip, both are used for this form's distinctive shape.

My initial construction did not leave an appropriate amount of room for the hand, and you can see where I reduced some material to improve the fit. Often when building things like this I do not make precise patterns but prefer to over-cut general ones and make smaller adjustments as I go for exactly the shape I want.

This phase also has a lip, and it is constructed in the same way as the previous phase, although here it is more prominent.

Step 3: Part 2: Mouth

Both halves of the mouth of the puppet are sealed off with a craft foam mouth plate, traced, cut to shape, and glued in place. I found that because of the size of this puppet, I needed a little bit more rigid support and used a bit of cardboard cut to size to fit inside of this foam and glued in place helped give some more solidity for finer control.

Because this head is larger than Phase I, to assist Seymore in puppeteering her, two straps of elastic are added to the interior of the mouth plate. These are the right width for four fingers of the hand to be slipped in the upper portion of the mouth and the thumb in the lower portion. These were hot melt glued in place, but latter reinforced with hand stitching when glue alone proved insufficent.

Phase II has a small tongue, but being a bit larger than the first, I added some cut foam (similar to the leaves) into it to give it a little more bulk.

Step 4: Part 3: Leaves

As the leaves of phase II have no required action, they are simply cut out of foam and shaped accordingly. There are two sizes of leaves, small and large, and both are shaped with a beveled edge as before.

Step 5: Part 4: Pot

Phase II sits directly in her pot, which partially helps to conceal Seymore's arm. This pot is larger than the previous phase, and has a 'U' shape removed from what serves as the back of it for the puppeteer's arm to rest in. The plastic is light enough that a matte knife/box-cutter works just fine to do so. As the pot is painted later on, there is no harm marking it in sharpie.

The pot has been left with enough of a lip to cut two vertical slits to fit nylon strap through. (I accidentally cracked the plastic while doing this, but adding a patch and adhering things back together seems to have solved the problem).  Later consideration had me moving the strap from the bottom of the pot to the top, as it does not affect the puppeteer's arms.  The slits here which appear at the bottom were repeated at the top, and the strap threaded through at that point.

Step 6: Part 5: Vest

In order to hold the puppet on the puppeteer a small vest sewn out of knit fabric is used. This has a casing at the bottom of it which serves to hold the nylon strap that feeds through the puppet's pot and clasps together with plastic parachute clips. This holds the pot to the puppeteer's chest.

The vest is of a very simple construction, consisting of a back piece and two front pieces. These are sewn together with a zigzag stitch and edge-finished with a rolled edge (except the casing) which is also zig-zag stitched.

This vest will not show once everything is assembled, but it is best if the color is somewhat neutral to prevent accidental show-through.

Step 7: Part 6: Mouth Skin

I began skinning Phase II with the interior of the mouth, draping the fabric over the puppet, determining a cut that would be the most conservative of fabric, tracing things out with a sharpie or chalk, then cutting things out.

I over-cut to compensate for where the mouth will come together with the head, and ended up with the upper portion of the mouth, the lower portion, and a tongue. The tongue, stuffed with a bit of upholstery foam cut to shape, is meant as a finger puppet, and finding the center of both halves of the mouth I hand-stitched it in, being sure not to stitch the opening closed. With that in place I finished off the joint of the back of the mouth with a zigzag stitch. This will serve as the hinge point for the jaw when in place.

Step 8: Part 7: Head Skin

A more precise pattern for covering the head could be used by tightly taping the form in brown packing tape, then marking out a pattern in sharpie and removing the pieces bit by bit, but to save on time, and because I felt confident of what was needed to shape the skin, I simply draped fabric over the head, cutting and sewing as I went.

Each half of the head consists of three pieces of fabric, a left and right side, and a piece to cover the lip. The left and right side were given a seam down the middle, but the rest of the attachment to the foam head was done in hot-melt glue. This is an ideal application for fabric hot melt glue, which adheres very well to foam and fabric.

The fabric does not need to be 100% stuck down to the foam, but it does need to be in place solidly enough not to shift when in use. I accomplished this with a strip of glue down the center of the head, and then a band of it around all the edges leading to the interior of the head, as well as any place where a raw edge touched the foam.  The rest of the fabric remains loose, but as the shapes are fitted, no further attachment is needed.

When attaching the lip/mouth skin (which were stitched together around their edges), I was sure to give a clean 'seam' of glue by attaching the fabric in the same manner I would have had I sewn a seam in place. That being; attaching the right side to right side, then pulling things out to cover.

Step 9: Part 8: Leaf, Neck, and Tooth Skin

Again, with no action, the leaf skin was simply cut out of fabric (after tracing out the foam leaves), sewn around it's edges, and the foam stuffed into the correctly shaped skins accordingly.

As with Phase I, a tubular neck was sewn out of a rectangle of fabric and painted before being attached to anything.

The teeth were handled in a similar way, small pyramids cut out of foam and shaped with beveled edges, then stuffed into a pre-sewn skin. Each tooth for this phase is quite small, and there are only four.

Step 10: Part 9: Painting

The painting order remains consistent through each phase of Audrey II. I used a very cheap acrylic straight from the tube to avoid mixing later. Since these colors suit the look of the show, there was no need to blend for subtlety. I used both a paint sprayer (for gradients and consistency of base colors) and a brush (for details and accents). These photos encompass the painting of several phases as I was painting as much as possible at once to cut down on time.

The exterior of the head was painted in this order:

  1. Orange sprayed gradient (leaving a bit of the front yellow)

  2. Red sprayed gradient

  3. Purple brushed veins (with thinned paint for smoother lines, being sure to add more veins than the previous phase)

  4. White brushed highlights and spots (not thinned for opacity)

The interior of the mouth was painted in this order:

  1. Purple sprayed gradient

  2. Blue sprayed gradient

  3. Brushed purple details

  4. Brushed blue details

  5. Brushed white highlights

The Leaves and greenery were painted in this order:

  1. Dark green sprayed gradient

  2. Light green brushed veins and tips

  3. Purple brushed veins

  4. Red brushed vein highlights

  5. White vein and edge highlights

The pot was painted with a combination of brown, gray, white, black, and apple green sprayed and splattered to create a more interesting look.

Step 11: Part 10: Final Assembly

To facilitate painting, all final assembly on each phase is done after painting. For phase II, the first piece to come together is adding the neck skin to the arm of the vest for the puppeteer. This is done with a zig-zag stitch on the unfinished arm-hole, in this case the right arm.

The teeth are added to the mouth after both are painted to prevent over-spray, with just a dab of hot melt glue for each.

The neck skin opposite to the arm attachment is added to the back of the head with hot melt glue, adhered around the edge.

I finished off the edge of each leaf by doubling the fabric in on itself for a clean seam and closing it up with a stripe of hot-melt glue. The large leaves were then added to the edge of the pot (after scoring the plastic to help adhesion, not shown), and the small leaves were added to the neck of the puppet.

With these items all in place, the nylon strap of the vest was fed through the slots of the plastic pot, and the parachute clasps were added. These straps can be adjusted to fit most any size of puppeteer.

Step 12: Part 11: Attaching the Jacket

In order to disguise the puppeteer's arm inside the puppet, the jacket Seymour wears during this scene is adapted to have a false arm and a slit for his control of the puppet. This jacket is a standard men's sport coat (albeit rather deliberately unfitted and coarse, given the character) chosen by the costume designer.

First, a false arm was sewn for the right sleeve, stuffed and stitched to give it an elbow and shoulder joint. For ease of matching, the hands are gloves (Seymour wears the other glove on his left hand to match). The dummy hand was stuffed and the fingers stitched together for more realistic positioning.

With the coat in hand, a large slit was made down the front of the garment. This was edge-stitched and fray-tacked to prevent raveling. The puppet's sleeve is fed through the slit, and the pot attached to the front of the coat with the control strap threaded through the opening (Note: the positioning of the vest strap was moved from the bottom of the pot to the top for better performance).

The dummy arm was slipped into the sleeve, and the shoulder stitched in place to the lining to prevent movement. Using zip ties, the hand was set in a reasonably realistic position and attached to the pot (slits cut in the leather of the glove and small holes cut in the plastic pot allow for attachment). Seymour can now freely manipulate the puppet without holding the pot.

Step 13: Conclusion

Here is Phase II rigged and ready to go. She is a very simple hand puppet, but there is conceit in her operation to give the impression that Seymour is holding on to a lively creature. These photos lack it's jacket/glove/dummy arm attachment, as, as of taking these, I was still waiting on the costume designer for those pieces to add.

On to Phase III...

Step 14: Bonus: Production Photos

Here are some photos of this puppet in action during the production!