Using newspaper, liquid starch, and a few other odds and ends you can make your very own papier mache head puppet. This project is fun for both children and adults. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination, so load up the instructions and take your character ideas from concept to showtime!
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Step 1: Build the Shape
To build the head you will need: a styrofoam ball or egg, modeling clay, lots of newspaper, some liquid starch or "Papier Mache Art Paste" (follow package directions if you use this), white paper towels, foil, masking tape, and an empty papertowel or toilet paper roll.
To begin you will use your styrofoam ball as your base. Build on features by pressing modeling clay onto the ball, making sure that the edges are well pressed into the styrofoam. Be creative! Just keep in mind that by the time the head is complete these features will be both bigger and less distinct, so exaggerate.
When you have created your shape, cover the entire head with aluminum foil. Press this on as tight as you can to your features, and try to do it all with one piece.
Step 2: Papier Mache It!
Now you are ready to Papier Mache! Rip your newspaper into many long strips and pour some of your liquid starch or art paste into a small container (about 1/2 inch deep). I like to use a small disposable tupperware for this because you can put a lid on it in between layers. That way it doesn't dry up.
Support your head on something round that papier mache will not stick to. An old ceramic mug is a good choice.
Rip short sections off of your newspaper strips as you go and dip them in the liquid. Get them thoroughly wet, but slide your fingers over each strip to wring off excess (you don't want it to drip everywhere). Completely cover your shape with the wet newspaper strips. You can use broader strips for less detailed areas, but to cover those pesky curves and corners thinner strips work better. When finished let it dry a bit (it will dry faster if you point a fan at it).
Repeat about 7 times. You will need about 7 layers to make your puppet strong enough to stand up to use. An easy way to keep track of your layers is to switch back and forth between newspaper layers and paper towel layers (use the paper towels the same way you use the newspaper).
Step 3: Finish Building the Head
When your head is completely dry you will need to take out the insides. For safety, this step needs to be completed by an adult. Cutting through the papier mache layers, cut your head in half right down the middle of its face with an xacto type knife. It may take several passes to cut through all those layers, so be patient and be sure to observe xacto knife safety (Never cut toward yourself!). Also, try not to cut too deeply into the styrofoam and clay.
Next, pry the two halves off of the foil covered base, and discard the insides. Now that you have the shell of your head, fit the two pieces back together and secure them with masking tape in several places.
For the neck, you will need to cut a hole in the bottom of your head the same size as your paper towel or toilet paper roll. You will only need about an inch long section of your roll, so cut that off and place it in the bottom of the head. The majority of this neck piece should be visible on the outside. Secure this with masking tape.
Lastly, papier mache over the seam and the neck with a fairly thick layer of newspaper. Make sure to cover all masking tape.
Step 4: Time to Make the Body
While you are waiting for the head to dry, you can make the body. First, you will need a simple fabric form. Print out the pattern below at full-page size (8.5 x 11)(You can also alter this pattern to personalize your puppet's body by making the arms longer, body fatter, etc.) Use this pattern to cut out two pieces of fabric. Fleece or felt work best because they will not fray at the top and bottom.
Now that you have your pieces cut out, sew them together along both sides (leave the top and bottom open). If sewing is not a possibility for you, you can also glue them together along the edges with tacky glue or hot glue, but make sure that the glue is completely dry before you move on.
Using sharp scissors, cut short slits from the outside almost to the seam near the tightest curves (such as just under the amrs). This is known as "clipping curves" and will keep these areas from bunching when you turn it. Next, turn your body right side out and you are done.
Step 5: Decorate the Body
You are now ready to decorate your puppet's body. Use cut pieces of felt, yarn, buttons, ribbons and any other things you can think of to create the look you want. Attach these pieces using tacky glue or hot glue. (Hint: You can make a convincing looking vest by cutting two slits in a piece of felt for the arms). An old Pringles can or something similar makes a useful stand for this step, but you can do it without a stand too.
Note: Of course, if you have the ability, you can create intricate wardrobes with your sewing machine, but you can do a lot with felt and glue too.
Step 6: Decorate the Head
When your head is dry, paint it with tempera or acrylic paint.
When the paint is dry, add other decorative elements. Google eyes, yarn, pieces of felt, etc. are all good choices. Attach them with tacky glue or hot glue (Hint: use half-circles of felt to make eye lids).
Step 7: Finish and Have Fun!
When the head is done, glue the neck of the puppet head to the inside of the neck of the body with tacky glue or hot glue. Let the puppet dry.
While your puppet is drying write a script for your first puppet show, your friends and family are gonna want to see your creation in action! Have fun!
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