Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bone Woman coming alive.

I've done some further work on my Bone Woman for the Puppet Challenge.  A few more layers of gesso, and a lot more sanding and I got to this stage, and decided it was as smooth as she's going to get.  I've cut the holes for the eyes/beads, so tried them out to see if my idea would work.  I'm pleased with it, as it is a simple solution to creating an eye that seems to move and follow, as the shiny beads catch the light.

I sat outside in the sunlight and found that a camping 'Billy' (the slightly upmarket version, with a spout) makes a very useful holding device for a puppet head with a stick in the back of its head...though I had to weigh the billy down with a large tin of dog food!

I quite liked the colour of the first coat, but decided it was darker than I really wanted, so worked back into it with white, then in the end I rubbed paint off as well, and was pleased with the result.  I think it looks like she has rubbed chalk into her face, as a base for the fairly extreme 'make-up', which would, I imagine, be ochre, red clay and soot.

Next, I began to paint in the features, using the small mask as inspiration.  I just painted, adding in (and occasionally taking away again) colour, shading, details, until I reached the point where she seemed to be telling me she was finished, and any more would be just too much.  At this point, she looked like some kind of demon from a zombie movie without her eyes in, but those two little brown beads made so much difference.  

With her eyes in place, she seems not just human, but somehow sad and kindly and wise too.

The next challenge was hair, and how to attach it.  I looked through my collection of wool and yarn, tried out bits of home-made string, feathers, fabric, and then quite by accident, found something that did the job perfectly.  A roll of garden tie purchased from a hardware a couple years back, made from strips of recycled/repurposed grey marl t-shirt fabric.  I'd already tried making 'string' from it, but the result was too thick, so I tore the strips into thinner strips and discovered that the ends frayed and shredded and curled up.  I used a wider strip of it to make a kind of headband/skullcap (with a hole in the back for the stick), and began sewing strips with shredded ends on.  I cut long strips, shredded both ends, then sewed the middle down where her natural part might be.  A few layers later, and some thinner braids/string made from red wool, a few beads, and I love it.  


I suspect she will end up being far too heavy to really work as a puppet (I've still got body, arms, hands, legs, feet and clothing to add, not to mention I'm toying with the idea of a tiny Shaman's frame drum), and all that weight has to be held and manipulated by the puppeteer using only one hand, while the other moves her hand/arm.  But, she's my first attempt, and I'm really enjoying how she is developing.

Apologies for the not-so-great photos, they were taken using my phone.


Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

OK, now this is looking wonderful. I may have missed a step somewhere, but I'm not too sure what type of puppet you're intending, though I caught the reference to the head perhaps being too heavy.

First of all, some traditional European marionettes were incredibly weighty. Quite tall and with heads and limbs of solid wood, these puppets were controlled by heavy-gauge wire to the head. The puppets of Palermo are examples of this type, and the marionettes of the Toone Theatre in Brussels. In fact, being heavy is usually less of a problem in a puppet than being too light. NOTHING is worse than a puppet so light that it bobs and floats about.

Go back to the Artlog and type 'guide to puppetry' in the topic box. There you'll find a puppet primer that will give you an overview of types of puppet. It's not finished yet… in progress… but you'll see plenty to help you decide how to proceed. Bunraku may be one method. Bunraku puppets often have relatively heavy heads, but the bodies are made of stuffed fabric. And you'll find examples of heavy European marionettes too, just so that you can see that having a heavy head is not an impediment.

Your puppet is looking very good. Exciting, and VERY scary!

A mermaid in the attic said...

Thanks so much Clive, I've never made a puppet before, so your advice (and your compliments!) are very, very welcome.

In the post below this one, I've embedded a Youtube clip of a puppet performance by the lady whose workshop I attended a few years back, in which I made the Bone Woman's head. I'm intending to make the same kind of puppet as the little mermaid girl. So I'm just a bit worried that by the time I finish her, she might be rather heavy to hold up with one hand for any length of time, while the other hand manipulates her limb/s. But I'll see how she goes!

jinxxxygirl said...

Well isn't the puppeteer ambidextrous ?? :) Sweety its wonderful! My goodness once you started putting the paint on her she really came alive. Cannot wait to see more! Hugs! deb

Unknown said...

she's amazing! xxx

Nomi McLeod said...

Gorgeous!! Very excited and inspired by this! Xx

Mo Crow said...


Anonymous said...

pretty nice blog, following :)

suzi.crockford said...

She's lovely, the eyes are definitely inspired.

A Magical Whimsy said...

I am always fascinated with what you are creating. Your bone woman puppet is looking fabulous. I adore puppets, they are so magical.
I may take a jaunt over to Clive Hicks-Jenkins blog and take a peek at what else is in the creative works.
Thank you for sharing photos of your work in progress.

Teresa in California

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

Just checking in to enquire whether you've got any further with your puppet. We're beyond the deadline now. I'm happy to show what you achieved up to this stage, but if there has been further progress, you need to send me images.

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