Friday, April 28, 2006

Puppet building for kids!

For those of you who read this blog and do not know much about me. I should state up front that besides being involved in puppetry, I am a full time school teacher here in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Puppets have long been a part of my classroom and I have built puppets every year with students that I have been teaching.

One of the things that I have tried to do is to make the puppet building experience different and ultimately challenge myself and the students to make outstanding puppets. I amazes me how many people mistakenly underestimate the abilities of children. My experience has been that children are often more capable than you might think.

Now I teach grade 1 and 2 in a combined classroom. I have taught Kindergarten and last year I taught art all year to a grade 2 and 3 combined classroom. A few years ago I even did a latex rubber puppet building class with grade 7 and 8 class (and no I didn't let them do any of the rubber pouring or anything else that might have been the least bit toxic).

Anyways, my point is that every year I try to get away from the traditional paper bag puppets and see exactly what children could do. I have talked about Project Puppet before (in my last post to be exact). They have a pattern series that I wanted to see if I would be able to get small children to build with. I contacted Project Puppet and made an agreement to test out the patterns with the students to see what they could do with it.

We started with character designs/drawings in February and just finished building the puppets the beginning of April. To actual building time was probably around 12 - 16 hours, but it was done during lunch hours 3 times per week or whenever there was time.

The patterns were reduced in size by about 60- 75% of their original size. Since we were working with 7 - 10 year olds some had smaller hands and requested smaller puppets.

I would briefly demonstrate each step to the students and they would then do each step on their own. From cutting, to tracing patterns, to hot gluing each student work with limited support and a lot of guidance.

It was decided that using the hot glue guns would be acceptable for the small group and we spend a good amount of time talking about safety with the hot glue.

Of course their were the occasional small burns, but in all honesty I have seen more injuries from out classroom tape dispenser than the hot glue guns.

As a group we dyed the foam (I later did the rest out of time issues), and started to build the body and heads for our puppets.

As always I would demonstrate (using the cat puppet that I was building) and the students would attempt each step that they were shown. I was amazed at how well the students were able to follow the instructions.

Slowly the puppets began to take shapes and the characters started to come through. It was interesting to see how many students stayed close to their designs and how many branched off where the building took them.

The final results were nothing less than incredible. Remember that most of these puppets were build and designed by children. There rival many of the puppets I see online by adult builders. I promised to post the final puppets online for them to see so please enjoy these amazing works of art.

Character Name: Melissa
Builder: Anna
Grade: 5

Character Name: Lily
Builder: Kayley
Grade: 2

Character Name: Tara
Builder: Yuan Yuan
Grade: 4

Character Name: Shadow
Builder: Elsie
Grade: 2

Character Name: Stinky Whizzle Tooth
Builder: Harlan
Grade: 3

Character Name: Little Joe
Builder: Sam
Grade: 3

Character Name: Blade McKennie
Builder: Jeremy
Grade: 4

Character Name: Smelly Cat Max
Builder: Mr. Chen
Grade: 1/2 Teacher

Character Name: Angelo Deville
Builder: Mr. Latter
Grade: 4/5 Teacher

Character Name: Lola
Builder: Larissa
Grade: 5

Character Name: Tommy
Builder: Rachel
Grade: 2

Character Name: Crazy Tear-Up
Builder: Keegan
Grade: 2

I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did working with the students who built them. Great job everyone I am very proud of you all.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

So you wanna be a builder, eh?!

Have you ever wanted to build a puppet, but never known where to start? Are you a puppet builder already and want to see how your puppets stack up?

Well now there is an amazing contest being hosted by Project With there latest pattern called "The Glorified Sock Puppet" pattern, you can build a simple, but amazing puppet, in no time.

The contest is called "Sock Search" and you had better start building right away because it has already started. Build as many puppets as you want, but you may only enter 1 puppet per contestant, so pick your best one to send in.

Chensational Puppets will be one of the honourary guest judges along with builders from different parts of the world (that I personally respect the work of). To read more about the other judges and for detailed rules visit the Project Puppet's website here.

Contest ends May 28th, 2006.

Good luck, and happy building!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

If Life Were Like That...

 wouldn't need VISA.

Or so the commercial goes. Well a while back I was a part of a commercial of sorts that used this popular add campaign as a series of comical spoofs highlighting a director reel for director David Mewa (pronounced "mee-wah").

I was contacted by David and asked if I could build a wolf puppet and sheep costume in two weeks. Normally I would just say no way, but David was sent my way by a good friend and I guess I am a glutton for punishment, so I agreed. I had absolutely no time and found myself using spare minutes here and there to try to build this puppet.

I had the puppet ready for delivery on shoot day. If you ask me, I notice that the puppet looks rushed. Ultimately however I think the look works. I am extremely critical of my work and I know that with more time I could have done much better.

The wolf got his chance to perform mid afternoon. In fact I remember being in a deep sleep and hearing my name called to get ready to go on. I performed for a short titled "Yes Men".

The idea behind the sketch is that if people had a boss who didn't care who he hired then you wouldn't need an awesome director like David Mewa. So the short ended with "If life were like that then you wouldn't need MEWA". The idea being that your boss won't want to hire just anyone (especially a wolf in sheeps clothing).

The shoot was impressively well organized. We shot everything in the CBC building in Toronto. In fact David is a director who works for CBC and just recently finished working on a new show called "Hockeyville".

So finally here is the completed clip called "Yes Men".