Here's a flyer with the details about a Puppet Camp I'll be leading this July at our artists' collective shop, Artfish42, in the Walnut Beach section of Milford, CT. If you know of anyone who'd be interested in participating, please feel free to share this with them and thank you!
Everyone & their muther has a tutorial on making apple pies in miniature on YouTube. I wanted to set these pies apart from the teeming masses so I included li'l American flags. These I made by shrinking down (via my pal Photoshop) one of those American flags that come attached to toothpicks. They are attached to bits of (Christmas ornament) wire. Wire gives me more flexibility and positioning possibilities and a toothpick would have been too fat/ wrong scale. The last step was adding a layer of Triple Thick for shine, to protect the paper and make it a little more substantial.
In my last two posts about puppet-making with middle schoolers, we crafted spoon puppets and bag puppets. Next up: FINGER PUPPETS!
The sample finger puppets I made (above) were crafted from the simple patterns (below). Feel free to use the patterns for your own puppet-crafting session!
I loaded up the supply table with craft felt and felt scraps, sewing thread, pins, needles, googly eyes, ribbons, faux fur, pom poms, feathers, paper (construction, etc.). Just go through your stash of crafting supplies and pull out anything that might remotely work. You'll also need the usual: scissors, glue, hot glue, etc.
I recommend using craft felt with kids because:
It's inexpensive and kids can learn and perfect crafting techniques without breaking the bank
There are SO many colors and patterns (ladybug, zebra, tiger) and textures (cobblestone) that are sure to spark some captivating characters
I had the kids cut out the pattern of their choice and pin it to two pieces of felt (or a folded piece), so that they could cut out the front and back of the puppet in ONE FELL SWOOP. School scissors being what they are, this isn't always the easiest of tasks.
TIP: Invest in a bunch of good sewing scissors of varying sizes (kids' hands at this age range from little-kid-esque to full-blown adult size). The expense will pay for itself in decreasing the kids' frustration in not being able to cut, and will save YOU time in having to cut the shapes out for them.
If pinning isn't going well, have your kids trace around the pattern piece with a pencil or chalk. Sharpie markers are not the way to go for this task. Many of my students used them, and Sharpies, while permanent on most surfaces, don't do such a hot job on craft felt. Smeary & messy.
ANOTHER TIP: For decorating, instead of using Sharpies, try using fabric pens or the fabric paint that comes in easy-to-apply containers, where the nozzle serves double-duty as the applicator. (Remember to factor in Dry Time for these paints.)
I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to see what other finger puppets could be, so I showed them a puppet short, Mister Pink & Horsy, and brought in a couple of examples.
I've talked in the earlier puppet-making blog posts about wanting to come up with projects for the middle-schoolers that didn't seem too "babyish", and that held true for this lesson too. I can make "cute" exemplars, and those are great for many of the girls, but I can't count on tween and teen boys getting into that. SO, for another variation on what a finger puppet can be, I created a Killer Clown.
Regular clowns: Lame. Killer clowns: Way more interesting. And all you really need to do is add hostile eyebrows and some fangs!
In mocking this up, it became apparent that the legs needed to be longer to make the scale make sense. HENCE: Finger/Leg extensions. These were just quickly made, and really could be explored much further.
I'd learned about making mini candy buttons from a YouTube video which showed the clever idea of cutting strips of white paper backing from sticker sheets (around 3.8" wide). Since sticker sheet paper is slightly "waxy", it makes a pretty decent replica of the real thing. The added bonus is that it's more durable than a strip of regular ol' paper.
The tutorial showed the candy buttons being created by dipping a toothpick into acrylic paint and dotting the paint onto the paper strip. This DOES work, but it's pretty tedious, takes a LOT of time, and paint blobs/mistakes are hard to wipe off without wrecking a whole row of buttons.
One of the REALLY COOL things about being involved in the artists' collective shop, Artfish42, is this wider community of area artists we now get to meet. Michael J Clocks, a mixed-media sculptor working with recycled electronics, is one of these artists.
Michael was busy working on an installation for Smoke and Mirrors Parlor this past winter. Imagine my delight when I heard that he'd purchased a bunch of my mini composition book sets and was sketching in them. Of course I had to see! I love minis and sketching in pretty much equal measure, so you hafta know that I was crazy about the detail he was able to achieve on a small scale.
This was also the first time I'd seen the wall that he'd created for Smoke & Mirrors. Part sculptural, part mural, this piece is captivating -- futuristic, other-worldly and incredibly-detailed. Not only that, but it's a marvel to consider that it was created from discarded and recycled items.
Since I work with tweens and teenagers at the very end of their long school day, I've found it real important to show samples (my own and online references) that will entice them to dig in and make stuff.
(The above devil has faux fur for eyebrows and goatee, and a balloon for a nose. Arms are made in three parts and are jointed with brads.)
I brought in a wide variety of supplies for them -- brown and colored bags (party stores are a good source), yarn, felt, paper, googly eyes, etc. I was influenced by Fandango's unconventional items being used for hair, so I also brought in some ancient, uncooked twisty pasta that I found here at the Manse.
WORD OF CAUTION: Tweens and Teenagers will EAT ancient, uncooked twisty pasta, especially if they're trying to impress a love interest. So maybe don't bring in ancient pasta for them to use. THINGS I'VE LEARNED I SHARE WITH YOU NOW!
I'm a part of an artists' collective and we've been working so hard getting ready for the opening of our shop, ArtFish42. Tomorrow's the day!
In addition to crafting minis and finger puppets, toys, pillows, and cozies, I've been busy packaging and creating the display for my Slice of Retail Heaven.
This framed pegboard display for my miniatures came together like a dream, and how often does THAT happen? I'd gotten some inspiration and tips from poking around on Pinterest. I found this large frame at Hobby Lobby, and it was very accommodating with its color, its size and the fact that it came sans glass. I got the pegboard at Home Depot. They cut it down for me and were SO HELPFUL with application ideas. I went with a wood glue and glazier points tag-team. Beautiful, baby! The metal holders also came from Home Depot.
Last year I got to make a variety of puppets with the middle school kids in the after school program. I was stoked to be able to do this, as even before getting this job, I'd been creating a massive notebook full of all types of puppets and puppet theaters, and had already been working on samples. I'd started this self-inflicted project with the thought that it'd be good discipline for me and I thought I'd be able to shape a class from it. Isn't it just SOooo serendipitous that I was primed and ready to do just that a couple of months later?
After hemming and hawing at first as to whether spoon puppets are too "babyish" for this age group, I decided they aren't. My benchmark is usually, "Do I still want to make ______?" and if the answer is YES, then the decision is that there's still something to be gained from the venture. I scoured the house for any and all plastic spoons, then on to Party City for a wide variety of colors that I felt sure would trigger the kids' imaginations.
To counterbalance this "babyish" notion, at least for myself, I made KISS puppets, 1. because I had white spoons, and 2. because this age group leans a little too heavily in ONE DIRECTION (if you know what I mean) and I felt I needed to counterbalance that as well. (I figured none of the kids would even know who or what KISS was, but they did -- their PARENTS like them... funny. One girl set to work straightaway on working on her own KISS puppets.)