10 Feb 2012 But progress is...
You’ll remember last week when I posted “delays are no fun“; I’d gotten stuck on designing the new character for Puppets in Melbourne. Fortunately, I’ve found a decent solution.
Where I left off I was complaining that I couldn’t make the puppet at a decent size witout the head becoming floppy. I decided to try adding a clear plastic layer to the back of the head, which connects at the neck and top of head. Adding a couple of extra brads to the side prevents the clear layer bending away from the head layer when the puppet is reversed. At first I didn’t like this solution, concerned about added weight and the aesthetics in adding extra brads. However, I find that the weight is only marginally heavier (slightly noticeable but only to someone who would be doing comparison tests) and the brads don’t distract at all.
This was a suggestion from Puppets and Stuff, where I often ask advice: but I only tried it because I forgot and returned to an idea I had initially. With these characters, instead of having mouths that are hinged, they will be used in combination with a series of props. “Dialogue” props if you will. The props will be in the shape of symbols or cut-out words, which you can have appear inside the hole of the head. (See here for pics of the puppet for a better understanding) However, the props will work best if they attach to something temporarily, since the head is hollow. Hence the clear layer that I’ve now installed.
As this easily solves two problems in one go, I am finally ready to start making these for real. I have put in an order for more materials - having only purchased enough for testing purposes and literally having none left - which will get me a total of 56 puppets in all. I’ll be making different coloured versions, hence the huge number.
While I’m waiting for that batch to arrive, I’ll be finalising one small detail, which involves whether or not I want more articulation on the character design. I’ve tried several different versions, and am satisfied with the original, but may want one more articulation (adding a wrist to one arm). This is entirely dependent on something else:
Recently on P&S we had a discussion on how to write a script. It was very instructive for me because I’ve always had it stuck in my head that there was some sort of magical method of writing for puppets that was different from ‘normal’ playwrighting. This idea has been completely stripped away now, especially because I’d been looking at it from a performer’s POV. When people talk about puppetry, they generally talk about writing dialogue or scripts as a performer. They talk about how you just need to get the puppet and muck around a bit, and voila, a character is born. However, when you’re like me and hate performing, and have been building puppets without any need (that is, without a show or script or performance need) it’s hard to have some sort of character in mind. One can imagine the aesthetics, and imagine the movement; but one can’t easily predict what the puppet will need to do or how it sounds or looks on stage.
The suggestion was an obvious one: write for puppets however you feel comfortable, there’s no magic answer. However, the salient point was that if I’m not a performer I should consider writing a script first, then developing the puppet design: even if I never plan on performing the script itself.
For me, this opens my eyes to how I need to change my building and design process. For the ‘Pamela’ character - the one pictured in the link above - I have designed first which limits my abilities to know what the design should accomplish, what movements it should be able to make. From now on, I will be writing a short script first; based on the character idea. This will allow me to ensure the puppet is truly useable, and I will likely make available the script on a creative commons basis. At the very least, a script will also provide me with a good way of publicising the puppets on Youtube as my previous advert/videos have been woefully lacking in a decent plot.
This returns me to my point: finalising the articulation for this character will have to wait until I have completed a short script from which I can work.
So in sum… I have ordered the materials and will build new puppets asap. I am working on developing a short script to use to finalise the design and/or use as advertising. I am looking into getting custom packaging for the puppets, along with clearing some space for storage. I will be finalising costs (initial costings suggest the materials will be cheap per/puppet but I haven’t accounted for labour yet). And with any luck something new will be available very very soon.