Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The birth of Larry the lamb

Puppets can be made out of from a sock to a complex piece of machinery using hydraulics. After looking at mummers plays as part of my folk art research, I noticed they often use puppets to represent countryside animals in the plays. On a YouTube video of a performance I saw a puppet of a ram. This inspired me to create one of a sheep using simple materials.
I began by creating the basic animal shape from a flat piece of cardboard, I learnt from this process that when creating things such as props, accuracy with measurements is important as if they are wrong then your whole piece is built off of unstable foundations.
The simple mechanism I used for the opening and closing of the mouth was a wooden pole feeding through the bottom jaw and up through the inner mouth to be secured onto the top jaw. This allowed for the mouth to be opened without being noticeable from the outside.
The box was then covered with small strips of white material, I liked this as it added more movement to the costume when in use. Although cutting and gluing all the strips individually was a long process I think it was worthwhile as I achieved movement that I wouldn't have done if I'd have just applied cotton wool balls like I was going to initially do. It also made the work  similar to the traditional pieces as they usually use long lengths of cloth to depict fur.
Once the head was complete it was time to build the framework to cover the body and support the head, which was going to be a difficult task due to the majority of the weight being high up in the costume. This meant in order to counter balance the extra weight, but keep full movement, I have to build further down onto the shoulders.
I did this by stripping out the inside of a hard hat to attach to the underside of the animals head. The helmet was then secured to the performer using a strip of elastic u
nder the chin. I then built a wire frame down onto the shoulder to support the weight on either side of the head. This added a great deal of support and increased comfort greatly. I then created another elastic strap that fastens at the front of the wearer to secure them into the costume securely. All these extra measures mean that the suit is not only comfortable but functional for use on stage and during performances.
All in all I think the piece was a great success, inspired by traditional folk art. If I were to make the piece again I would use a different material to cardboard for the bulk of the costume, such of chicken wire. Although using cardboard meant the piece was kept lightweight once completed.

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