It is our aim at Project Puppet to provide a solid foundation of hand puppet construction techniques for the aspiring puppet builder/puppeteer. The Project Puppet patterns are not designed as a be all and end all solution to building puppets. Far from it! In fact, no puppet pattern or puppet company could truthfully make that claim.
It is our wish that you learn from the Project Puppet patterns and then build and add to your skills by experimenting with different materials and techniques. The information below will highlight some ways you can start to improve your adeptness as a puppet builder through the materials you use to build your puppets.
One of the easiest ways to improve your building skills is to begin experimenting with different materials. The materials used in the Project Puppet patterns were chosen for two reasons.
That being said, there other materials that can be substituted within the confines of the Project Puppet patterns that can add to the quality and durability of the finished puppet. We'll consider a few materials and a few suitable substitutions to start your mind rolling on the possibilities.
If you asked twenty different puppet builders how to construct a mouthplate for a hand puppet, you would more than likely get twenty different answers and quite a long list of materials. The materials used for mouthplates, as well as the many different techniques and styles of mouthplate grips, are as diverse as the people that build them. The mouthplate is certainly a great area of the puppet building process with which to experiment.
The Forma Series, available here at Project Puppet, utilizes foam core to construct the mouthplate. Foam core was chosen because of its availability and because no special tools or heavy equipment is necessary to work with the material. Other materials, however, may be used in place of the foam core, making the puppet more durable, especially under heavy use.
Here are some materials you may want to try:
Let's not forget the Simple Series! Here are a couple of alternatives to replace the stiffened felt that is used for the Simple Series mouthplates.
In general, the Project Puppet patterns call for the use of hot glue for constructing your puppet characters. Again, hot glue was chosen partly because of its availability. It was also chosen due to the health risks of using other adhesives. Hot glue is non-toxic, and with a little practice, can be used to produce excellent results. (Both Rupert and Leo in the Project Puppet Gallery were constructed using no other adhesive but hot glue.)
That being said, there are faster and more durable alternatives that you may want to try. All safety guidelines should be followed, one being good ventilation, when working with the below adhesives. They are toxic and repeated or prolonged use without taking the proper safety precautions has been linked to "brain and nervous system damage". (We're not making that up, it's on the label.)
There are a few tricks to using the adhesives above. If you have invested in the Forma Trio, you are already aware of a few tricks. (The Forma Trio comes with a set of general instructions for working with reticulated foam, including tips on dyeing the foam, as well as two glue techniques.) The tricks and techniques are best reserved for another tutorial, but to get you started with the basics, you may want to check out Swazzle's Ratchet Tutorial, paying attention specifically to Part Four.