Creaturiste's Laboratory

Techniques, works in progress, and everything that doesn't fit in the portfolio. Comments and questions are encouraged, custom orders are welcome!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ambidextrous mouthplate

Hello all.
Over the years, the frequency of puppets requiring mouth plates has increased in my production. I've been trying different types of mouthplate materials, and I really like one material above all else for a hinge material: nylon webbing (backpack straps). This article shows what I do with it, to make a mouth plate.

The design is symmetrical, and can be worn on the left or right hand. Very comfortable, if glued well-aligned with the mouth. The center zigzag stitch separates the hand grips in half. This piece was a test, and was removed because I messed up the alignment in the puppet, and the side stitches flaring out were not easily flattened down. Look below fore a better version of stitching the sides. This one is not made of nylon webbing, but it is a similar looking product, I think it's a natural fiber.

Pros: very strong, one piece, won't un-glue itself.
Cons: only works for lightweight puppets that don't require a finger grip (like a half ball).
Be careful to give enough space for fatter fingers than your customer's, just in case.

I started using this marvel stuff years ago, after having problems with a leather mouthplate stretching out of shape and ungluing itself because of extreme moisture in the air. Nylon webbing doesn't seem to stretch at all, won't rot, and doesn't seem to get brittle. It accepts hot glue wonderfully, but it drinks in contact cement a bit between its weaves, so we need to use several applications before proper surface contact is achieved. The contact cement stiffens the hinge area, so don't put any where it will bend.

More often than not, I can't find the webbing in a wide enough variety, so I use two or more next to each other, to create the proper hinge width. I nowadays zig-zag stitch them flat next to each other, using the sewing machine. I picked up that trick from a customer who is very good at sewing, when she learned that I was going to have to use the narrower webbing for some puppets I was making for her. Been zigzagging it ever since! Once stitched, the hinge is measured within the head, marked, and trimmed. The perimeter is zigzag stitched twice to prevent unraveling. Might not be necessary, with the contact cement later, but I prefer to play it safe.

The webbing can be somehow uncomfortable at the edges, so once installed in the mouth, covering with a soft but durable fabric will increase comfort and durability. Sometimes the design requires finger tubes, so I make these out of the same nylon webbing, but make sure to machine stitch it flat, then loop the lengths on both side up and hand-stitch them together once I have the required fit. Be careful not to stitch too thickly where the webbings link with each other, or you'll have an uncomfortable bump.

The middle finger is free to operate one of my eyebrow triggers.

What an actual nylon webbing hinge looks like before it is stitched together flat. The webbing I had was narrow, so I zigzagged three together (brown stitches in the center). The pins show where the zigzag stitch must be well done to ensure durability. Avoid over stitching into lumps though. The "legs" are joined together, trimmed to size, once measured, then their edges zigzagged to prevent unraveling, then each tube is hand stitched together. An extra stitch is done over that to split the hand grip in half, if necessary for the design (see first picture).

Bonus Tips:
•Nylon webbing can be made into puppet hair, by simply unraveling it. Usually, it unravels only in one direction. Some weaves of nylon webbing don't unravel in any usable way.
•Using a waterproof fabric inside the foam puppet's mouth will enhance the durability.
I made a puppet about two years ago that has a liner of umbrella fabric. It's lasting to this day.
It might be sluippery with sweat, so be sure that you have a good grip as part of the design.
I had a half ball of closed cell foam as a finger grip on the upper mouth plate.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Simple rod marionette control

I made up this control really fast, to replace the fragile (and broken), overly complex control that came with a rod marionette my customer brought from Belgium.
The marionette itself was well built.

I had to simplify the system so that amateurs could make it move really well, at first. So I made it in one piece, no movable parts on the control.

The handle is a piece of pine.
The horizontal extension is made of two pieces of hardwood, which I cut from the bigger paint stirring sticks I found at the hardware store. I love those! The are pre-pierced to prevent splitting, glued in place, and screwed as well. The screw eyes are inserted with a bit of glue, until their base sinks a bit into the wood, to make sure the strings will never grab or escape. Their ends that poke through are cut flush with the surface. All the screw heads are covered with epoxy putty.
The control parts are filed and sanded smooth while still separate.
Another step of sanding and filing is done on the assembled control.

Only two strings operate the arms and legs.

The leg string goes through both screw eyes at the top.
The arm string goes through the single screw eye.

Because I didn't have the time to replace the rod, I had to break the old control off of the rod, and build my new control over the existing, already-bent rod.
this meant I had to carve a channel into my wooden handle to snugly hold the rod in place.
I then filled it with epoxy putty (plumbing grade). I like the one from PC products (USA), because it is very strong, and cures well within 20 minutes.
Once applied, you can smooth epoxy putty with a bit of rubbing alcohol on your gloved finger.
When cured, a filing and sanding can be done to achieve a seamless result.

I painted the whole control with a glue-based black paint of my own composition.

Neat feature:
Grab leg string, and the opposite side of the arm string, then activate the legs.

This makes the rod marionette walk with the natural opposition of arms and legs (left arm raises as the right leg does same).

Neat Marionette Joint

Yesterday, I had the chance to make a new control for a rod marionette from Europe.
I don't get to see those often, and every time I learn something new.

This time, on the Pinocchio puppet, I noticed the simple yet sturdy system the artist (unknown, probably from Belgium) used for the knees and hips.

Instead of the usual hole in the wood, where the axle can and will enlarge said hole, they made a groove on top of the piece of wood, inserted a piece of thick wire to cover the groove, used an axle on the other piece of wood, which links up to the initial piece by going under the metal wire.
Metal on metal is strong. It's a little bit squeaky though. It was barely noticeable on the Pinocchio.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Inspirations for Abundance

I often recommend these sources for inspiration.
They all helped and are still helping me better my life.
I dedicate this article to all artists, who may have been struggling with money and abundance.
Let's fight the clichés and unproductive, self-destructive beliefs.
The age of the Starving Artist is over!
These are resources I found and still find very inspiring in my life, and

Free audio book of The Science of Getting Rich
(I listen to the audio, but I also have the actual book, to carry with me).

Think and Grow Rich (book)
by Napoleon Hill
(I'm still reading it for the first time, not even halfway yet, and already
it's very useful)

For energy and connection inspiration, the following movies (both based on
books) are very uplifting:

The Celestine Prophecy

Peaceful Warrior

And for the importance of myth, there's a superb documentary, which uses
stop motion puppetry (puppets made by Wendy and Brian Froud) to illustrate
some of the myths:
Mythic Journeys

About the law of attraction
(Developed within the two books named above)
Every time I focus on it, even just a little, I get demonstrable results. Just last night, I found 7 "banker's boxes" I needed for better storage and order, for free. I had been thinking I needed them just the day before, and told myself I WOULD find them.
Wasn't even looking for them. Works for small things, and bigger things, including events.
Let's make this a habit, and grow abundance for all!