Friday, 5 September 2014

Dressing a Giant

Lady M on the Salkeld Screen in Carlisle Cathedral

Following on from my last post about Prism Arts Summer School I thought you might like to see how we got from a pram, a pile of sticks and some fabric to the finished puppet of Lady Margaret Balfour.

Willow frame
We started by using dowelling and willow to build a frame on a pushchair. This frame is lightweight and sturdy as the puppet has to be manoeuvrable. The head is also a willow frame which is covered with wet strength tissue paper and PVA which is then painted and decorated and varnished. The arms are made from dowel and insulation pipes and are jointed to allow more natural looking movement when the puppet is being animated. The hands are made from newspaper covered with tissue paper and PVA and are again painted and varnished. 

The bodice under construction

The costume is made in a similar way to a 'normal' costume but the scale is greatly increased. One also has to remember that a willow framed puppet does not move and bend in the same way as a human so allowances have to be made for this. 

Block printing a pattern for the skirt front

Hand printed fabric

Lady M's costume consisted of an under-shirt, petticoat with hand printed front panel, over-skirt and bodice. The bodice is laced at the front which makes it easier to dress the puppet and if repair works are necessary it is removable. To give plently of body and movement both the under skirt and over skirt were gathered. Again, this also made it easier to dress the puppet. 

First the under-shirt

Then the petticoat

Nest on is the over-skirt

Then the bodice which needs to be laced

And she is dressed!

Attach the head and hands

And she's ready to parade

Overall the puppet worked pretty well, there were a few hitches but we know how to solve them for next year...

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