Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - A Perspective on Art Education - Activities for Children - Themes & Topics

Drawing & Painting -- Modeling & Sculpting

Fingerpainting -- Mural Making -- Paper-Mâché -- Puppets -- Mask-Making -- Crayon Encaustics -- Crayon Resist Drawing -- Crayon Sgraffito -- Collage -- Mobiles -- Watercolor -- Common Earth Clay -- Salt Ceramic [recipe] -- Clay / plasticene Non-hardening -- Carving in the Round -- Newspaper Modeling -- Paraffin or Wax Sculpture -- Plaster Plaques or Reliefs -- Relief in Plaster -- Relief in Soft Wood -- Repoussé -- Sandcasting -- Working With the Coping Saw or Jigsaw -- Straw/Toothpick Sculpting -- Painting on Window Glass -- Diorama -- Peep Shows -- Whittling -- Wire Sculpture

[From: [Meaning in Crafts. Mattil,, Edward L. Chairman, Dept. of Art, North Texas State University. Third Edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971.]


In all parts of the world one can find puppets being used to provide entertainment. Perhaps this always has been so, for puppets seem to be as old as civilization. When the Twelfth Dynasty Egyptian tomb at Lisht was opened, four carved ivory dancing pygmies operated with strings were found among the treasures. In Greece, small figures with movable parts have been discovered in the ancient tombs. Plato and Aristotle, among others, mentioned figures manipulated by strings in their writing. It is thought that the first puppets of Greece were used by priests as part of their rituals. Later, as the rituals became more complicated, live actors replaced the puppets.

The modern puppet as we know it originated in Italy, where it was used in religious drama. As this type of drama became popular, the puppeteers traveled to nearby countries, and soon other countries adopted puppets for entertainment. It is known that at least one puppeteer, an Italian, was performing in London in the sixteenth century, and Shakespeare refers to puppets in several of his plays.

Europeans enjoyed both hand puppets and the classic string marionnettes that were used by itinerant entertainers and musicians. Their performances included satirical plays, stories of bravery and chivalry, religious dramas, and comedies. These programs attracted skilled writers and artists who designed and created puppets and marionnettes, costumes, and sets. The skill of these artists became so great that by the nineteenth century they were producing ballets, plays, and even entire operas.

In the early part of the twentieth century, the Punch and Judy show was still part of European and American tradition. With the increased interest in animated cartoons, motion pictures, and television, puppets declined in popularity. This trend has reveresed itself somewhat, however, because of the adaptability of puppets to television. Once again children delight to the antics of the puppets of Bill Baird, George Latshaw, and others.

From about four basic types of puppets come innumerable variations.

As an educational tool, puppets have become very widely accepted because of their value in helping children in personal development and the creative opportunities the building and operation of puppets provide. There is probably no greater thrill or sense of satisfaction than that which comes to the teacher who, through planning and effort, finds his pupils unfolding and revealing qualities that had lain dormant. Often these very qualities are not evident because the child lacks confidence in himself or is unable to communicate his thoughts and feelings for lack of the right medium. In puppetry, the teacher will find many possibilities for enriching most educational situations. Often, through the medium of the puppet, the child finds himself able to express thoughts, ideas, and feelings that he oherwise could not.

The puppet may serve as a therapeutic aid, but it has many other educational uses. Its wide range of uses and the large variety of types of puppets mean that their use is posssisble for most teachers in ordinary classroom situations. Puppetry is a teaching tool that can be used at any age level and can be modified to meet the physical and equipment limitations of even the poorest situations. There is no right way or wrong way to make puppets, but there may be a best way for each individual teacher. The teacher has to use the available materials and develop personal puppet techniques. It is good to know a number of ways to make puppets so that puppets can be used at different age levels without repeating puppet types and methods of approach.

To use puppets as a means of correlation of other studies such as reading or history is valuable, but correlation should never be allowed to become a limitation. Too often attempts at correlation are simply impositions upon rather than a natural outgrowth of a study unit.

A LIVELY HAND PUPPET (any level beyond the 3rd grade)
Teacher should proceed slowly and see that each child keeps up with directions until the basic sructure is complete.

This project involves a three-dimensional fist or hand puppet which alows sucha range of expression that teh poorest student will make a successful puppet, whicle the most gifted can go as far as his creative abilities alow. The materials should be ready to work with at the start so that the class can proceed rapidly and smoothly through the initial stages.

[NOTE: The very slow pupil may not be ale to go much beyond this point. But having reached this point, he will have a sufficiently good form. Features such as nose, mouth, eyes, and ears can be painted on it to create a perfectly satisfactory puppet. At this point, however, the truly creative part of the puppet making begins.]

Now, the children must make some decisions regarding their puppets. Who or what is it? Will he be kindly or mean, young or old, animal or person, fantastic or realistic? Children reach these decisions easily. Occasionally they souild make puppets with no spcial charactaers in mind. The variety of characters that apears will serve as a stimulation for developeing new and interesting sories and lays.

The child builds up the major features by placing larger wads of paper wherever necessary. For example, if the puppet is to be a chipmunk with large, bulgy cheeks, two wads of paper can be placed in the proper position and fastened down with some strips of newspaper and paste and built up until the cheeks puff out just the way the child thinks they should. From this point on, the puppet making is a modeling process in which each of the features is built up with small bits of paper soaked in the paste until they are soft and pliable. Some children will add an additional large ball of paper to form a snout or long nose to make a pig or goat. Others may cut large floppy ears from eight or ten thicknesses of paper. These are strengthened by dipping them into the paste so that the edges become saturated and sealed. When the features are completed, the puppets are put away to dry. When these have dried overnight, they become rigid and hard and have very solid surfaces.

The children may work on these puppets in subsequent lessons if necessary, but it is imporatant not to allow any of the craft projects to cover too long a time, for the interest span of children is limited.

One method is to build a simple rack by drilling holes into a board and inserting short dowel rods.

One can make a simpler rack by pounding large nails into a board and resting each puppet head over a nail. This keeps the forms from being flattened or from sticking to another surface.

A convenient method is to suspend them by string attached to the neck. Hang the heads from the underside of the chalk trough beneath the blackboard.

When the heads are dried they are ready to paint. A can of water-based or rubber-based interior wall paint makes a good undercoating on which to put the tempera paints and makes the classroom paints go much further. Usually one of the children can find a partially used can that he can bring from home. However, an undercoat is not essential, and puppet heads can be painted with any kind of paint. If the school budget does not provide dry powder paint or tempera paint, the teacher may be surprised by the variety and quantity of paints that the children can bring in from their toolsheds and basements. Naturally the water-based paints are best, since with them no special solvent is necessary to clean the brushes after use.

At the same time they are making the heads, the boys and girls can roll tubes to fit the thumb and middle finger. These will serve as the arms and hands of the puppet. There are many ways in which the hands can be made. A simple way is to form a hand of soft, thin wire and attach it to the tube, covering the wire with bits of paper and paste. Another method is to cut a hand from a piece of cardboard and fasten it to the tube. If the child wishes, he may build the hand up with bits of paper and paste. For some puppets that represent animals, the ends of the tubes may be closed with wads of paper and become paws.

When the head and hands are completed. the children should be encouraged to bring in pieces of cloth, old materials, needles, and thread from home to sew a costume. The costume should be made as simple as possible, but always large enough so that the hand can easily be inserted into it, with the index finger going into the neck tube and the middle finger and thumb into the hand tubes.

Children who make puppets of this type will want to put on performances that require some planning and practice.

Simple stages can be made of large cardboard cartons from grocery stores.

One can make a very simple stage by stretching kraft wrapping paper diagonally across a corner of a room and cutting a hole into the center of it to serve as the stage opening. A second piece can be similarly stretched, but about 18" behind the first. This will serve as the backdrop, and on it the children can paint scenery. They can also make the scenery of colored paper. For a real dramatic performance, the room can be darkened and the stage lighted with a spotlight or an ordinary lamp directed into the stage opening.

Children old enough to make these puppets should also be inspired to develop their own plays. The plays are always more spontaneous if the children are not held rigidly to a script, but are permitted to express themselves freely within a general framework. After several rehearsals, they will put on a polished performance with no script in hand. Puppets of this sort are fine for school parties or for entertaining parents on special occasions.

Some teachers prefer to use this type of puppet by having the children first model the head from a plastic clay, then cover it with petroleum jelly and finallly build up successive layers of paper and paste until the head is about five or six coats thick. When the layers have dried sufficiently, the head is cut in half with a razor blade and the plastic clay is removed. Then the edges are sealed together with bits of paper and paste, thus makeing a very light but strong head with which to work. This method takes a great deal more time and effort than that previously described, it produces stiffer, more rigid puppet heads than other methods, and provides accuracy and detail where desired.


A very nice type of string marionette can be made from a woman's cotton stocking. This puppet can also serve as a cuddly doll. The children are asked to bring in a stocking and some cotton batting or other material suitable for stuffing (for example, an old nylon stocking that has been shredded with scissors), a needle, and some yarn with which to sew. the child cuts off the foot of thestocking at the ankle, leaving only the long tube. The stocking is then turned inside out and one end tied shut with a piece of string. It is again turned right side out. A wad of cotton batting is stuffed into the stocking to form the shape of a head. The stocking is wrapped beneath the head with a piece of yarn or string to form the neck. More batting is stuffed into the stocking to form the upper part of the body. The stocking is wrapped below this to form the waist, and again it is stuffed to form the lower half of the body; but this time the child sews across the stocking below the body. WIth his scissors, the child cuts the remainder of the stocking lengthwise to form the two legs, and these in turn are sewed up each sdie so that they may be stuffed. They are stuffed down to the knee. If there are marbles available, one should be inserted at the knee and the leg wrapped above and below it to give a flexible joint. If marbles are not available, a smooth pebble will serve. The rest of the leg is stuffed and the bottom sewed shut. The foot of the stocking is then split lengthwise and the open edges sewed shut to be used as arms. Half the arm may be stuffed and tied off, a marble or pebble inserted, and the arm finished in the same manner as the leg. This will form the elbow joint and make the arm very floppy. The arm is then sewed fast to the shoulder of the puppet. When the second arm is attached , the main part of the puppet is then complete.

Bits of felt from old hats may be used to form feet or shoes; bits of light-colored cloth may be used for gloves or hands. The feet and hands should be weighted if the figure is to be used as a puppet.

The faces can be made by embroidering the features with yarn or by sewing on buttons or appliquÚing pieces of felt or cloth. Hair can be made of pieces of yarn or other scrap material.

The child can costume the doll in whatever manner he wishes. A serach through mother's ragbag may reveal enough interesting pieces of cloth to make adequate costumes. If the dolls are to be used as puppets, they are suspended from a crossbar by means of heavy black thread attached at the knees, shoulders, hands, and the top of the head. The mechanism should be kept as simple as possible, so that movement can be obtained with a minimum of technical knowhow.

[Meaning in Crafts. Mattil,, Edward L. Chairman, Dept. of Art, North Texas State University. Third Edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971.]



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