Clowning Around

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Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 10 Apr 2011, 14:53

Im building a new Joey for the Summer - actually Im making two.

Joey is quite a busy 'compere' in my show , doing quite a lot on his own before Mr P 'Gets out of Bed'.

When we get warm days ( and here's hoping the current good weather lasts !) he gets quite damp with sweat.
I figured that having two and alternating them between shows is the way to go.

I no longer have any more of the lovely blue fabric I made my first Joey with ..so its a total restart ( but with a head quite similar to my original ) . This time I have many yards of a different glittery blue fabric stockpiled.

Those that have seen my show will know that I deploy one or two duplicate Joeys for certain 'trick' moments. These have fibreglass heads I made from a mould I took form the first head just after carving and before painting.

This time around I am a bit busy ( Im filming a puppet show for BBC3 right now ) ..so I am farming out the moulding and fibreglassing to a good friend and puppet maker Phil Eason. He will supply me with fibreglass 'trick' heads of Joey. its a rounded , smooth head , so should mould well : in any case Phil is brilliant at it.
I dont need any trick Joeys this Summer ..but need to take the mould impression now before the carved head is painted or fixed to a body.

Anyhow for the bulk of the show I prefer heads of wood - and Joey does quite a lot of 'head banging' on the Proscenium and Clock.

So I have had to try and make two identical wooden heads - here they are so far:

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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 10 Apr 2011, 15:14

More :

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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 10 Apr 2011, 15:23

I will answer the question ( before Chris asks it lol ) :-)
I didnt put all those photos into one post , because I couldnt.
It took some trial and error to work out why.

There is a slight glitch with the postimage.org picture posting software
( which may only affect other Mac users ?)

If you try to add a second photo , having already put one on , the software will keep uploading ( grey indicator bar keeps slowly filling up , over and over ) ..but it never completes the process:


UNLESS - you manually change the drop down 'size' menu to a diffeent size - then back to the one you want.
Also select off 'Family Friendly' to "Adult" ..and then back again.

Then the Upload happens perfectly.

But if you leave on the chosen size , and family safe selections that appear by default from your first picture ..you will have problems.

I repeat this may only be a Mac issue - but hope some of you find it helpful.

Here are Joeys hands in progress ...much smaller than my usual ones ( a recent visit to Geoff Felix proved that they are now exactly the same size as the hands he makes )

I always make my hands in layers , so it is no extra work for me to mix and match what wood I use.
I found the fingers on my first set were prone to splintering with excessing banging on the playboard ( I like the sound )- but sanding and repainting are time consuming .
So this time the back of the hand and fingers are Oak while the fronts and palms remain Pine:

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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Chris » 10 Apr 2011, 21:26

Your problems with picture posting are not limited to Mac users Richard. I use Windows and have had the same problem a couple of times - and not just when loading a second picture - the same thing has happened on an initial picture. My remedy has been to come back later since I suspected it was when a lot of people were calling upon the service.
If it does happen again I'll attempt your remedy.
It's good to squawk!
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Alessandro Toccaceli » 11 Apr 2011, 14:26

Very nice , please post some pictures of the clown head once painted.
Recently I've made some wooden hands, trying to simplify the shape. Your wooden hands are inspiring, may I ask you what is their size?
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 05 May 2011, 17:41

A bit late Alessandro ..but by way of answering your question here is a pic of both Old and New size of hands.

I am currently making both Joey and Punch ...and am looking forward to seeing how they look with the new size 'dainty' hands.
As I mentioned before the new size are pretty much a perfect match for the size Geoff Felix makes ( on a recent visit I got to compare like for like )
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Geoff also had an unpainted , newly carved Punch head at his home ..I had bought my unpainted Punch head with me to show Geoff , and discovered something quite interesting when we put them side by side on Geoffs scale :-


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They weighed exactly the same ! This despite my heads being considerably larger. This puts pay to the folk who keep asking me how I work with such heavy puppets ...actually my figures are fairly heavy - but this I have always known is due to the construction of quite hefty glove bodies , often padded, and quite elaborate costumes.

So yes the overall weight is up on a more standard sized figure - but it was good to discover that I have perfected my 'HollowingOut" of a head, so that weight is good without compromising strength.
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 05 May 2011, 18:03

My good Friend Phil Eason has delivered me a splendid package of body parts that he has moulded from my wooden originals:
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They are made of a lightweight but strong self skinning polyurethane foam ( a two part mix , from the same 'family' as two part expanding foam used for filling wall cavities etc -- and yet very different in its properties- not least of which is how it forms a 'skin' picking up all the details of the mould). Anyhow : too technical for me, hence help from Phil . Love the results though. I havnt tried yet , but apparently it takes acrylic paint well.

This will make all the many duplicates of Punch for the Crocodile fight ( as new Punch in dressed in different fabrics and braids than last time , it will mean all the other 'elements' will also need duplicating in these new materials ). Phils work takes all the strain out of needing lots of duplicate arms and legs.

And speaking of Duplicates : many Joeys also means many Costumes.
Lots of Fabric - got plenty this time so I don't run out in future- and also many duplicates of the front and back patchwork panels . Yesterday was a busy sewing machine day !

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Here is 'Old' Joey with some of the new costume parts pinned to him to try out the look.


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I like the result :-))
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 09 Jun 2011, 11:03

Got Mr Punch finished for showing off at the Mayfayre. In the busy crowd I managed to miss you Chris , sorry 'bout that.

Here he is with my Current Mr P ( closest to camera) and at the far end , the unfinished fibreglass headed new duplicate :

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And here is a gang of Joeys as they are at the moment ( again current joey is on the left ):

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I have a couple of days off from Filming , so its going to be a head painting day today ( Punch was painted quickly to have him done in time for the Mayfayre , and I was not happy with the look ).
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 12 Feb 2013, 15:24

In a current strand about Joeys I advised young Harvey this :

Richard Coombs wrote:
IF you intend for any reason in the future to have a second 'Duplicate" Joey to do any special bit of trickery ..like for example the Mini Puppet Show ..or blowing up a balloon himself (like another Blowey Clown , but with Joey)

THEN make sure you get twice as much of everything and put half away safely for the future when you want to build a duplicate.

This means not only twice as much fabric ...but also twice as much of any braid , or trimmings or lace ...or wool or fur or feathers that you make his hair from.

Anything in fact that use on the first Clown ...because it can happen that in a years time , you might struggle to find any of it again to match ...fabrics and braids get discontinued , shops that sell stuff can close down ...or when you think there is loads left in the shop ...somebody who is making costumes for Pantomime comes in and buys up the whole roll of the stuff you used for Joey , so next time you go in there is none left !

Trust me - it happens !
So even if you only have a tiny thought you might want a second matching Joey in the future ...plan for it now and tuck stuff away ready.


Timely stuff as I am revamping my Joey built in 2011 and the causer of this particular strand.

A couple of reasons ..the metallic print on the blue fabric I had thought so lovely for his costume is giving me trouble ....it very much ' dulls ' and them rubs away both in contact with the playboard and the general rough and tumble of doing the show - and constant packing and unpacking ( which as many proffs know , does probably the most damage)

So on a practical level the fabric wasnt up to the job .

But on an artistic point I was not happy either . Geoff Felix visited the show up at Heights of Abraham last Summer and pointed out something very interesting.Image

Joey was not very 'visible' against my black backdrop.
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This had never occurred to me ( as my view from behind the gauze had not changed , even tho the audiences viewpoint had changed from a painted backcloth to the new black )

The decision to switch to black had come after Joey was 'refurbed'

That evening , while Geoff and I sat and chatted and watched DVDs I did a quick patch -job to joeys front to remedy this . This was just a 'quickie' to see me through the rest of the season and up to Christmas.

The plan was to havea rethink on him early 2013 ...which it now is :-)

Using him with any old alterations was no problem , as last year he was the only Joey I ever used ( no cunning duplicates or trickery ..just him ) But going forward into this Summer I do have plans to need at least a second Joey - maybe two ? not sure yet - so now it is time to refurb him , and do it by the numbers , so duplicates can be as exact as possible .
So Harveys posting , and my advice to him , was indeed timely for me.

I would have noticed Joey disappearing into the background before last Summer , had I used that one at The 350th Birthday Mayfayre ....but I did not because I used my Old , original Joey as I was revisiting the "show within a Mini Show" routine , and for that I only have that old set of 'matching' Joeys.
"Old" Joey has a lovely sparkling material that DOES show up OK against black....so when CvdC did his videoing , it all looked OK to me ( "New" Joey would have jumped out at me as not working ....which shows the value of watching videos of your show every now and then to check what the audience are really seeing ).
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 12 Feb 2013, 16:16

I already have two identical wooden Joey heads , and a few exact fibreglass copies ( as the early posts in this strand shows) ..And I am lucky , my mate Phil Eason still has the mould , and can produce more of them when I need them.


The two wooden Joeys are for the 'Actual' puppet
These will be alternated year by year , to keep them at their best for as many seasons as possible ...OR on a very HOT Summer ( please let us have one again soon ...!) then I would keep both in the booth and alternate them show by show , to allow them to dry out.
( they only get slightly damp even on very hot years ,as I am not a big sweater) ..but by the third show it gets a bit annoying. So that is the two reasons for wanting two identical wooden puppets.

Over the next few years I can see reasons for having another seven "trick' Joeys ,which will mean nine matching puppets in all .

Rebuilding the "Mini- Show" will require one duplicate Joey ...but this wont be until Spring 2014.

But something for this Year will need another ( not saying what yet ..hehe )
All the other versions are things I have in my head for adding year by year. They would never all be in one show together , one trick or routine per show , and maybe only two different tricks each season ...but the duplicates need to match Joey wether they are made now or in 2018 .

So the point is I had to take all that into consideration NOW even when building the first puppet ...just like I advised Harvey , there is not point finding out in a couple of years time that you can no longer get a particular fabric or braid.

So I have enough materials for 10 Joeys ...just to be on the safe side :-)

Starting right now with Joeys Ruff .

And again , just like carving heads , it is easier to do everything 10 times now rather than trying to duplicate methods in a few years time when you have forgotten what you did:

Image That means many yards of pleat-able ruff needs sewing.
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It is a many layered sandwich, as I want an orange ruff that stands out firmly in pleats rather than flops , and I want a shimmery sparkle to it .
So it is 7 layers of Fabric:
Ballet Netting first 1x Red - 1xYellow- 2x Orange
Then 1x sparkle dot net ( silver) then 1xshimmer orange ( which frays easy so needs a top layer)
1x - OrangeBallet Net.
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Its not easy to add the net more than one layer at a time ...to do that would mean time consuming pinning.
So I just add it and sew it one layer at a time ,,which still takes many hours to get all the layers together :
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Then lots of folding over , like a big "hem"
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There were more pics of more folds and hems.
I will spare you -(there is only so much of that , even I can look at LOL)
But by constantly folding and hemming , you achieve a thick 'Ribbon" of the desired look and colour.
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Here you can see the main 'roll' of ribbon for the 10 full sized puppets , a quantity of thinner width ribbon for the collar bands onto which the wide stuff will be hand sewn into pleats .And also a narrow ribbon for making the "mini-puppet" Joeys . Behind you can see the new metallic Blue material for Joeys costume . Even though this is a dark blue, it catches the light well and WILL show up against black.
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The "mini Joey" ribbon is too narrow to sew a purple braid to ...so I used purple thread jig-jag sewn across it a few times to build up the boldness of colour needed to replicate the 'look' of a purple braid in miniature.
The full sized ribbon has metalic purple braid sewn to both sides.
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Before embarking on such a long sewing job ,I did make one 'test' ruff and I am glad I did ...here it is , it looks lovely ..but within a few minutes of being on a puppet , the 'shimmer' fabric started to fray alarmingly. it was then I realised it needed a protective layer of orange net over the top to stop 'rubbing' .

Imaging if I had sewn the huge long roll , and sewn the metalic purple braid on both sides before making up a ruff ...it would have been heartbreaking.
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I love using Duplicates ...I get a kick out of enjoying the audiences reactions when they enjoy seeing the result . Even if they have not realised there were two puppets not one.
And then there is the amazement from other folk in the audience who have realised ...but then cannot believe you would go to that much trouble for something so fleeting !

Well this is where it happens ...this is the 'taking that much trouble' .
....And yes , it is mind numbingly slow and tedious.

Which is why I like having films on in the workshop (dialogue heavy ones I know well) to listen to while I work.
To make these few rolls of Ruff -Ribbon was two days ( and 11 Feature Films) worth of slog.

And there is still all the hand sewing to come yet.

But not today ( I am putting up shelves today ) ..there is only so much sewing I can stand in one go- then I have to do something else.

So Duplicates are not for the feint hearted ..but the results are great Fun .
Richard
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Professor Joe » 18 Feb 2013, 16:27

I do enjoy your posts Richard, and I agree how arduos sewing that much fabric can be, whether making 350 sausages or doing a gathered ruffle on the bottom of a pantomime Dame's dress.

One thing that may help is an overlocker, I have two, one with white thread and one with black (as they are the colours I use most) but when it comes to hemming that much fabric, using an overlocker will save a lot of time and fabric.

Just a thought
J
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 18 Feb 2013, 20:24

Cheers Joe.

No I did not envy you your sausage making stint ...well done for that.

Yup I also have two overlockers , and did even think about about pressing one into service on the ruffs.
but I wanted the build up of layers you get with folding netting over itself a few times...and the extra bit of bulk you get with the overlocking would have got in the way.


The machine would have coped Ok with the first layering of 7 nets ...but once folded over in itself it would have struggled with 14 ...and deffo not managed at 21 layers ...whereas the trusty old Bernina stomped through the lot.

cheers Richard
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 10 Mar 2013, 00:52

Had a bit of time away doing other things , and building non punch puppets ..so just getting back to Joey.

Decided I didnt like the blue metalic fabric ...but will save it for making a "Blowey" clown next Spring ( all the recent strands bout Blowey Clowns have made me want to make one rather than have a Joey Duplicate for a blowing trick) ...So the recent blue fabric and 2011s braided Panels are all put away;

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Here is the Joey as Id revamped him with Geoff last summer ( the purple one on left ) alongside how the metalic would have looked ( I did a rough pin-together ) And although I liked it , I thought it still might not show up boldly enough against a black backdrop.

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Here they are again with the fabric Ive chosen un between them ..is is a pale purple ..but it is also shot through very faintly in orange ( which is to be a key colour in all the braids ) It is quite an understated fabric in some ways ..but being pale will stand out well against black --which is the whole point of the re-costuming him anyhow.
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The fabric should show off the haberdashery better for being a plain . But it is a deceptive fabric as it does 'shimmer' well in daylight : so I think it will remain 'interesting' to look at for long periods ( important as Joey is in a fair bit of my show)

Here are the braids I am using ( looks a lot ...but remember it will eventually be for 8 matching puppets)
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In between other projects I have been hand sewing ruffs , and although I dont have all eight yet : I have done a fair few ...not all ...just .. "A Bit of Ruff" :-)
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So with all necessary materials assembled :
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Time to start .
And almost as convoluted as a Chinese Tea-Ceremony ; I have evolved some fiddly 'Rituals' of my own when starting a new puppet...
The first one is filling up a full tray of sewing machine bobbins in the colours needed before starting , as I hate breaking off sewing when in full flow for want of a bobbin:
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Starting the Diamond panels for front and back :

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Last edited by Richard Coombs on 11 Mar 2013, 02:56, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 10 Mar 2013, 12:55

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Thats the state of play at the end of yesterday ( Saturday ) So it doesn't take a Genius to work out that today is Sunday ..

I only mention this as it is my favourite day to be sit and do fiddly jobs as Radio 2 is excellent all day long on a Sunday ...(well for my taste anyhow)
No finer day for a sewing Marathon.
Just paused a little way into "Weekend Wogan" to pop a few more pics on here :
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Also a note about 'Ballet Net' ..useful stuff .

On the Ruffs I used it not only to create thickness and stiffness that was light ( the job it was developed for in Ballet-Tutu making) ..but I also used it as a protective final layer over some pretty fabric that was very prone to fraying if rubbed.

It can do other things too , as it now comes in a very wide spectrum of colours and shades ...( also with consideration to those on a budget , it is very cheap and comes in a generous width ..so a half meter of it goes a long way )

Colour wise ... a layer of it over other fabric can alter the shade of that fabric to just what you need .

I like metalic 'fake' sequin fabric ( also a relatively inexpensive cloth at the market ) ..however this is NOT a hardwearing fabric , so not often used on Punch and Judy figures , despite the flashy twinkle it produces.

This is because the coloured foil sequin "dots" are extremely prone to rubbing off. And our puppets get lots of rough treatment not only during a Show , but also from the constant packing and un-packing.

But a layer of Ballet net over the top keeps everything secure .
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Of course it does mean a bit of 'quilting' - type stitching to keep the netting fixed down , so it doesnt catch or tear if caught on anything .

But once that is done , you can have ( cheap) twinkle that will last many years of hard work and rough treatment.

Right -- back to the grindstone :-) :-)
Richard
Last edited by Richard Coombs on 11 Mar 2013, 03:06, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Clowning Around

Postby Richard Coombs » 10 Mar 2013, 14:34

"Elaine Page on Sunday"
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..just to Clarify ..this is what I mean by 'Quilting' ( although in this context proper tailors might call it "basting" ?)

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Last edited by Richard Coombs on 11 Mar 2013, 03:07, edited 1 time in total.
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