Nordic Ruminants

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Nordic Ruminants

Postby Chris » 05 Mar 2016, 22:22

This time of year, between the February Half Term and Easter, is often a slack period for me, which is a nuisance since it is a time when quite a few bills seem to come in. However for the past few years I have been glad of the free time. Each Easter weekend I have been appearing at a four day event which has a changing theme and each year I try and cook up some puppet play to alternate with Punch which will help justify my being booked year after year. Over the years I have produced St George & the Dragon, Tales from Alice in Wonderland, Hansel & Gretel, Mr. Punch's Circus etc. This year it is Three Billy Goats Gruff.

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The hardest part (as is always the case) is adapting stories to be performed solo. Punch has lasted over the centuries precisely because it is an ideal format for a solo puppeteer - but one major character being visited by a succession of single characters is not the easiest pattern to adopt for many fairy tales. How we long for that third hand! But everything is possible if you can think out of the box.

However that isn't what I wanted to tell you. I've discovered a useful bit of workshop technique which may be useful.

Goats need horns, and as I was intending to use stuffed heads for speed I couldn't use carved or modelled horns since they would have been difficult to attach. I decided to use tubes of cloth stuffed with cotton wool. I've had in the workshop for a couple of years a bottle of "Stiffy - Fabric Stiffener", bought at a Craft shop because "it might prove useful one day", and decided to experiment. I have previously used varnish to stiffen felt, but had never tried this stuff which you can brush on, spray on, use as a dip, and once the material is soaked you can squeeze to shape, or you could drape the sodden cloth over a form.

When dry I expected it to be like a stiff starch, but actually I found that both cloth and cotton wool stuffing went quite hard. I am sure this is going to have some uses. Those of you old enough to remember Celastic might have an idea how it can be used. Think Celastic, without the mess or the smell. This is water based, very little odour, and easy to clean up. It takes a day to dry - but I found popping small parts in a slow oven could harden in a hour or so.

I'm not quite sure how you might use this, but I know some of you like to experiment.
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Re: Nordic Ruminants

Postby lesclarke » 06 Mar 2016, 12:27

Sounds interesting Chris, I never used Celastic, but like the style of some heads I have seen that used it for construction.

By the time I wanted to have a go it was no longer available.

A quick search shows the usual variety of prices being charged for a 16 oz bottle including P&P, with it being available on ebay for £11.30 ish, but less on amazon at £8.80, I will have a punt as I haven't had a good 'experiment' for a while.
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Re: Nordic Ruminants

Postby Miraiker » 08 Mar 2016, 11:00

It's a good tip to store away Chris. You never know when you will need it.
I'm glad you are doing the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I made a set a few years ago and quite enjoy it. My current favourite alternative to Punch is Goldilocks.
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Re: Nordic Ruminants

Postby Chris » 08 Mar 2016, 19:39

I've since thought of a good use for stiffy. Quite often I have made a puppet's wig from wool. This can be cut somewhat like real hair, and styled. Curls and waves can be glued but glue tends to discolour. With stiffy you can soak the whole wig in the stuff and then virtually comb and sculpt. When dry the hair-do will hold its shape.

I do a marionette version of The Three Bears, and have been thinking of adapting it to a glove puppet version. I do use a set of 3 Bears puppets in one of my schools' workshops - where I have the kids acting out the story.
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Re: Nordic Ruminants

Postby Miraiker » 09 Mar 2016, 17:27

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I have a child size set too along with props. I knew I'd made the chairs strong for children to use but was surprised to see a small child sit himself on daddy bear's chair. Amazingly it didn't crumple underneath him.
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Re: Nordic Ruminants

Postby Chris » 09 Mar 2016, 19:20

I love your bears Miraiker - mine are too Teddy-ish. Yours remind me of Yogi Bear (is he still going or am I showing my age?)
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