Puppet design

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Puppet design

Postby Hilary » 07 Oct 2008, 13:47

Hi,
I am a student doing research about the traditional puppet design of punch, judy, the devil, the officer and the baby.
I'd love any information you could give concerning their dress, head carving and head wear but I really need some information about the 'practical side' of the design as this is hard to come by. Not how the puppets are made but in what way do they suit their purpose and what goes on inside the puppet.

How does the head attach to the body and are there specific fabric templates for their costumes? How large is a puppet normally? Are there specific proportions in which the puppet is made - i.e. head is usually proportionally big for body? What shape is the baby's body - does it usually have a flat bottom to enable it to stand?

Thank you very much
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Postby Chris » 07 Oct 2008, 17:53

Don't you think you should look at this website. Most of it is here - it just needs you to look. There are hundreds of pictures which will show you costumes and proportions. There are sections on practical aspects like carving heads. There is a search facility and there is an FAQ section where you will find recommended books.
But having made all this information available I am not inclined to do your research for you.
And then there are literally thousands of books available on puppetry for a more general view. There are links on this website to specialist puppetry booksellers - both new and secondhand.
Of course, if having done your research you come back with specific questions still unanswered, then I'm sure someone here will be able to answer.
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Postby CvdC » 07 Oct 2008, 23:11

At present I think this web site is the best resource.

There are several books on the subject. Glyn Edwards deals with the topic briefly. Many of the older books, with the exception of Fraser, seem to be aimed at teachers and young students.

Having been frustrated by a lack of information when I was researching the subject many years ago I have made an attempt myself:

http://www.speckinspace.com/whatsit/design/

http://www.speckinspace.com/whatsit/making/

I am sure your local library will have some books on the topic. But do have a good look at the contents of this site as Chris suggests.

In regards to your specific questions:

but in what way do they suit their purpose and what goes on inside the puppet.

Every puppet needs to embody the character they represent. All the characters are traditional and stem from the Comedia del arte masks.
What goes on inside is that a finger holds the head, the hand the body and the thumb and other fingers the arms, and by extension the hands.

How does the head attach to the body


This varies. Often the costume is glued and nailed to the neck. Sometimes there is a groove in the neck that string threaded through the costume can sit in. Sometimes a thick ring of fabric is attached to the neck and the costume sewn to this. Attaching the head is very important as the heads are prone to fly off during a show. So a belt and braces approach is recommended.

and are there specific fabric templates for their costumes?


The costume must not be too tight that it is hard to put on your hand during a show. It must not be too loose that the arm gestures cannot be seen. There are a number of different approaches to the design of the glove.
Each costume needs to have something about it that helps establish the character of the puppet. Each time a puppet pops up on stage the audience needs to be able to know very quickly what sort of person it represents,. So everything helps. Although too much detail is a waste if the puppets move about a lot. Also the fabric needs to be quite heavy duty. The glove may look like a kid glove but it is in fact more of a gardening glove.

How large is a puppet normally?


A big problem with many gloves is that they are too short and the performer's arms can be seen. So it should extend to just above the elbow.
The heads need to be small enough that they are light and respond to movement of the finger. Sometimes a large head can make it difficult for a Punch to hold his stick. Too small and the character becomes less distinct for the audience. But too small is better than too big.

Are there specific proportions in which the puppet is made - i.e. head is usually proportionally big for body?


While the size of the head will vary the size of the glove is always the size of an average human's hand. So the proportion varies from close to correct to larger. Essentially a puppet head is a face: eyes, nose and mouth. The audience reads these key features to recognise a character.

What shape is the baby's body - does it usually have a flat bottom to enable it to stand?


These days the baby is a puppet rather than simply an object to throw about and sit on the playboard. It is operated by holding a short stick covered by its costume when it is held by punch or Judy.

I write the above fully appreciative that there may be a difference of opinion on various details. The above is mine and please preface everything with "Generally ... ". There are many quite valid exceptions.
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Postby Hilary » 21 Oct 2008, 18:38

Thank you very much for your help, the websites were particularly helpful.
I'll get down to having a look around the forum a bit more.
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Postby Hilary » 23 Nov 2008, 08:01

Hi

Could I get some clarification about the 'baby's' costume/puppet design?
It appears to me that there are three ways one can make the baby: making it as a puppet that can be used just as Judy would be, making more of a prop that is cut off at the bottom or making a sort of 'doll' that can be manipulated through use of a stick or the legs but is not a 'glove puppet'.

Is one of these designs more used than the others? Is there a 'traditional' design (from Cruikshanks illustrations it seems the more 'prop' version was the initial design)?

Also, do the baby and Judy traditionally have quite plain costumes - light blue and white (or is this a new aspect - were they once dressed similar to Mr Punch)?

Thank you :D
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Postby CvdC » 24 Nov 2008, 22:48

I'll use this query as an excuse to give this topic some consideration and with a bit of luck we may get back to some worthwhile discussion on this board.

I tend to think of the baby as an object - more it than he or she - something that Punch and Judy throw to each other and eventually meets its main objective which is to be thrown out the window.

In the Cruikshank illustrations it is something that gets placed on the playboard and remains a staring, dumbfounded object. Its design reflects this in that it has a big head with appropriate expression. The base is such that it will sit on the stage and it is narrow in the middle so that puppets can hold it.

Another design criteria is that a baby also be needs to be rolled along the playboard and have its head banged on the side wings.

Over the years the baby has extended its repertoire to include walking and tipping over. This has effected the design in that it will now have a stick with which to manipulate it from below and arms that flap about loosely as it walks across the stage. I have often thought it could be possible to put the stick into a hole that is slightly larger so that the baby can be lifted off when held by Punch or Judy. This way the baby would wobble about a bit more.

Another little gag is to have Punch pick up the baby upside down. As an amusing little detail I personally make babies with legs and boots. I use these to hold the puppets as well.

Another personal preference of mine is to accentuate the baby as an object and make it to look like a wooden toy. The implied joke being that Punch and Judy are squabbling over a toy.

But others make babies with expressions, usually dumbfounded or upset. (Refer Geoff Felix who carved three such puppets some years ago.). Dan Bishop has a puppet with both options. I think this is a head at each end with one covered by the costume so that it can be turned at an appropriate point in the show. I have only seen it on video.

The costume of the baby is neither here nor there. Often the baby is dressed very much like a smaller version of Punch. The gag being when Judy says "Isn't he beautiful? "

I have certainly never come across a baby as a glove puppet. I think that would be ... wrong somehow.

Other bits of business for the baby is that it can be put into the sausage machine, a dummy or bottle put into its mouth and a water pistol fitted to it.
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Postby Chris » 24 Nov 2008, 23:31

<img src="images/trotterbaby.gif" align="right">
<br><br><br><br>I have in my collection a baby that is a glove puppet. It also has a huge opening mouth so that it can bawl. It is American of course.

The reason why a real Punch baby wouldn't ever be a glove puppet is a matter of scale. Shove a human hand inside it and you have a puppet approaching the size of the adult puppets - totally impractical for the business demanded of the character. Also you would need a third hand, unless you were to use the CvdC anatomical support system. (I believe he is preparing drawings.)

The Trotter Brothers' Punch set, of which my glove baby is part, where made for showing to huge theme park audiences and so the other characters are very big indeed. In fact they are quite impractical for the type of show we think of as Punch & Judy.
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Postby johnstoate » 25 Nov 2008, 14:59

Err, -watch this space :roll:
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Postby Richard Coombs » 25 Nov 2008, 15:31

...yep ditto ...Ive also had thoughts in this area , but wont have time to make anything 'til February now.
But like John Stoat ..watch this space :-)

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Postby Chris » 25 Nov 2008, 15:53

<center>we may get back to some worthwhile discussion on this board. </center>
What do you think of it so far Chris?
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Postby johnstoate » 25 Nov 2008, 23:36

Now, If I've got this right, This should be a pertinent reply to the 'baby' question. I'm currently working on a new idea in this respect, and if I've got it right the following pictures should clarify my meaning. I'm afraid that he looks a little 'rude' in undressed form. The point is that he can turn and 'moon' at 'Daddy' or the audience! - knowing the fun that can ensue from 'bottom' references, I'm hoping that he will be well received by the younger end of the audience.
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Postby Richard Coombs » 26 Nov 2008, 19:28

An interesting gag John.
there is a pic in one of the albums on here showing a Judy with a bum and leg-tops ...but a 'mooning' baby is something Ive never heard of ( others might have I dont know?)


Thanks for the pics ..I always enjoy seeing other folks ensconced in thier workshops.

What have you made your baby from ? Plaster bandage? papier mache?

All the best Richard
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Postby Chris » 26 Nov 2008, 21:56

Yes Richard, Judy's buttocks appeared in the wonderfully slick and funny sequence in Martin Bridle's brilliant show. It is such a pity Martin does so little Punch these days.
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Postby johnstoate » 26 Nov 2008, 22:53

In answer to your query Richard, He's my usual kitchen paper/PVA layered papier mache construction. (Although technically that isn't true papier mache, of course! :lol:) - And operates on two fingers, bending them forwards tilts his backside up and outwards, allowing his legs to swing down.
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Postby Richard Coombs » 28 Nov 2008, 00:14

Interesting technique john ( Presumably over a clay or plasticine sculpt?)

Do you let each layer dry individualy ..or build up several at once while wet?

Richard


...yes Chris , everyone etells me how good Martins show is , shame I have never seen it , I feel as though I am missing a puzzle peice in my Punch education :-)
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