The plan for this project is to create a pair of simple Bunraku-style puppets which embrace simplicity and hands-on contact when being puppeteered. This will be achieved through the use of a simple armature structure covered in a stretch velvet fabric with added details. The two characters are from Nabokov’s novel ‘Lolita’ which is a well known and somewhat scandalous text involving the examination of the relationship between a twelve year old girl and the paedophile which has, through circumstance, become her step father and sole carer. The puppet show is aimed at an adult audience and will cover topics which could not be discussed through the use of live actors. The puppets will be manipulated directly through the connection between the puppeteers grasp and the joints and body of the puppet itself, as not to lose any personality or energy from distancing the puppeteer and puppet. This performance will take place in a small-scale set, which takes the form of a box room placed on the stage. It is a simple set with only a tatty bed, chair and wardrobe, in the style of a 1950s motel.
The puppets will be created through the use of carved upholstery foam for the bodies, and rope with PVC pipe as the limb armatures with further carved upholstery foam over them. This will make them tactile and soft to the touch, as well as being unbreakable. The faces of the puppets will work with a system of plates and magnets; two magnets sewn onto the fabric of the puppet will connect with two magnets on a rigid but lightweight foamex plate. This foamex plate will serve as a platform for a vacuum formed face piece, which is superglued onto it. Therefore, the faces will be able to change through expressions throughout the play, as simply as the puppet turning away and the puppeteer switching the plate for another. The foamex plate has holes drilled which allows the magnets sewn to a piece of canvas to sit recessed into the plate, so it can form a better connection with the magnets on the body. The canvas will be attached to the body with spray adhesive, and the magnets are sewn into the canvas.
These faces will be made from vacuum formed plastic, which has been shaped over a studio water clay sculpture, wooden half-domes for eyes and sprayed with WD40 to ease the removal of the sculpture from the plastic. They will be sand blasted to add a key to the surface, allowing the acrylic paint to adhere better to it. They will be painted through a technique including both brushing and sponging, which is the same for the body. The faces of the puppets have a style of simplicity that will be matched by the style they're painted in; simple, soft colours with no solid blacks or bright whites. The colour palettes of their faces is directly related to their body colours to create a continuous look that compliments the different materials instead of making them look mismatched. The plastic used for vacuum forming is a strong but flexible 2mm clear type, which doesn't have the brittleness of its cheaper counterpart. The plate will be attached to the face using superglue.
The bodies of the puppets will be decorated through painting and embroidery; white flowers and acrylic paint used for blushing on the pale peach body of the character ‘Lolita’, and black eyes and highlighting on the dark grey body of ‘Humbert’. These decorations are metaphors for the relationship shared between the pair and their personality, and will only be visible when the clothing of the puppet is removed. The clothing for ‘Lolita’ will be a simple white dress, symbolic of her purity and ‘blank canvas’ state as a child, and ‘Humbert’ will wear a formal European suit with dark trousers and a white shirt, noting his background. The white of his shirt will show his external attempt at being seen as an innocent man, and his black trousers are metaphors for the darkness which lies beneath.
The hands of the puppets will be made of foam insulation tubing, carved with scissors and padded with upholstery foam in places. This will be glued onto the end of the rope used for the limb armatures. The feet, however, will be carved upholstery foam as they don't need the same amount of dexterity as the hands. Elements of the puppets bodies will be emphasised through the use of soft sculpture using a large needle and thick thread, for example the belly button and toes.
The fabric over the armature will be attached to the body through initially the use of spray adhesive, and then tensioned using a running stitch, trimmed to fit the contours of the doll and the seams finished off with a whip stitch. This hand made look will add to the folk art elements of the design of the puppet, and compliment the hand embroidery.
Friday, 15 January 2016
Thursday, 14 January 2016
This is a post with a lot of photos; the process happened in a short and intense burst of activity that worked out really well. I started out with the sculpting first using a palette knife and wooden tool, then detailing and smoothing with a wet sponge, as follows. The base that I sculpted onto was slightly smaller than the circumference of the foam body's base, so after vacuum forming it'd fit perfectly. I used a 20mm drill bit to hollow out some gaps under the eyes, nose and mouth. This was to solve the problem I had before with my sculpt, where I failed at drilling holes through the plastic base of the sculpture and the resulting collapse. This time, I poked a piece of wire through the low points in the sculpt at an angle, and pulled them straight through and out the holes in the base. It worked perfectly; It made clear holes all the way through the sculpt and didn't mess up or distort in the places I put the wire in. As you can see in the photos, the holes are small and unnoticeable, and don't show up at all after the face is vacuum formed.
After sculpting, I used a heat gun to dry the clay out enough that it wouldn't be destroyed from the first pull on the vacuum former, just in case the form didn't catch the shapes well enough. Luckily, my first pull was perfect; I took a second pull of the face but forgot to take out the slab of MDF the sculpt was sitting on, so it creased around the edges of the face where the suction wasn't ideal.
On my good pull of the face, I cut the excess off with the bandsaw and used a belt sander to neaten the edges. To get a good key on the surface, I then put it in the sand blaster before putting a base of white acrylic on it with a large paintbrush. I used a combination of a piece of sponge and a brush to build up the layers of her skin tones, mixing a flesh-tone pink with red, white and orange to get a suitably peachy tone. As in my prototype, I used a dark blue instead of a black for her eyes, mouth and nose details, with a bolder blue highlighting her pupils.
To attach the head to the magnetic plate, I first taped it on with masking tape and then put superglue in the gap. This made a secure connection between the keyed plastic of the face, and the foamex magnetic plate. I sprayed the face with hairspray to stop it from picking up any stray dirt.
This is a quick snap of my desk display right before hand-in - I will be taking professional photos of her for my portfolio later on. I chose to present her on pile of fabric with a drape over the top which makes it feel quite intimate and like she has her own room. The viewer must enter her personal space to get a really good look at everything I have on display, which includes sculpts and many samples.