A New Stage for Mr Brown’s Pig

Mr Brown’s Pig is the performance name of Chris Brown, a committed storyteller, puppeteer and musician. He has been an inspiration to me for many years now, and I was delighted when he asked me to remake the framework and playboard of his puppet stage.

The dimensions and hinged folding design were to remain the same so that he could continue to use it in the same manner as the previous one, but he wanted it to be constructed sturdily enough to last the next twenty years. As he transports it by strapping it to the roof rack of his car, it is clearly subjected to a fair amount of wear and tear, and this durability requirement needed suitable consideration.

It was my opinion that the original stage had become rickety because the wooden frame had only been butt jointed and screwed together, and there was a lack of sufficient bracing. Also, I noticed that the hinges that allowed it to fold up were not particularly robust.

The answer was straight forward; cut decent sized mitred braces to support every right angle join, and to cut a shallow mortice and tenon for every joint, before gluing and screwing them from the reverse side into place.

I sourced some lovely brass hinges, which although were slightly too wide, were easy enough to trim to size with an angle grinder.

The playboard on the original stage was made from laminated MDF which  unsurprisingly was looking pretty tatty. I chose to use a piece of locally grown hemlock. I let it sit in my workshop for a month or so and then cut it to size, planed it smooth and rounded the edges with a router. We wanted to darken it as much as possible so it’s finished with a dark oak coloured wax.

The result is a robust frame and shiny playboard that should stand the test of time, and allow Mr Brown’s Pig to continue performing his excellent puppet shows for many years to come.

Puppet Wizard Tutorial Video 2

Tula, Rufus and myself have had another crack at making a puppet building tutorial video.  We tried to made the instructions as clear as possible which has led to this one being over 10minutes long. Maybe a bit too lengthy really.

We realised that this video would benefit from some spoken directions over the top of sections of video that have been speeded up. So that we have done. In my opinion it works nicely, and is a simple way to get good sound quality, so we’ll be looking into doing more of that for the next video. Our aim is to produce tutorials that clearly demonstrate and describe the materials and processes that are used, without becoming boring. Please do have a watch.

Oh, and constructive criticism is much appreciated.

My thoughts following the 1st Clothes peg puppet workshop.

The clothes peg puppet making fits nicely into an hour long session. The kids demonstrated their teamwork skills by working in pairs, each member of the team building a left or a right viewing head, and making sure they communicated well so they did matching colouring in.
The video helpful to show the class the building process. They loved the speeded up colouring in and cutting out, but it could definitely do with a description that this is the case in the video. If I hadn’t been there to explain to the class they might have tried to colour in at super speed!
The part that presented most difficulty was the attaching of the head and jaw to the clothes peg.
This was tricky for the 7 year old kids and I think most of them needed help doing that bit.
It definitely calls for this bit of the building process being clearly described and demonstrated in real time, in the video. Possibly though, some other method of attaching the puppet head to the clothes peg is worth considering, because in all fairness, working with really thin double sided sticky tape is very fiddy. Maybe even prit stick would do it? I’ll give it a go and see if it works.
Still, at the end of the session, all members of the class had a finished and functional puppet head, and seemed to have enjoyed themselves, so not a bad result for a first trial run.

Watch “Puppet Wizard, Shepherd and Sheep” on YouTube

We’ve managed to get our first Puppet Wizard tutorial video up onto utube, before helping the year 2 kids in Ashley Down Primary school make some clothes peg puppets tomorrow. This is partly a response to the teacher Charlie Baughan telling me that sometimes kids take in the information better from a video, than from being shown in person. So now this is available to them to have playing in the classroom during the puppet making activity.

We’ve actually been planning to start making regular puppet making tutorial videos for a while now, it’s just taken rather longer than anticipated to get them started. I have to confess that we’ve got a way to go before we reach the kind of production quality we are hoping to achieve, but  the best way to improve, in my experience,  is to get started.
Please have a watch an let us know what you think. I think Tula makes an excellent presenter, and Rufus is already a handy little editor. A family team!

Nativity Puppet Patterns

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Here’s some nativity character clothes peg puppet characters. Each one is printed twice, looking to the left and right so each character can have a conversation with all the others, while looking directly at them.

Tula and I filmed a video today demonstrating how to make them. Hopefully we’ll get it online tomorrow.