A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a free workshop at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry located on the campus of the University of Connecticut. At the workshop we learned how to build life-size and over-life-size puppets of community role models for the 15th Annual Celebrate Mansfield Festival Parade. The past few years I have spent most of my time creating hand and rod puppets so I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by the challenge of creating a large then life puppet in a matter of 2 days. But I saw this as an excellent opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and try something different.
The workshop started with the participants choosing one of many local heroes or inspirational figures of the Mansfield Community. Being that I wasn’t from the area and wanting to be challenged, I asked the the instructors if they could choose one for me. They choose Annie E. Vinton. I didn’t know anything about her and after a quick Google search found only one photo and a brief biography on the Mansfield Public Schools website. She was an educator from the early 1900s that was instrumental in the creation of a modern school in the Mansfield area.
At first I really didn’t know how to begin but with some instructions from Acclaimed Boston puppeteer Sara Peattie, I was off. Taking a large piece of cardboard, a staple gun and some snips, I started by cutting darts into the sheet and stapling them together until it formed the shape of a face. Then using masking tape, newspaper and cardboard scraps I created the facial features, adding a nose, eyes, brows, cheeks, lips, and a chin. I finished the day by covering the face with brown craft paper and glue until it was completely covered. That night I started thinking about adding hair to the puppet so took a trip to the local craft store and spent most of the night hot glueing pieces of yarn to load cardboard strips to attach to the face the next day. Day 1 was complete.
Day 2 started early with covering the face with a matte white base and letting it dry before adding paint and attaching the hair, this took up most of my morning. After that I spent the rest of the afternoon sewing some robes and a hood to connect to the face. I was happy with the results and although my oversized Annie E. Vinton puppet didn’t really look like her I really did feel proud of myself that I accomplished it in such a short period of time.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the parade on the following weekend but have to say, I really enjoyed the workshop. I got a chance to step outside my comfort zone and meet some incredible people in an extremely creative environment. If you have any interest in puppetry, I would highly suggest taking the time to visit the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. It can be for one of their workshops, to catch an amazing puppet show or visit their incredible museum.
Below are a list of links that you can visit for some more information.