from Earth Day in Your School and Community © 1993 published by Heartland All Species Project, Kansas City, MO USA

Puppetry is another way of delivering a powerful message.

Making Puppets from Cellu-clay

Cellu-clay is a unique medium for making many types of puppets and figures. Its advantages are fast working time, strength, and workability. Cellu-clay is a brand-name product which consists of a mixture of ground newspaper and fast-setting vinyl plaster. You can buy it or make your own.

  • Making Your Own Cellu-Clay

    • Materials

      • Cellulose insulation, sold at lumber yards in 25-lb. bags.

      • Vinyl-based, fast-setting plaster under the name of Quick-Fill or Fast Patch. It is available in 15 or 30-minute drying times. 30-minute is preferred; it allows more sculpting time.

    • Procedure

      • Remove some insulation from the bag and fluff it into a large mixing pan. Pour in plaster (approximately 2/3 cellulose to 1/3 plaster by volume). Mix dry until all the cellulose is white with plaster . Add water to a dough-like consistency. Make a small batch first to experience the mixing and working qualities. You may add more of either ingredient but mix thoroughly and quickly.

    • Preparing a Form

      • The material works best if it is not thicker than one inch in any one place. If it is thicker, it wastes material, dries slowly and makes a heavy item. The form may be a stick from the woods, a screen wire tube, a toilet paper tube, or any forming material suitable for your project.

    • Working the Sculpture

      • Work with hands as quickly as possible. You can obtain a smooth finish by lightly moistening the surface and rubbing it smooth. After the surface hardens, it can be painted almost immediately. The figures can be put into a low temperature oven overnight to completely dry them but air drying works well, taking 3-7 days.

Shadow Puppets

Shadow puppetry is a wonderful device for presenting a story that borders on magic.

    • Materials

      Fabric for screen


      Simple frame

      Stiff wire or thin sticks for puppets

      Strong light source

      Tape for attaching puppets

    • Procedure

      • For such puppetry, you will need a thin white or beige fabric (sheet) and a simple frame on which to stretch the screen. A strong light source (flood light, slide projector light, or 100 watt bulb) is required behind the screen to create shadows if the room cannot be completely darkened. Two-dimensional puppets are made with any mat board, poster board, cardboard, or stiff paper which can be drawn, cut, and mounted on a stick or wire. Patterns for the outlines of body parts, clothing, and animals' joints are made by punching holes with nails or hole punchers. To increase their interest and versatility, puppets can be hinged with paper fasteners. Puppeteers kneel between the light source and screen and manipulate puppets to cast shadows on the screen. The audience sits on the other side of the screen. In Bali, intricate shadow puppets are made from metal, with a torch as the light source.

Giant Puppets

Giant, larger-than-life puppets can be made for presentation to large audiences. They are usually made out of paper mache over chicken wire. The puppeteer gets inside or holds the puppet up by means of sticks. A framework can be made by using PVC plumbing pipe attached to a backpack frame with duct tape. If large amounts of clay are available, a cast of a face can be made, molding the clay over a chicken wire armature. Drape a thin film of plastic (dry cleaner bag) over the form and apply five or six layers of paper mache. When dry, the mask can be "popped off" the form.

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