PuppetYear #2 – Unnamed Bird

Type:Hand puppet
Location:Hatfield, United Kingdom
Materials:Reclaimed memory foam, elastic, faux fur collar, faux fur remnants, vinyl, upholstery fabric, clay.
Tools:Scissors, needle and thread, sewing machine, permanent marker, paint, PVA glue, paintbrush.
Time: approx. 4 hours
Date/s: 04/08/20

It’s been just over a week since I completed PY, and I haven’t had much space for making. But, a little break in the clouds of life-sorting-out meant that I found a few hours to try to bash out a puppet. I used the sewing machine for this one, meaning that the stitching time was significantly shortened.

First, I pulled out from the bag of scraps a few pieces of faux fur that I had been saving, as well as some small remnants of vinyl reclaimed from the scrap store. I didn’t have a plan for this design, so I looked to the qualities of the materials I had to hand and they lent themselves nicely to a beak and some downy feathers.

I cut out and shaped the vinyl then stitched it to the upholstery fabric, with an extra top-stitch to create a curl for the lip (?) of the beak. I used some old memory foam cut-offs to fill out the beak a little and then pieced it together with part of the lush faux fur from the old jacket collar. The sewing machine made short work of joining the pieces to create the head and jowls/neck. I pinned the wing fabric together and knocked that through the machine, and veeeery quickly the whole body came together.

I found some fluffier grey fur and created some accents, like the crest and the tail of the bird.

I picked up some of the clay eyes I had made last week and after checking bird eye references… I decided not to work with realism and painted up some silly, tiny-pupiled, yellow eyes. I placed them in the head and started stitching the face into shape – giving the cheeks some fullness with memory foam, stitching in the brow, etc.

I then experimented a little with putting colour on the beak for character (and also because I didn’t learn my lesson from last week and still used the black thread that was already loaded on the machine because I was too lazy to wind a new bobbin). I first tried with a sharpie and a kitchen sponge to try to rough up the ink a little, but it didn’t give the effect I was after. I mixed a little paint with PVA and lacquered the edge, but it didn’t take to the vinyl when dry. In the end, I went back in with a sharpie and just decided to embrace the black edging.

A finishing stitch around the belly (hand-stitched because I didn’t want a machine stitch line through the faux fur) and all done. A quick one without any real surprises – I did investigate using elastic as an internal mechanism that would allow the eyes to pop forward, but it was very much an afterthought and didn’t really have any great affect on the expression of the puppet. Something to look at next time.