Friday, 6 May 2011

Bird Puppet

After my mid-year review I was convinced to continue with the original plan to have a live puppet performance alongside with the showing of my film. It was going to go along the same line of having a phoenix born on stage and then flying before being set on fire, however, this time I would have the brd perched on a table and the wings flying behind it.
If it was to fit in a papier mache egg then I knew it must be quite flexible so I made a latex base for the head which I stitched to a cloth sleeve where my hand could go manoeuvre the head. For the feathers, I tested a variety of methods such as cutting them from paper, making them with string and making them from wire. To create a base coverage I went with the idea of cutting them froms trips of paper, using a fabric feeling paper I purchased from a craft shop in Chinatown. The strips I cut from this were then stitched to the main body of the bird.
To build on this I bought spray cans to cover it. The colours I chose were blue and burgundy that when mixed created a purple colour and I chose these because I wanted the phoenix to look regal as it is a mystical bird and I always associate these colours wit this idea. I also chose to use spray cans as I think its has the ability to be soft and add hundreds more tones to the object than a paintbrush could and I really wanted the feathers to look like they shimmer.
To add to the shimmering effect I also used the tooling foil I used for the dragon puppet to emboss feather shapes and add to the body. This was from a performance point of view as hopefully the little shrapnels of metal will catch the light and glisten onstage. To continue this trend I also made the beak from tooling foil. Originally it was to be a long, stork-like beak from latex but this looked more comical than anything so I changed it to a more parrot inspired look. The tooling foil for the beak was also helpful as it was sturdy and had little friction between the hinges.
Also to make the puppet more interesting from an audience point of view was to use paper wrapped wire on the heads which I made to resemble flames (referencing the origin of the phoenix). If the bird has a striking shape then hopefully the shadow it will create will be more interesting as the plan is to project against the puppet, to create a larger, more defined shadow.
The signature part of the puppet was going to be the wings as they were planned to be huge and are over a metre long each. The production of these was relatively simple as I carried on the experimentation from the bird's head into the wings so that there was some continuity and they looked like they were a part of the same being.
Again, thinking of what would make the wings more interesting onstage I cut holes out of them which I filled with straggly wire and feathers. This was to make the shadow less of a big block and because the Phoenix is a mythical creature I didn't think it mattered much if I cut a big hole out of it.

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