07 October 2011

The Making of a Giant Puppet - Part 1 (the vision/madness)

We're in the home straight now, zoning in on the Nati Frinj (28th-30th Oct) but I wanted to do a few posts on the creation of the actual puppet.

We've dona few shows on the Natimuk silos before but I stupidly decided I wanted to do something really quite different this time. To make something part puppet... part drive-in-movie screen.

Knowing the whole thing was going to be needing to be hauled up on the side of the silos and operated by a small team of aerial performers. It was going to need to be light. 70-100kg was my original goal for the weight of the whole puppet. With this limitation in mind I decided that the whole thing could be built up like a big tent. A combination of a rip-stop nylon outer and bend fibre-glass-pole frame inner. On top of that it was going to need some sort of skeleton inside so that we could attach it to the rig and move the whole thing around in a person like manner. That was all a bit too much to think about at once and I already had Paul Hoskins earmarked to do the clever work with the skeleton so I decided to just get stuck into the puppet design and pattern making.

The first thing I did was a bunch of quick sketches. For me that's always the best way to think about something. Even if I end up ditching the sketches at a later point, the act of scribbling just seems to help me work stuff out.

It still seemed a long way from my quick sketches to a fully realised giant puppet but, happily, I was put on to the wonderful Helen Blandford (thanks Greg) who agreed to have a go at sewing the whole thing together. We decided to start on the hands first since, compared to the rest of the puppet, they weren't that big.  So the next thing for me to do was turn my 30 second sketches into something a little more rigorous. 

I probably dont need to point out that Im no kind of pattern maker but, Helen was able to turn my bunch of measurements...
...into this.

Here's Freya modeling the hand of fear. It was princess day at our house that day... Again.

The next step was going to be making the head, a sphere about 4 meters in diameter that needed to be self supporting and weigh less than 20kg.

More on that soon...

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