Stone puppets and pebble people

PEBBLE PEOPLE AND STONE PUPPETS

A Creeping Toad activity for
Derwent Stories and
BM125

 

Thanks to Jo Wheeler for the photo

 

a cheery puppet c/o Jo Wheeler

Every stone tells a story: a tale that runs over millions of years. It might be a story of mountains and eruptions, of magma and lava and the long slow cooling of ancient crystals. It might be an adventure of ancient seas and the slow accumulation of sand and mud and minerals. There might be bones becoming fossils, shells building shapes….

Looking at a stone can become an exercise in the detection of ancient processes and modern erosions. But taking your knowledge of a stone and turning it into a puppet gives us a chance to play with stones as characters and to tell their stories in livelier ways

This is a puppet making activity – building your own stone’s story is another activity which will follow – but once you have used a stone to insprie a puppet, you can probably decide on a character and a backstory for your pebble puppet without us trying to organise you!

Getting started

fossil rich limestone from Peak District hills

Look at a stone: hold it, handle it, look at colours, shapes, inclusions – fossils? crystals? other pebbles? How hard is it? Does it crumble or flake?

Close your eyes and scribble the stone on a piece of paper into a sort-of person……

Making a puppet
These puppets are simple hand and rod ones that stand about 20 cm tall. We usually make them quickly and are working with several people at a time. Working at home, you can do everything in a more relaxed way. Or maybe not

You will need
There seems to be a lot of things: read through the directions and see where you could use something else if need be

  • a bath sponge or two
  • some thin card (or art foam)
  • scissors – big sharp ones are useful as well as sensible children’s ones
  • glue: “rubber solution” glue is best – Copydex or similar
  • a handful of dress-making pins
  • googly eyes maybe
  • permanent pens – Sharpies are good
  • scraps of wool or rags
  • about 40cm of cloth tape or riboon – or just strips of cloth (DO NOT cut up school shirts without permission)
  • a couple of barbecue skewers or similar
  • masking tape
  • a pipecleaner
  • a stapler

1. Sponge: cut your sponge in half – maybe not quite equally – one piece will be the head and the other the body. It is nice if these can be different colours – so use two sponges and make a puppet with a friend? We also use painty sponges: ones that we’ve used for acrylic paint so that they have ended up stained into interesting colours

2. The body: cut the “body” sponge in half to make a front and back (this is where large sharp scissors are useful). Arms and legs are strips of tape….with a standard bath sponge as our starting point, we’d usually go for arms about 10cm long and legs about the same …but there is no reason why a stone should have matching limbs, the same numbers and proportions as us or anything…..Slobber some glue over the inside of the spong, place the arm and legs ribbons on the glue. Add a neck ribbon as well – long enough to let the head move easily. Add some glue on top of the ribbons then fit the other half of the spong back into place. Hold everything in place with pins

 

 

 

3. Head: use your sharp scissors to snip a cut in the underside, making it deep enough and long enough to poke the neck ribbon in…..slather some glue in there and poke the neck ribbon in (the skewer help with getting ribbons and hair into the sponge. Pin in place

4. Now, working carefully around the pins, start drawing patterns on your sponges. You could do this first but we usually like to get the glueing done and drying. Fossil patterns? Or maybe stick on some glittery foil as crystals, or just scrap bits of foam as other rocks

5. Head: keep eyes to the end but just now you could try giving your puppet some hair (or maybe moss? or seaweed?). Use scraps of wool or cut up carrier bags perhaps. Put a little glue on this and then poke it into the sponge using the skewer. This can be tricky but is the best way of glueing things firmly to the sponge

6. Eyes: either draw some eyes on card or use a pair of googly eyes (or more?). Glue eyes in place, add a mouth or other features.

7. While the eyes are drying, draw some hands and feet on card or foam. Cut out and staple these into place on the end of the arm and leg ribbons

To animate everything, if you stick half a pipecleaner onto the end of a skewer, that can then be stapled over the pipecleaner to the back of one of the puppet’s hands. Then, if you hold the back of the head in one hand and the skewer in the other, you have a puppet ready to go wandering off on adventures. Usually one hand and one rod is enough the make a puppet active. You can try more rods but it can all get a bit awkward trying to manipulate everything….

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