Making a Mammoth

The next micro puppet we have to show you is a small woolly mammoth. He is another of the characters from the collection we have been making for The Fetch and About Face Theatre Companies' project, 'We Are All Stories'.
The criteria for this puppet was that, once again, it needed to be small enough to be used in a performance on the palm of the hand and, if the sky's the limit, that it had a nodding head.
The latter requirement wasn't a technique we had ever tried before but we were up for the challenge of getting it to work. And a challenge it was!
It was quickly apparent that the creature would have to be built around the nodding mechanism rather than getting the mechanism to fit into the skin of body. To create a smooth nod it was necessary to achieve a complementary ratio of head weight plus body aperture. This took a good day and a half of experimenting with tubes, nuts and bolts and metal bending to conquer. Saviour came in the form of a tiny plastic pot from a take away meal which made the perfectly sized body cavity (3cm). Later, a piece of bamboo chopstick was used for the puppeteer's handle which protrudes from the mammoth's back. The position and length of the handle set against the weight of the head helps the mammoth to balance when on the palm. We get such an enormous sense of satisfaction when we can find creative solutions using materials such as these which are considered to be inconsequential throwaway items.

To make the skin of the mammoth we translated some initial sketches into paper templates before cutting out of wool felt.We often use paper as a starting point when constructing, folding, cutting and ripping to get a 3D shape - our version of a toile. This method saves a lot of waste when it comes to cutting out the fabric 'proper'. We choose a robust wool felt to cope with the amount of handling the puppet would receive. It was also suitably pliant to stretch over the inner mechanisms and without the need for any hemming which would have added excess bulk to such a small item.

It's such a pity that our inventiveness didn't stretch to getting this work-in-progress film clip to rotate to the right way up!  However, it does give you an impression of the bob of the mammoth's head. 

The puppets are now in rehearsal preparing for their grand debut later this month.
You can catch the first performances of, 'We Are All Stories', at Hereford's historic Black & White House Museum in High Town on 29th & 30th May 2017, 11am - 3pm.