Morris the Marionette

Morris was born out of the Make a Marionette Workshop I ran at James & Lisa Wallbank’s Makers on the Edge – in the back room workshop of their unusual gift shop in south Sheffield.

To run my own Marionette Making Workshop was an adventurous task and I knew from the outset that it would push me out of my comfort zone – but I was up for the challenge. James’ faith in my abilities spurred me forward and the invitation to use the laser-cutter, I could not resist. I’d known James a few years, he knew my work and had encouraged me on my creative path. James was former founder and CEO of Access-Space, where I ran my first Rubbish Puppet Workshop in 2011 (watch the video HERE) I felt like I was been invited to go up another level.

make a marionetteI studied the traditional Chinese marionette that Lisa had for sale in their shop, made sketches and notes and scurried off to gen up the history and techniques of marionettes. Back home, I whizzed through my hoards of ‘puppet-making supplies’ (throw-away plastic tat, et al) and made a few prototypes.

With James’ help, I planned out the puppet parts and made copies of the laser cut components – cut from 3mm ply, with holes cut at each end -that would be connected with split rings. A box-full of foam packaging (salvaged from  Northern Green Gathering two summers ago) would be perfect for bulking out the torso and limbs. I decided the heads could be made from air-drying clay. I researched different types, compared prices and ordered 12.5kg of Scola Reinforced Air Drying Clay (about £13 inc p+p) I hadn’t used clay since art college and indulged like a child as I made a few heads.

The workshop was promoted and posted on Facebook and Twitter, liked and shared by my friends, Saturday was approaching – and no-one enrolled. We anguished, questioned and debated.  To break even we really need 3 participants. We had none, I didn’t want to cancel!

An old friend from Rotherham was really interested but she couldn’t afford the cost of the workshop. I liked her creative style, I could see she was keen to make a marionette. I consulted with James and Lisa – we were to go ahead

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Mandi came along on the Saturday with a bagful of curious goodies and we assembled the laser-cuts and tucked into the big bag of clay and got stuck in. She produced a small box, carefully opened it and offered me a pair of cats-eyes from the road – What a treat!

Lisa filled the table with bags of felted wool, broken ceramic plates; ideal for teeth and sea shells – how fitting for his shell-likes! It was a perfect day, if only too short. We’d both spent most of the day building up our puppet heads but we had both made a great start.

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Morris wearing jumpsuit made by Lisa

To speed the process up, I gave my puppet head a quick blast with James’ hear gun and carefully packed it in bubble-wrap to take home. This was going to be an on-going and involved undertaking – we agreed to continue and keep in touch. As I opened up my precious package that evening, my heart hit the floor!

His head had cracked open, breaking into 3 parts – Ah! Why did I use the heat gun! All was not lost and I managed to rebuild him, pouring PVA all over the parts and holding it back together. I let it dry out slowly, spraying it with water and covering it with a plastic bag overnight. He might just make it. Mandi was having similar problems, but not as critical. What a downer!

Hours of reconstructive surgery passed – Morris was looking good again. I decided he needed freshening up with a new wardrobe.

Kirsty Bette – felted boots

morris felted boots

My lovely sister, Sarah knitted him a very dapper cardigan

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He grew up in the Orkney Isles, whilst spending Christmas and New Year visiting my mum – where he entertained the residents of the care home there, dancing on the tables after dinner at mahogany.

Lucy – Treble clef broach –

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Morris has attended several Rubbish Puppet Making Workshops and this month he appeared alongside other special guests at my Tedx talk on Rubbish Puppets.

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And here is Mandi’s splendid puppet!

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