The Puppet Challenge: Starting to make our puppet


Remember the old days when you needed to do a long drawn out internet search to find information? Ha! We of course embraced the new, got in the camper van, drove to a nearby town and spent a very enjoyable hour in the second-hand bookshop rummaging through piles of musty books and gasping and chortling at totally unconnected book covers, recipes and 70’s macramé leaflets! We found two puppet books. We didn’t buy them as five minutes memorising the information with our photographic minds was all we needed……….. to argue all the way home about differing recollections of method and pitfalls.

First we tried articulated card puppets using found photos scaled in Photoshop. This looked fine but didn’t really work with the brief. We then decided to get well out of our comfort zone and make the papier-mâché puppet head with a stick to hold it up, a felt body and card hands again articulated with sticks we had seen in the puppet book.

Here’s what we did to make the head:

Make a model of the head in plasticine. Exaggerate the features at it will be covered in layers of paper. The puppet head will be heavy and won’t stand upright at first until you have levelled the bottom. We put it on a plate so we could move it round. Plasticine makes your hands go bright yellow. You can’t get the staining off with soap and water.  I only tell you this as it didn’t seem to matter when you are a kid but as a grown-up I noticed folks backing away from me in the supermarket like I had some strange disease.PuppetChallenge Plasticine1TheBigForest

Cover the plasticine head with Clingfilm* so the papier-mâché doesn’t stick or soak in to the plasticine. Trying to get the Clingfilm in to the nooks and crannies without making holes. It isn’t the easiest job and in some places you will have a little bit of bulky folded Clingfilm. Don’t worry.PuppetChallenge Plasticine 2 TheBigForest

Rip up newsprint and use some PVA glue slightly diluted with water. The first layer paper pieces need to be bigger than subsequent layers as you are sticking paper to Clingfilm which is as challenging as it sounds.

Let the head dryPuppetChallenge Plasticine 3 TheBigForest

Rip up paper for the next layer. Make the pieces much smaller and use a different colour. We ripped up old telephone directories and later on found flip-chart paper worked well. Make a small chart with nine boxes and tick off each layer as its completed. It saves the worry of forgetting where you are in the process.

Glue on your next layer using the ripped paper pieces and diluted PVA glue. You need to get the paper wet with glue. Make sure it really follows the form of the head smoothing the paper in place with your hands. It’s messy.


Next layer

Keep going until you have finished eight layers.

Coming next to TheBigForest blog

The next step was the creative decision around the final layer that would make the giants face, the colour of his eyes, hair and worries that when we cut through the papier-mâché the whole thing would collapse.

You simply would not believe the level of stress here in TheBigForest which was slightly relived by big bars of chocolate and having a tea party for the Care bears.

But next a post on inspiration.


*Saran Wrap for our North American readers. Just shows my time living overseas had some strange lasting benefits. Most people come back culturally enriched by travel, I find however that I know the American word for Clingfilm. Oh well..!


About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. As much as I’m finding your description of the whole process very interesting indeed, the fact that cling film or plasticine is not “universal English” has baffled me quite a bit. Hm.

    • I think it happens everywhere. A product called by another brand name in a different country. There is a whole blog post on Jif turning to Cif, Marathon bars to Snickers and other examples. Not that Im going to do a blog post on that I hasten to add. Too much lovely sun outside and we want to be bouncing around the forest. 🙂

  2. Interesting details of the process–it’ll make the finished product so much more fun to see. (We have Plasticine here, too!)

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