BA [Hons] 3D Design Modelmaking + Digital Art
Growing up, I was always building and creating different things and drawing constantly, I never would have dreamt back then that I would be doing a course in exactly that and hopefully going to make a career out of it in the future. The skills I have learned here at IADT have prepared me to hopefully go on and build a successful career for myself in the film/tv/theatre industry building props, sets and puppets.
When I was beginning the design process with this project, I knew that I was going to be inspired by the amazing works of Brian Froud and Jim Henson in "The Dark Crystal". The puppets they created for the film were charming, other-worldly and relatable which were the traits I wanted my own puppet to have. When designing the puppet, I decided to base the character on a part man part hedgehog character from the Grimm Brother's fairy-tale "Hans My Hedgehog". I came across this story while researching and realised there wasn't a distinct description of this character which meant I could be as creative as I wanted to be. So, after multiple different designs I finally settles on one where Hans looks more humanoid with a few hedgehog traits. I think this mix makes him look more relatable but still have that fantasy element.
When creating this puppet I spent the majority of my time designing and sculpting the face as I felt that was going to be the aspect that would be focused on the most. I sculpted both the head and hands out of chevant clay and used metal tools to carve into the clay to create the creases and wrinkles. I moulded the head in plaster and casted it in latex and filled it with soft expanding foam, which made the head sturdy and solid while still keeping it as light as possible. It was important to keep the puppet as light as possible as to not put more strain on the puppeteer.
When choosing the colour palette for the skin there was multiple different tests until I decided on this peachy base with some purple and blue shadows and undertones. Which I think keeps him looking some what relatable while still keeping it looking other-worldly with the purple undertones. Using the purple helped make all the little texturing details I sculpted into the face stand out, it added more depth to them. The small details make a huge difference to the whole look of the puppet, the details are what tells the back story of the puppet, where they are from, what they have gone through and who they are. After that decision was made and executed about the it was much easier to choose the colour palette for the clothing.
For the clothing I chose natural looking materials in earthy tones. I chose this because it was what I had envisioned for this character from the beginning. He is a farmer who watches over his herd from the top of a tree and lives off the land so of course he would be wearing an outfit that reflected his environment, all browns, creams and greens.
For this project I taught myself how to sew using a sewing machine and how to construct an outfit correctly. I knew from the beginning that I wouldn't be able to source clothing that would both fit and suit my puppet. Making everything myself also made the whole look more cohesive as the accessories and the clothing were made from the same materials. The accessories I made for this puppet was giving a small nod to a detail that mentioned in the original fairy-tale, that Hans left his home with only a set of bagpipes and rooster to his name. So I took that detail about the bagpipes to him being of Scottish heritage. with his outfit I added small details such as tartan elbow patches and a little tartan sash coming from his belt. For the accessories I made him some leather wrist cuffs tied with string and then I also made a Sporran style bag, which is a type of bag associated with traditional Scottish clothing. To top it all off I made sure to make the outfit not look too polished. I stained the outfit with tea, coffee and dirt to give it that worn in look. I even took the clothes outside and rubbed it into the dirt and grass to make sure it looked like he lives off the land and sits in a tree all day. For the leather pieces I scratched them with wire brushes and steel wool and painted on them to give the illusion of wear and tear. All of these little details add to the backstory of the character.
For the body, it was constructed out of electrical conduit piping and upholstery foam. I constructed the frame by cutting the piping and drilling holes into the necessary ends of it and then connecting them together with wire links which in turn created hinge joints and allows the puppet to be manipulated. With the pipping being hollow and using the upholstery foam to pad out the shape of the body, there wasn't much weight to it, which is exactly what I wanted.
I used a slightly unorthodox method of getting the my desired measurements for this puppet. With the help of a very patient 2 year old girl that I help mind, I was able to get all of her measurements and make the puppet to match them. I made the head and hands slightly bigger in order to keep that fantasy theme going. The main reason for me doing the measurements this was was so that when it came to making the clothes I could get clothes that I knew would fit the puppet and cut them up and use it to make patterns and make the clothes myself out of the materials I sourced.
In this picture you can see the scale of the puppet beside the child, and see that the distance from the hips to the shoulders is pretty much the same on each and the puppet is just that couple of inches taller due to the larger head.
When making the hands I used the same materials and processes as I did with the head, with just one more added step. Just before I closed the plaster mould and poured in the latex I made an armature of the hands from twisted animation wire and suspended it in the middle of the mould using thread. I then poured in the latex, let it thicken and then pour out the excess and let it dry and before it was fully set pour in the soft expanding foam. Doing the extra step meant that when the hands were fully set and removed from the moulds the hands would be able to be manipulated and they would be able to hold their pose. This was an added extra aspect that I knew wanted my puppet to have. When making a puppet for an on-screen or on-stage performance it is important for the puppet to be able to do as much as possible, and for this puppet to be able to grip and hold objects. As you can see in this picture because of adding this extra step of adding the armature inside the hands it is possible for my puppet to sit on a tricycle and grip onto the handle bars.
During this project, there was some stressful moments as I'm sure there was for a lot of people in my class due to the circumstances we faced this year due to the effects of Covid and the multiple lockdowns. It was nice at the end of this project to be able to have fun and mess around with the puppet and taking photos of it in both environments that make sense for it to be photographed in, like amongst foliage or sitting on logs, and environments that were a bit more random like sitting on a children's tricycle.
This project was definitely a huge learning curve, learning lots of different skills. The best skill I've learned this year was how to make a wig. It is honestly something I never would have thought I would be able to do, but I found it to be quite therapeutic in a strange way. There was something about just sitting adding horse hair to a lace wig cap using a ventilation hook and a method similar to those used in crocheting. It took me a full week to create this wig along with giving it a hair cut and styling it with braids and dreadlocks. I used horse hair from 4 different coloured horses to create a varied look. It is a skill that I am glad to have learned and will come in handy in the future if I end up making a career out of puppet making.
This year was definitely not the final year in college that I expected to have but it was no less rewarding. With the challenges that we all faced this year like not having access to the college and the workshop facilities or easy access to materials, it added a lot of extra stress but we all got there in the end. It has made us more independent and be more self-directed when it comes to our own work which will stand to us when we move on into our professional careers.
I can honestly say that I am proud of what I have achieved, not just this year but over the last 4 years of my time spent here at IADT under the guidance of the amazing lecturing staff. All the skills I have learned over the last 4 years have come together to allow me to create this enchanting puppet.
"Hans My Hedgehog" Puppet
My Final Year project is a one metre tall puppet that can be fully articulated with the aid of detachable rods. The character is based off a part man part hedgehog character from a Grimm Brother's fairy-tale called "Hans My Hedgehog". It is a puppet that would be made a film or tv show where CGI would be used to remove the rods and puppeteers. I chose to make a puppet like this as it would allow me to show off all the different skills I've learned in my 4 years at IADT along with other skills, skills such as character design, puppet making, sculpting, plaster moulding, latex casting, painting, wig making and sewing.