Making of a Puppet.

When one declares that her new film is a mix of stop motion and drawn animation she must follow that recipe or risk riots of revolting audiences.

One day I scratched my head and thought:

– Why draw everything? Why not make a paper mache character that also moves? It would be so much cheaper and faster than draw every move.

For this project I already have moving backgrounds and props. My drawn characters playfully handle ropes, flowers and buckets. But drawing sometimes gets old, like eating fresh sushi every day. I looked into my script to find where I could fit some stop motion action. There was a place – a scene full of people telling the main character to forget her dreams of becoming an artist.

– I’ll have puppets that will wave their arms (- No no no! you can’t!) and look up the sky surprised when the main character flies in an airplane to New York, – I decided.

But where do you start? I have no knowledge nor experience on making stop motion puppets. I only have an ambition and determination.

I called Angela Stempel, a well educated and knowledgeable stop motion expert. Immediately she informed me that to make a puppet walk I’d have to have these bolts attachable to a plywood floor:

and many other complicated, expensive and time consuming things.

I knew rigth away what I didn’t want my puppets do.

– No need for a puppet to walk, – I said. – My puppets will be fine just sitting.

– You can’t make a stop motion puppet without epoxy, – Angela continued. – And epoxy dries for 2 weeks.

– Two weeks! – I exclaimed in despair. In two weeks I could make about 678 drawings thus eliminating the need for epoxy and slow drying puppets.

– Well, maybe you could use a puppet sooner, but you’d risk breaking it, – Angela said.

– What do I need the epoxy for? – I asked.

– You’ll make an armature for your puppet from aluminum wire. The parts of aluminum that you want inflexible you’ll cover with epoxy which will ensure that  the aluminum will bend at the joints, not wherever the wire wants.

– Ah, – I said. It made perfect sense. I didn’t want my puppets to have rubber arms waving like flags in the wind. I wanted them to have elbows and wrists, like me. I started to consider an alternative, mentally browsing through meterials I had at my studio.

– How about pieces of wood for the inflexible parts?- I asked.

– How will you attach wire to the wood?- Angela inquired.

– Just wrap it and wrap it again and hope it doesn’t slide off, – I said with an optimism of a 5 year old. I used to make stuff like that when I was five and wire usually did slide off.

– How about making a groove at the end of each piece of wood for the wire to catch on ? – Angela suggested.

Together, we came up with this plan:

The Master Puppet Plan

Then, enthusiastically I set to work. I cut pieces of wood certain length according to The Plan and cut the grooves at the end of each piece. I made a cross (who knew that every puppet carries her cross within?) and secured it with wire and a screw (screw functions as Heart for an otherwise heartless puppet), then attached the pieces of wood for arms, palms and the head. Here it was – the unbearable cross of lightness:

The Master of Her Own Cross.

My favorite part followed – wrapping the armature with newspaper as if it was an expensive but small gift that had to be simultaneously enlarged and disguised by many layers of wrap paper. On top of all that wrap I put the final layer of paper soaked in Metylan wallpaper glue, and here’s the result:

Don't tell me the printed news are dead.

After I top the pile of glued paper with the head, the puppet comes to life, and in my cold rooms it needs some warmth:

Did anyone tell her she is INFLAMMABLE!?

See the joints?

Paper body+aluminum joints = fragile existence untill the first snap.

The black paint covers the news, so that you don’t read the puppet when you meet her:

I am in black, it makes me sad.

Oh, there is two of them! They multiply! binary fission is in fashion now!

Although somewhat hollow they are never shallow - they prefer reading over shopping.

Like everything good in life, color takes an effort and lot of tubes:

I think they pop to life just to see the view out of my windows.

Dive into the evening light.

The final touch – I run to Jem Fabric store and got some fabric for the sleeves:

Peacock colors.

The puppet now is fully dressed and able to move arms up and down:



I am ready to shoot my stop motion sequence.

THANK YOU, Angela!

About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
This entry was posted in Hazards of being an artist, The Work in Progress, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Making of a Puppet.

  1. Cecile says:


    What a terrific post. Not only are you a brilliant artist, you also offer us a great opportunity to witness the cross-pollenisation of writing & thinking: “I made a cross (who knew that every puppet carries her cross within?) and secured it with wire and a screw (screw functions as Heart for an otherwise heartless puppet), then attached the pieces of wood for arms, palms and the head. Here it was – the unbearable cross of lightness:”


    Love the puppets (nifty!) & also love the view through your studio that shows these puppets fully came to life at sundown, illustrating that Creation takes time.

    Here’s to hoping your movie will see the light & movie-theatre darkness this year.

    Hugs & best wishes to you, my New York artist!

  2. Mary Kerins says:

    Love the process and the results. Looking forward to the final product. Thanks!
    xoxo Mary

  3. me_ehlise says:

    I love your post! Inspiring on my way to celebrating ‘Sinterklaas’ (Dutch National Feast Celebrating Saint Nicolas)

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