Paper mache marionettes replace the expensive ceramic puppets in the world of theatre entertainment. Paper mache is made with paste and ripped paper and, once dry, resembles the smooth ceramic style of modern marionettes. Homemade marionettes created with paper mache are only as strong as the mixture used to create them. Glossy magazine paper makes strong paper mache due to the strength of the fibres in the paper. With creativity, string and an old magazine, you too can make your own travelling puppet show.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 1 tbsp bleach
- Glossy magazine
- Brown paper bag
- 2 tbsp bleach
- Pot with lid
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp ground chalk
- 1 tbsp linseed oil
- White glue
- Five 2-foot puppet strings
- 10 cut rubber bands
- One plastic egg
- Drying rack
Mix 3 tbsp of flour and 1/3 cup of cold water. Stir this mixture into a saucepan of boiling water until it thickens. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tbsp of bleach. Set aside until mixture is room temperature.
Tear half of the glossy magazine and one side of the paper bag into 1/2-inch squares. Add these paper bits, enough water to cover them, and 2 tbsp bleach into a pot and boil. Once the water has come to a boil, place lid on it and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Pour the cooked contents into a strainer and rinse with cold water until the water is running clear. Put the paper pulp into a blender. Add 1/2 cup water to the paper pulp and mix it with the blender. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes. Line the strainer with cheesecloth and strain the pulp again.
Squeeze the cheesecloth until most of the water is gone. Pour the pulp into a bowl. Add 2 tbsp ground chalk, 1 tbsp linseed oil, 4 tbsp white glue and the flour paste into the bowl and stir until it is a thick paste.
Knot an end of one piece of 2-inch string and place the knotted end inside the plastic egg. Plaster the paper mache paste over the plastic egg in one thick layer covering the string hole as well. Create the bump for the nose and indentations for the eyes and mouth.
Knot the other end of the string connected to the plastic egg and put it inside a folded square of cardboard. This square will become the torso. Knot a second and third string and place the knotted ends into the bottom of the torso for the legs. Knot a fourth and fifth string and place the knotted ends inside the sides of the torso for the arms. Plaster a thick layer of paper mache paste around the torso cardboard, enclosing the holes for the appendage strings.
Roll cardboard into lengths for the arms and legs. Make two for each appendage. Make thicker rolls for the thighs and thinner rolls for the arms and shins.
Tie knots into the ends of the strings hanging from the torso and place each into the top of a thigh. Tie knots into two more strings and place them into the bottoms of the thighs. Plaster each of the thighs with a thick layer of paper mache paste, covering the string holes as well.
Tie knots into the bottoms of the strings hanging from the thighs and place these inside the shins. Plaster the shins with a thick layer of paper mache paste, covering the holes for the strings. Make small lumps at the bottoms of the shins to represent feet.
Tie knots into the strings hanging out of the sides of the torso and place these inside the cardboard arm rolls. Tie a knot into a second set of string and place these inside the other end of the arms. Plaster the arms with a thick layer of paper mache paste, covering both sets of string holes.
Tie knots into the strings hanging out of the top arms and place these inside the second set of cardboard arm rolls. Plaster the arms with a thick layer of paper mache paste, covering both sets of string holes. Make small lumps in the shape of flat hands on the ends of these arm sections.
Set the marionette on cheesecloth on top of a drying rack. Place a fan on the marionette and allow to dry. This may take about a week.
Once the marionette is dry, decorate it as you desire and tie 2-foot-long strings to the plaster hands and feet and one to the neck. Make sure to decorate the marionette in a way that the strings do not show on the puppet. Attach the strings to a stick or to rings for your fingers.
Tips and warnings
- Using flour in the paper mache mixture often results in bug attraction or moulding. If the puppet is something that you desire to keep for a long period, it is best to buy wallpaper paste for that step.
- You can store the paper mache paste in the refrigerator for several weeks if it is sealed in a plastic container.
- Tear, do not cut, the paper strips as this will allow the fibres to remain strong. Cutting the paper also cuts the fibres which cannot rebuild to make a strong paste.
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