All those parts…..

….are finally coming together!  Over the last few days I have managed to complete the puppets for our new show, Parts by Tedd Arnold.  I did my best to make the puppet at least resemble the original illustrations – and he didn’t turn out too bad.

The parts…



The empty, Mr. Potato-esque head….



And  a side by side by side comparison of the finished puppets!


Wish us good luck (or break-a-leg) because we debut our version of Parts tomorrow evening at the local elementary school for their family reading night.

We’ll let you know how it goes.


Less parts and more puppet!

I’ve gotten a nice bit of work done on the Parts puppet this week.  The heads and bodies have come together nicely.   Finally the core structure of these things are in one piece and the eye/ear mechanisms fit nicely into the green foam skulls. IMG_4669 IMG_4671


And I’ve been able to start dialing in the eye and ear mechs as they relate to the skull of the puppet.  Below you can see the magnetic bits sticking through the green foam skull.


However, the plastic doll eyes I had picked out suddenly became a problem .  Once I saw the whole thing together I realized the original eyes were going to be way too small. So I went to one of my favorite building combos, papier mache and styrofoam balls, to make a set of eyes that are the proper scale.  You can see the difference below.

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Much better.

And I also figured out the nose!  Yeah, I am so happy about this one!  I was worried for a while because I had not come up with a decent idea how to make a small grey blob come out of his nose on cue.  After some failed attempt with fishtanks tubes, pipe cleaners, and spit wads, I came across a remote shutter cable from my dad’s old photography gear.  The plunger on the cable perfectly pushes out a small grey pom-pom from a small reservoir in the nose.  The nose itself is just a ping pong ball cut in half and covered with the final skin material.

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Below you can see the pom pom loaded into the “nostril” and in the second picture you can see the end of the plunger just having pushed out the blob.  I’m really proud of this solution.  Simple and effective – and easily reloaded!

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And for the first time I put all the parts together to get a glimpse of how this guy is going to look.  I’m happy with the results so far, but I still have a ways to go.



Coming together…

I promised everyone a video and here it is!  This short video is a quick and dirty tour of the eye and ear mechanisms on our new puppet for Parts.  If you have been following along you’ll know that we are working on Tedd Arnold’s book Parts as an addition to our Picture Book Show.  We are moving quickly on this build, but I wanted to show off a bit and let everyone see inside the very clever solution (at least in my mind)  to one of this puppet’s challenges.  Enjoy.

More Parts!

Despite the aggravatingly cold weather, I managed to get some time in the shop and work on the Arnold puppet for Parts.  Let me show you what I got done.

This head!  OMG this head. The first time I made the green foam exterior shell I miscalculated the size and made a foam ball that was way too big.  Fortunately it was big enough that I could cut out a second set of wedges to make a smaller, correct size shell.

But I digress.

The primary structure of puppet’s head will be made of two big parts:  the green foam shell and the skeleton.  The exterior shell is a simple “beach-ball” shape made of green upholstery foam using a wedge pattern (you can get the wedge pattern here). The green foam shell will be glued to a “skeleton” of sorts made from a wooden dowel and black foam-core.


These parts fit together like this:


So, now that I have the green foam shell and the skeleton fitting together properly, I’ve set the shell aside and started work on the toughest mechanism inside the head – the eyeball release!  Dum dum DUMMMMMM!

The biggest effect of the puppet is the eyes and ears – they all have to fall off on cue.  My solution is to use magnets.  I’ve managed to build a simple rig consisting of a short piece of steel and a spring that can  hold a magnet on the outside of the puppet.  A couple of wires are threaded down the dowel to a trigger, and when the trigger is pulled, the steel pieces pull away from the magnet allowing the magnet to drop away.  The eyeballs will be attached to the magnets (yes, they are rare earth magnets – super strong) and simply “clicked” to the front of the puppet.  The magnet will also allow me to quickly restore the puppet for another show.  As soon as I finish tinkering and get everything dialed in I want to post a short video that better explains how this is going to work.

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So, if you’ve got it figured out, great!  If not, help is on the way.  Stay tuned.


Parts is parts.

This week I finally got started on the new puppets for Parts.  Parts is a great little book by Tedd Arnold that I’ve been wanting to do as a puppet show for a long time (get caught up here).  But because the puppet needs to do so many things (lose an arm, eyes fall out, ears fall off, blow a booger out of nose, lose hair, I’ve been stumped as to how to build this thing.


Well a minor Christmas miracle occurred.  While we were performing our latest holiday offering, Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueba, my daughter started asking me about Parts while she was holding the Santa Cat puppet.


Santa Cat

I looked at Santa Cat and thought Parts at the same time.  The light bulb went on!  The angels sang! I slapped my forehead in an “A-HA” moment, and realized that the methods for building Santa Cat are EXACTLY what I needed for Parts.

So this week in a fit of excitement I started gathering materials and constructing the little boy puppet for Parts.  Since the boy is never given a name in the book, we have officially named him Arnold (in honor of the author Tedd Arnold).



I had constructed the body for this puppet a couple of years ago out of a plastic coffee tub and attempted a head out paper-mache and plaster bandages over a balloon.  The paper/plaster head was too heavy and brittle to hold all of the mechanisms I needed to put into it.   I also realized the paper/plaster head was too small to scale for the body and did not look enough like the book’s illustrations.  So after taking a few measurements from the illustrations (yes, I measured the illustrations) to get a rough head to body ratio, I came up with a new working sketch of the head.


I like the scale much better.  It will certainly give me the added room needed in the skull to house all the gizmos.  As soon as I get more done I will update the blog with more photos of how this guy is getting put together.  I don’t think I could describe it in words if I tried.  A picture is worth a thousand words.





It’s been a while – Sooooooo……..

…this might be time for that obligatory New Years post about how good/bad 2015 was to me.  It was Great!  The kids have made tremendous strides toward becoming wonderful adults;  the wife has found her zen; and the company (Clothespin Puppets) has grown by leaps and bounds.  This past year was a really good one for us – and we are uber confident that next year will bring greater rewards (or at least equal rewards).

A couple of years ago I had announced that I was working on a new puppet show based on the kids’ book Parts by Tedd Arnold.  I know, I know, two years is way too long to be working on short-form puppet show, but the truth of the matter is I wanted these puppets to do so much that I couldn’t figure out how to build them.  Let me explain:


Parts is a great little book about how a young boy starts to panic when weird things start to happen to his body. There’s fuzz in his belly button, his toes are peeling, and something just fell out of his nose. The last straw is a loose tooth, which convinces him of the awful truth, he is coming unglued!  Parts deals with a subject of deepest interest to every young child: the stuff our bodies shed.  In my mind the puppet needs to shed ALL the things the boy sheds in the book – hair, teeth, snot, arms, ears, eyes, skin, earwax.  And once all of these things have been shed, they need to be reset onto the puppet for another show.  I’ve tried to built this guy several times using various methods:  papier mache over a balloon, giant plastic easter eggs, hollow sculpt upholstery foam balls.  Nothing worked so this project has been shelved for a while.

Now, fast forward to this year when we adapted a great little book called Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueba.  This is a great little book about Cat who has a hunch he’s not on Santa’s “nice” list. Which, of course means no presents for Cat. So he tries to be good, but folks just aren’t ready, it seems, for his brand of gift-giving.  We performed this gem a couple of times over the holiday season and it turned out to be a great success.


The cat puppet we built for this show is rather elaborate.  The head contains a unique mech that makes Cat’s mouth appear to open and close, as well as mechs that raise and lower the eyebrows.  I designed and built this guy fairly quickly because nothing motivates better than a deadline to perform with something you haven’t built yet.  Before the final performance of the season, Maggie (my daughter and performing partner) was holding the Cat puppet and, out of nowhere, asked about Parts.  A serendipitous event; a few memory flashes; and a serious “A-HA” moment happened in a nanosecond.  The methods I used to build Cat will work perfectly for Parts!  O.M.G!!

So, needless to say, I’m pretty excited about getting back to working on Parts.  One of my New Years resolutions is to be a better blogger, so hopefully you will be seeing some pictures of the Parts build in the near future.

I also got a Hobby Lobby gift card for Christmas from my sister-in-law.  Yeah, free materials.

Creativity! and the first step to greatness.

I’m very proud of my daughter Maggie for making her first attempt at becoming a real working artist. She just listed her first piece on our Etsy shop. Click on the picture to see the official listing!