Adventures in Puppet Making 101: The Mouth


Caution: Hot glue is hot!  You can’t escape finger burns. They are part of the process.  However burning can be minimized by having a cup of water handy.
Before you apply the hot glue, dip your fingers in the water bowl. You are going to have to hold things together until the glue can set up and your fingers are going to come into contact with the hot glue.  Wet fingers mediate the burn.  Instead of crisping, your fingers just get warm.  Don’t worry if you forget this bit, you will remember when it’s time.
Also remember that during this entire process nothing is carved in stone. If it is too big, trim it. If it is too small , then add. Too weak? Reinforce. We are building a puppet, not a suspension bridge. If something does fall down, nothing dramatic will happen. Materials are going be lost to the creation gods but the trade off is in knowledge.
We begin with the mouth because it is the most structurally important part of the puppet. It will certainly be the most abused portion.  It is also the actual framework for the rest of the puppet as the head and body will be directly attached to the mouth. The mouth also dictates the general shape and size of the head, so we want to be sure to get it as close as we can to what we want for a shape and that it be flexible and strong.  I am using linen, an open weave material, that I had bought by the roll for other sewing projects.  I had previously done a small test with the linen and found that the Sculpt or Coat finds its way through the material easily enough.
I made a paper pattern in the general shape and size that I wanted for the mouth. Using the paper pattern as a template, I cut out the shapes from two ply Bristol board. I ended up with two pieces, top and bottom, which I corrected to suit to my exact needs before proceeding with the gluing. A black felt piece was flipped upside down and placed on the table.  The two mouthpieces were sprayed with glue (3M general-purpose 45)  and then placed down on top of the felt.  After trimming away the extra felt, the overlap was about a half-inch but I believe 1 inch overlap would have been better. Circular tension was relieved by clipping the felt around the edges but not up to the edge of the mouth shape itself.  The edges were folded over and hot glued down.
Again with the paper pattern, I cut out a linen piece with about a 1 inch overlap.  Using the spray glue , I attached this linen bridge to the back of the mouth pieces.  The overlap from the linen will be taken care of at a later stage.  For now what we should have is a linen surface on the back side and a felt surface on the inside.  The mouth was allowed to dry overnight into a roughly v-shaped position as if the puppet’s mouth was somewhat open.
Next time: finger tubes.