From the monthly archives:

June 2011

Bunraku Dobby

by Vicky on June 29, 2011

For our One Planet, Many Puppets workshop on rod puppets, I wanted to make a Bunraku style puppet so the kids could try working cooperatively with other puppeteers to bring a puppet to life.

Inspired by that most excellent book, The Most Excellent Book of How to Be a Puppeteer,  by Roger Lade (which includes directions on making a Bunraku style puppet), I talked Stuart into building it with me.  Stuart has a much higher level of craft when it comes to engineering things!

We were quite happy with our Dobby puppet (the house elf from several of the Harry Potter books).

Several of the kids took turns helping me to make Dobby walk around on the table.  None of us had any experience with this style of puppetry, so our attempts probably weren’t all that lifelike!

Still, it’s amazing how the size of this type of puppet, and its joints, give a distinct illusion of life when it is just placed in a sitting or standing position.

Not bad…

…considering that it’s constructed from paper plates, paper towel tubes, cereal boxes, some corrugated cardboard from a box, plastic egg carton cups, duct tape, string, and an old dish towel!


One Planet, Many Puppets: Rod Puppets

by Vicky on June 29, 2011

The third workshop in the One Planet, Many Puppets series focused on rod puppets.  We looked at examples of the Japanese Bunraku tradition and American styles derived from it, as well as rod puppets operated by a single puppeteer.

Although I chose examples to show the kids that they would enjoy (like John Kennedy’s Mummy rod puppet and Unraku’s puppet performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”), I found myself being taken to a whole new place when I discovered clips from Dan Hurlin’s “Disfarmer.”  A serious work of puppet theater, “Disfarmer” is inspired by the 1915-1959 career of Mike Disfarmer, a reclusive Arkansas photographer whose works somehow captured the essence of the American people of the heartland. 

I was trying to describe this work-in-progress excerpt to Stuart, who hadn’t seen it yet, as we were driving to the library for the workshop.  As I told him about the vulnerability and frailty and isolation conveyed by the elderly Disfarmer puppet, I got choked up. I’m still haunted by it.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that I ran across this quotation in one of the puppetry books I was reading recently:

“The nature and the task of the puppet theater is to do and say things that the real theater cannot do or say.” –Fred Schneckenburger

I was glad to see the kids using their notebooks!  Here is a Koala puppet being designed and built.

With simple and fairly limited materials, the kids made full use of their imaginations and came up with many different creative solutions.

And here are just some of the fabulous results!


One Planet, Many Puppets: Sock Puppets

by Vicky on June 28, 2011

For our workshop on sock puppets, we looked at Sandra Boynton’s music video of “One Shoe Blues,” starring B.B. King and some overambitious sock puppets, plus the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre’s “Facebook Song.”

Although the history of serious sock puppet theater is nonexistent, it’s my belief that sock puppets are in the process of breaking into the mainstream.  Like the Theatre of the Absurd in the aftermath of World War II, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the Vietnam era, sock puppets have arrived to save us from the fear and despair of the Great Recession.

Sock puppets as Greek chorus.  Just wait and see.

It was truly uplifting to see the creative gusto with which the kids in the workshop took to designing and creating sock puppets, and then performing them.

I was gratified to see that they were busily sketching puppet designs in their notebooks, although I was kept too busy at the hot glue station to document these particular observations!

When they finished their puppets and were playing with them, I finally broke free from the hot glue gun and grabbed these sock puppet portraits.


One Planet, Many Puppets: Shadow Puppets

by Vicky on June 28, 2011

For our first session of the One Planet, Many Puppets workshop, we looked at several examples of shadow puppetry, particularly the wayang kulit tradition in Indonesia, the work of Lotte Reiniger, and modern shadow puppetry in the United States.

In the week since we debuted Stuart’s beautifully constructed shadow theater at our SRP kick-off, he had added a number of finishing touches that made it even more spectacular!

The kids really got into designing and constructing their puppets, and they loved trying them out in the theater.  We shot some video, which is coming soon!

They also got to take home some Indonesian wayang kulit designs, courtesy of the Museum of International Folk Art.

Check out some of our cool shadow puppets: Dog, Monkey, Dragon, Cherries, and Tree!


Meet Leaf!

by Vicky on June 28, 2011

It’s my great honor to introduce Leaf the Bookworm, cousin brother of our dear departed bookworm, Page.

Like Page, Leaf is a globetrotter.  In fact, he was traveling through the Far East and the Pacific Islands for many months, and so had not heard about Page’s tragic disappearance.

“I came as soon as they laid it on me,” he told me.  “Bummed me out, sister.  I grew up with that worm.  We were tight.  I am flat mystified.  He told me he was really diggin’ his gig with you too.  Life just ain’t fair.  If there’s anything I can do to help, just lay it on me.”

“We’ve all been missing Page so much,” I told him.  “The children keep asking, ‘Where’s the Worm?’  Would it be asking too much for you to spend some time hanging out with us and sharing stories from your travels?”

“You got it, sis.  When do I start?”


One Planet, Many Puppets

by Vicky on June 28, 2011

I’m teaching a seven-week puppetry workshop for kids as part of our Summer Reading Program.  For the first four weeks we will look at different puppetry traditions around the world, and for the last three weeks we will write, storyboard, design, and rehearse an original puppet play to be performed on the final day.

The first week we will make shadow puppets.  The second week we’ll make sock puppets.  Tabletop rod puppets will be featured the third week, and we’ll look at examples of giant puppets and make masks the fourth week.  On the fifth week, we’ll come up with an outline of our play and begin making additional puppets, props, and scenery as needed.  We’ll put it together and begin rehearsing on the sixth week, and perform the grand finale puppet play the final week.

Each child will get a composition book at the beginning for taking notes, jotting down ideas, sketching puppet designs, and storyboarding performance ideas.

What fun!


Origami at North Valley

by Vicky on June 28, 2011

I taught an origami workshop at the North Valley Library as part of their Summer Reading Program.  I proposed a number of possible models, and they chose the butterfly.

I ended up teaching three different butterfly models: the classic Yoshizawa butterfly, a fabric origami butterfly model, and a dollar bill butterfly.

This is a detail from a child’s dress I designed using fabric origami butterflies.

Here is a video in which Mrs. Kiyo Yoshizawa demonstrates how to fold Akira Yoshizawa’s butterfly.  Here are the instructions for an easy dollar bill butterfly.  And here are instructions for the fabric origami butterfly (from the Internet Archive…wait a moment for it to load).

Even though the class included beginning folders of all ages, everyone had a great time folding lots of beautiful butterflies.


Welcome to Rose Island

by Vicky on June 28, 2011

The world travel theme of this year’s Summer Reading Program has prompted the interesting outcome that each of  the branches of the ABC Libraries here in Albuquerque has morphed into a separate country!

And, by obtaining a passport, library patrons can visit them all!

No one promised me a rose garden, but somehow I landed at Rose Island, the most beautiful of all.

I designed our flag, which incorporates the flag signal for the letter H (for the Tony Hillerman Library), a compass rose design from a 1492 Portuguese nautical chart, and a white rose, symbol of wisdom.

Here are some photos I took around the grounds, in the Albuquerque Rose Garden.

And what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, come perfect days…

{ 1 comment }

SRP Kick-Off: Explore the Sun (part 3)

by Vicky on June 28, 2011

Our regular Origami Cool Zone workshop fell this month on June 4, the day of our Summer Reading Program kick-off.

Since the theme of our kick-off was “Explore the Sun,” I decided to repeat our star books workshop.  But this time I chose molten solar colors for the books!

I found some beautiful marbled paper for the covers.  Look at the radiant results!


SRP Kick-Off: Explore the Sun (part 2)

by Vicky on June 28, 2011

Because our Summer Reading Program theme this year is “One World, Many Stories,” and because the theme of our branch’s SRP kick-off was “Explore the Sun,” I created a shadow puppet play, How Maui Snared the Sun, for our kick-off event.

I introduced my story with a traditional chant, or mele oli, by Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole.

Then I began to tell the story, which I had woven from a number of different Pacific Islands stories about the trickster and culture hero, Maui.  I was particularly influenced by the wonderful artwork of Gavin Bishop’s retelling, Maui and the Sun.

And I was inspired by the beautiful shadow theater that Stuart built for me.

Some people say that, long ago, Wakea and Tonga-iti both claimed to be the father of a little baby.  Wakea tried to pull the baby away from Tonga-iti.  “The baby is mine!”

But Tonga-iti pulled back, “No, he is mine!”  As they fought over the child, the baby split in two!

Wakea took his half baby and patted it and shaped it into a  ball, and threw it up into the sky.  It was huge and bright and golden and beautiful, and it raced across the sky at top speed.

No one had ever seen such a brilliant sight.  Tonga-iti was jealous.  He took his baby half and patted it and shaped it into a ball too.  Then he too threw it up into the sky!  But Tonga-iti had waited too long.  The lifeblood and energy of his baby half had drained away, so his ball was silvery white and moved across the sky very, very slowly.

Because the Sun went so fast, and the Moon went so slowly, the nights were long and the days were short. Children didn’t have time to play after school.   Men didn’t have time to finish their fishing.  Women didn’t have time to dry the kapa cloth they were making.  Everyone had to cook in the dark and eat in the dark and tell stories in the dark.

One night when Maui and his brothers were roasting their fish in the dark, Maui said, “I’m tired of having to do everything in the dark.  We should catch the Sun and compel it to travel across the sky more slowly.

What nonsense, Maui-Topknot!  No one can capture the sun!” said one of the brothers.

“Yes, Maui-of-a-Thousand-Names!  You’re full of such tall tales!” agreed another brother.

“That’s right, Maui-Usurper, even if our mother does love you the best, that doesn’t make you some kind of hero,” grumbled another brother.

“Go ahead,” said the last brother, “You might even gain a new name:  Maui-Burnt-to-a Crisp!”

Maui turned into a bird and flew up into a tree.  Then he flew back down and turned back into himself.

“I have brought fire from Mahuika, I have caught the biggest fish in the world and turned it into islands, I have journeyed to the underworld and come back to tell the tale.  With the magic jawbone of my ancestor, and especially with your help, I know we can succeed!  Why should we be slaves to the Sun?”

After a few more weeks of stumbling around in the dark every day, Maui’s brothers began to think it might be worth a try.  But they would need a plan.

“Maui-Full-of-Tricks, do you have a plan for accomplishing this crazy idea of yours?” the brothers asked him.

“Yes! my brothers, we must gather the entire village and make more fishing nets.  And then we must tie all of the nets together into one gigantic net,  Then we must go to Haleakala, the House of the Sun, and set the trap.  But we must do all of the work in the dark, so the Sun does not suspect what we are up to!”

The brothers agreed, and soon the village was hard at work, braiding new ropes and netting them into one gigantic net!  And some people say that this was when the designs for braiding the strongest types of rope were invented.  And other people say that Maui-Teller-of-Tales invented the string game that we call cat’s cradle, whose name in Hawaiian means “to snare.”

When the gigantic net was finished, Maui and his brothers set out for the tall volcano, Haleakala, whose name means House of the Sun.  They traveled at night to escape the notice of the sun.  They climbed up the great mountain, carrying the huge net, and then they spread out around the edge of the crater where the Sun slept, and they stretched their net across the deep chasm.

Then they built a rock wall to hide behind for protection from the angry Sun.

The next morning, when the Sun began to rise up out of the crater, they were ready.  Exactly according to plan, the Sun became entangled in their net.  He sputtered and struggled and crashed from side to side in the chasm, causing rockslides and earthquakes, but the brothers held tightly to their net.

Then, grabbing the magical jawbone of his ancestor, Maui began beating the Sun in the face!

“Who dares to attack Tama-nui-te-rā?” the Sun thundered.

But the Sun had inadvertently granted a special power to Maui: for now Maui knew that the name of the Sun is Tama-nui-te-rā!

“Tama-nui-te-rā!” Maui shouted.  “I will release you only if you agree to move more slowly through the sky, blessing my people with longer days.”

“Yes, yes!  I will agree to anything!” the Sun raged.  “Just free me!”  And the Sun began to creep through the sky as slowly as a snail.

At first, Maui and his people reveled in the long, sunny days.  But soon they could see that the angry Sun was exacting a terrible revenge.  Water holes dried up, trees died, and their crops shriveled and withered.

One day, Maui was out working in his dry and dusty field.  It was blazingly hot, and he was tired and thirsty.  He stood up to wipe his face, and, shielding his face against the glare, he glanced up at the Sun.

The Sun was watching.  To show off his power, he quickly set, plunging the world back into darkness.

This enraged Maui.  “I will fix this problem once and for all!”  he vowed.

So Maui took his magical fishhook and hooked the Sun, and then he tied the line to the Moon.  Now the Sun can no longer go too fast, nor the Moon too slowly, for one must rise as the other sets.

And all because of Maui-Full-of-Tricks!