My wife is really busy at work lately so I'm doing the craft post this week.

We fell in love with Owly Shadow Puppets when we met Andrea at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair last winter, and we bought mermaid, fairy, and robot puppets. They're so beautiful we put them in the flower vase sometimes when we don't have any fresh flowers.

The kid and I wanted to try to make some for ourselves to tell the story of the Birth of Pegasus, her favorite story right now (Perseus cuts off Medusa's head, Pegasus leaps from Medusa's blood: kids are awesome). Our puppets were not nearly as nice as the Owly ones (Andrea uses a precision laser cutter for her designs) but they work. Owly posts a how-to on the site, and I'll also walk you through what we did:

We started with a huge piece of black cardboard that we bought at the local art store (Utrecht). It's significantly thicker than ordinary poster board and can be a bit pricey (I've seen it anywhere from $6-$9 for a huge sheet). You definitely want the thick, expensive stuff. One sheet should be enough to make at least twenty puppets.

We also used the following:

*Strong scissors (in our case, kitchen shears). A box or x-acto knife is also useful for more precise cuts.
*hot glue gun
*wooden skewer
*2-3 feet of thin wire
*nail scissors, or anything really sharp and pointy (and small)
*handful of brass fasteners (brads)
*a couple clamps (optional)

We started by making a sketch of the desired puppet on the cardboard. Remember that the side with the pencil marks will be the rear of the puppet, so sketch it facing the opposite of the way you want it be in the puppet show.

When I pulled the camera out for this tutorial, we had already made Pegasus, Perseus, Medusa, and Athena, but the kid really wanted to make a puppet of Urania, the muse of Astronomy, who apparently took care of Pegasus when he was little or something (she saw this in a video my wife bought her at CVS). She's memorized the story which is narrated by Urania. To hear your 4-year-old daughter correctly pronouncing the words Terpsichore, Polyhymnia, and Melpomene? Classicist cockles: warmed.

Urania is just a chick in a Greek dress; I sketched her like this:

In retrospect, she's a bit busty and shortlegged, but I like to sketch it a little bigger so I can trim the edges neatly if I need to. The kid drew Urania for me on her easel while I was doing this "so I would know what she looks like." I made her without arms because I knew we'd attach moveable arms later. Then I cut her out.

We wanted her to have some motion for the puppet show, and the kid wanted her to be able to dance. I gave the arms nice wide shoulders to accommodate the brad (the shoulders would be hidden behind her). I pierced the torso and the shoulders with nail scissors and fastened them to the back of the puppet:

Owly puppets have these wonderful cut outs that really enhance the whole shadow effect, but wasn't able to do cutouts neat enough with the x-acto or the scissors, so I just trimmed a bit along the hairline and the skirt to give the shadow a little more texture. After I was satisfied with the cutting, I attached the wooden skewer with hot glue and clamped it for a minute or so.

The last step is attaching the wire that will make the arms move. I punctured the hands with the nail scissors and twisted a length of wire in each, connecting both at the base of the skewer and twisting them into a ring to pull the arms up and down:

That's it. You're ready for the puppet show. We did this with the lousy camera in the MacBook, so apologies for the quality:

Nothing fancy, but a lot of fun. Next maybe we'll do Ulysses and the Cyclops or some pirates. Wood has made the kid three or four new dresses so I'm pretty sure there will be a new post about that any day now.

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