Ever since I bought a book about the glove puppets Paul Klee made for his son (see below), I've been dying to have a go at making puppets. The strange character above, a marionette without strings, is the product of two weeks of blissful studio play over the Christmas break.
I played around with a number of head shapes using flour-and-water paste and torn newspaper.
The first completed puppet is partly inspired by the whimsical multi-part marionettes made in 1918 by Sophie Tauber-Arp (below).
A visit to The Museu Da Marioneta in Lisbon last year was another source of inspiration:
My puppet is also inspired by a ceramic Longbod made in the 1960s by New Zealand artist, June Black. I was commissioned to write a piece about a ceramic object that I loved for an exhibition called Empire of Dirt curated by Doris de Pont in 2015. I invented a character called Dr. Softbod and imagined an interview between Dr Softbod and one of Black's Longbods, the melancholy Dr Endedus (see below), a character tasked by the artist with the impossible mission to save the modern world from itself.
This was the largest complete "Longbod" included in a survey exhibition of June Black's paintings and ceramics at Blikfang Gallery in Northcote in 2015. It stopped me in my tracks when I came across it on my way to a movie at the Bridgeway. I had never seen anything like it!
The writing commission for Empire of Dirt started an idea simmering - to make a textile "Softbod". Four years later, this is the form it has taken.
I'm calling the puppet a "Craft Combine", riffing off the term “Combines” coined in 1954 by Robert Rauschenberg to describe his hybrid works combining painting and sculpture. My first Craft Combine incorporates four craft techniques: hooked-rug making, felting, quilting and papier-mâché. I have lots of other ideas for Craft Combines, and lots of other craft techniques to showcase, so there will definitely be more of these...