Muppet Mayhem – Finding Supplies

One of the challenges I face as I teach my “Intro to Puppets” class at the Tuscarawas County Center for the Arts is where to find the supplies for the kids to create their puppets. Luckily, the internet has a lot of vendors that are absolutely fantastic to work with and offer quality supplies at reasonable prices.

These are my top three vendors I use for patterns, materials, and supplies. I hope you will use them as well!

Mendel’s on the Web – a San Francisco, CA based company that offers LOADS of art supplies for those of us on the bohemian trek. I have ordered puppet fur from them and absolutely loved the quality material they have sent. For my puppets, I use their Punky Muppet fur and absolutely LOVE the results. You can find them on Facebook.

Project Puppet– is where I buy all my puppet patterns (to date, I own 6 of the ones they offer… I’m close to investing in the last three). They are easy to use, understandable, and best of all, affordable! My students have no trouble using their website to order and print their patterns for class, and in the unlikely event that we’ve had an issue (to date there’s only been one and I’ve used this site for three years), the customer service team at ProPup is amazing! I can’t say enough good about these people. They’re fabulous. 🙂 In addition to patterns and supplies, they also offer video tutorials and a photo gallery of finished puppets for inspiration. Talk about awesome! 🙂

Speaking of Tutorials, I HIGHLY recommend this video series from Creature Works’ Tom Stewart. He uses the Project Roly Poly pattern for his video demonstration that covers basically everything you ever wanted to know about puppet building but were afraid to ask, including a blinking eye mechanism tutorial. (It’s so great he’s inspired me to make my own video series in the next class that I teach.)

Puppet Planet – This website is from Michele Acquin in North Carolina and has a lot of resources for puppeteers. There’s a great FAQ page that helps explain about copyright issues regarding puppets as well as a supplies page where you can purchase a variety of items. I personally love the ability to purchase post-and-washer attachable eyes. (If you’re lost about that, watch Tom Stewart’s tutorials. He’ll explain.) Reasonable and fantastically friendly, I love Michele’s site, her creativity, and willingness to share her puppets with the rest of us!

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So there is a little bit of background and logistics for finding puppet materials nad supplies. I hope this has inspired you to make some puppets of your own!

Classes: Painting to Music

I find myself surrounded by music every day. Pandora is installed on my iPhone, and everyday I select whatever genre suits my mood and happily listen the day away while I process mundane tasks like laundry, dishes, cleaning, or work.

Often, while I’m listening to music (and more likley than not, singing along with said music at the top of my lungs) I see pictures in my head.  Sometimes they’re colors, sometimes they’re random pictures, sometimes it’s an entire storyline.  It just depends on the music and my mood.

I used this to my advantage the other day when I played the song “Vincent,” by Don McLean for my iPad class.  I wanted to see what they saw when listening to an iconic song about a famous artist.  I participated to, and here’s out results.

Picasso Dogs – Who Let the Dawgz Out?

How do you take the concept of abstract / subjective art and teach elementary students how to create it?  You want them to draw something “recognizable,” but not really, and trying to get them to understand the concept of “Abstract” can be difficult.

Enter the “Picasso Dogs” project.  This project is one of my absolute favorites to do with my “ArtRage-ous Ipad Art!” kids at the TCCA.  I found the original instructions in this book, “Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists,” by Carla Sonheim.  It’s a wonderful reference for drawing projects that are very convertable to digital media.  (This book was one of the best purchases I’ve made as I’ve started my art education career.)

This project takes the concept of abstraction and makes it accessible for elementary to middle school aged students. (Although I do have a high school junior who’s been taking classes with me for 3 years now, and I’ve been able to adapt all the lower level projects to more challenging ones for her, so don’t let that stop you from being inspired!)  It deconstructs the process of making abstract art into step-by-step instructions (ie, “Draw a small eye.  Turn your paper. Draw an eye several times larger. Turn your paper,” etc.) 

The results can vary WIDELY — here’s two examples of the Picasso Dogs lab I created with the classes in the fall semester of 2011.


And here’s what the class came up with: