CRAZY!!!!!! As Frankenstein as this body looks, it seems to work! Mr. Kaneshiro's armature is embedded inside a papier mȃché skin dry-filled with layers of regular foam. Once fully assembled, strategic slices were made down to the bones to allow for full range of the armature's motion.
I've been working everyday on making the Rana puppet for real (even as I should have been doing other things, obsessed). This post documents the stage of when I manhandled her armature into a brown paper cast from her mold. (More Rana puppet progress shown over next few days as well.)
The method I ended up using was completely unexpected to me. My hands kept stuffing and slicing and taping it all together while I watched and thought my hands might be nuts. What are you doing? I asked, shhh, the body will always be in clothes and the legs from the waist down with be entirely covered by goat skin fur and won't show at all. The puppet only needs to function well, not look good, they replied. This will work.
You can do another layer of brown paper over the masking tape to make it look neater and to ensure the integrity of the puppet after the adhesive on the tape ultimately fails in the years ahead, if you really want to, they said. Besides, isn't the whole point of using a mold so that you can make matching multiples? my hands wondered.
Well, if that's so, then this method is the most difficult and ridiculous possible. It's like making a build-up puppet INSIDE a fixed paper shape AROUND a one-of-a-kind armature. It was messy, challenging, and I had no idea what was happening next.