Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ranature: The Dry Build Out

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.

The lightweight air dry clay horns were attached to the head with steel wire. The foam and wire ears were installed with armature wire (both seen far left). PVC pipe cutters are frequently useful on this project, here they sliced down two pieces for her neck to pivot and bend on. The inside of her face mask was layered of many materials; a light washi outer skin, heavy washi layers, cut foam filling in lips and brows, air dry clay layer, friendly plastic layer to keep the eyeballs in place and to fight against collapse of shape while animating. Lastly, far right any remaining void was crammed with more foam, and the pipe was wired in place.
For the body, all paper parts were glued up with a layer of 1/2" foam and allowed to dry. Areas that need to maintain a rigid shape, like her tush cheeks, with stuffed with styrofoam half-dome implants wrapped in more foam sheets. The halves were stitched together with 30 gauge steel wire tightly, excess foam wrapped onto the lower legs. Arms were filled the same way. Once all together, I sliced through everything (!What was I doing??!, I said) to free the figure to move at the waist, hips and shoulders. I used masking tape to secure all the cut edges as I went. There are gaps left at the top of the legs in back and at the tops of the shoulders, to allow for all positions to be held. But, if the finishing is done well, none of that will show in the film as there'll be a flexible skin layer added overall.
Made a tongue out of foam, wire, and Fray Check elastic glue (a new indispensable 1/2L material!). It was secured to the neck pipe before installation.


  1. Shelley, I'm just trying to catch up on what't happening in Halfland – It is amazing what you've done over the past weeks! What I find most intriguing that you're able to integrate those mainly untoxic materials into your process of shaping (ha!) the world of Halfland.
    Go girl go!
    You're doing great! xoxo

    1. Oh, thanks for that, Jessica! I'm still very much dealing with physical limitations everyday here. So there is no way, more than ever, that I'll be taking any risk of exposure to known toxic materials!!

      I even wonder whether to touch the latex impregnated sports wrap I used to wrap the armature! I'm in such a state.


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