Alex Holden (alex_holden) wrote,
Alex Holden

Punch and Judy Puppets

A couple of years ago a client commissioned me to carve some wooden puppets for a Punch and Judy show. Not the two stars of the show: understandably, as I had no prior experience at puppet making, he had those made by a top Punch and Judy puppet maker with many years of experience, and he let me loose on several of the 'extra' characters. Also I was only to do the wood carving, not the painting or costuming. I found this lack of control rather nerve-wracking, particularly the painting part, because a botched paint job can ruin even the best carving work. Something that made the task much trickier for me was that the pro was making his two puppets in parallel to mine so I didn't get to see them until it was too late to modify mine to match the scale or style of his puppets. Luckily the scale worked out fine, and the style is probably near enough that most people wouldn't notice the difference.

For reasons too boring to go into, I haven't had the opportunity until now to photograph the completed puppets.
The paintwork is looking a bit battered from two seasons of intensive performances (if you've ever watched a Punch and Judy show you'll know the puppets don't get treated gently!). The costumes are also a bit mildewy from having been stored in a damp plastic crate over the winter.

Here's P.C. Peeler. He's a Victorian policeman (the giant top hat isn't an exaggeration - they really were this tall!):
I carved his head, hat and hands. Much of the inside of the wooden hat is hollowed out to reduce the weight but it's still rather tiring on your finger to operate for any length of time. The rather beaten-up hat brim was made from a worn out heavy duty fibre backed sanding disc.

This is Prince Albert. He is a special extra character the client added into the story because the show is performed at Osborne House, Victoria and Albert's summer home on the Isle of Wight.
I only carved the head on this one (the hands came from somewhere else). The difficult part was making a puppet in the distinctive Punch and Judy style that is still recognisable as a specific historical figure. I'll leave it to you to decide how well I succeeded!

The ghost:
I did both the head and the hands. The trick here is that delicate balance between funny and scary. You want it to look good and entertaining but at the same time you don't want to give the little kids nightmares. From what I've heard it didn't reduce too many children to tears!

The baby:
This was the first one I made. Note the 'family resemblance' nose. :)

For comparison, here is Judy, one of the two puppets in the show that I didn't make:

I've saved my favourite to last. Here is the crocodile:
I spent an awful lot of time on the details of this one (it also took ages to hollow out the inside as at the time I didn't have the right kinds of gouges to do it efficiently). I did both the carving and the leather hinges/back of mouth/tongue (this took a bit of experimentation to find a configuration that worked well). I'm particularly proud of the teeth and the skin texture.
Tags: photos, puppets, woodwork

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