St Augustine’s Session 12 Film Premiere

For our final session we had arranged for the students to show a film of them playing with the puppets in the settings at the school assembly. There was pride and delight evident on their faces and on the faces of the staff and other students as they watched. Afterwards the students enjoyed applause and took a bow with their puppets. Back in the classroom, we were able to tell them that, at last the puppets and set paintings and portraits could go home with them. Pending permissions etc I hope to be able to share a link to the film here soon.

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St Augustine’s Week 10 : Painting the Sets

This week we focussed on creating places that the puppets could be in and visit each other in. I had emailed some resource images to the Art teacher who had them printed out and ready and I had also brought some books and other images to inspire and help the children as their work in the Puppet Passports in the classroom the previous weeks meant I knew what scenery would best suit their ambitions for their puppets. I also wanted them to have a chance to return to painting as they had seemed to enjoy it so much the first week.

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Large sheets of paper / card – ideally more than 2 foot high and wide.

Primary colours of paint on palettes, plus white and black

Brushes, sponges if available, water containers etc

In the classroom we did a little warm up ourselves, stretching and doing some humming and note singing. Then we brought the puppets out to “warm” them up using a game of Simon says to get them learning how to move, look, talk sing etc.

St Augustine’s Week 11: Puppet Plays in their own worlds


In advance to our session I made some cardboard stands from Recreate stock on which to hang the children’s paintings from last week so as to create the sets for their puppets.IMGA0461

Above: The Time Machine and the Disco settings. Below you see the Robot K-Bot and his friend Paul.


Above you see the puppet Jackson operating the Time Machine and his friend Lisa dancing at the Disco.IMGA0466

Above and below you see the puppet Maddie at the school chatting to her friend Alexa who is in underwater world (she is a mermaid).IMGA0468

The children were delighted to have some proper playtime at last with the puppets. The cardboard supports worked well, allowing the children to operate the puppets more comfortably than last week using the floor. We did a warm up together and then the children posed the puppets in the set for photographs and then played various scenes and exchanges with my filming them and their taking it in turns to watch or perform. The puppets did some dancing too to a tune they all play in their music class. We hope that next week at the school Assembly, as it is our last day, we will show a film of their performances while one of the other classes plays along with the music.

St. Augustine’s Week 9: Hairdressers and Red Carpet

Today the puppets went to the “Hairdressers”. The children chose to either make hair from wool “pom pom”s made on their hands or the back of chairs, or to use Fake Fur. They also finished the clothes – we put ribbons or fabric over the legs and arms, and added some details. We used spray paint to make two of the puppets golden – one of them is a robot, and used markers to add details to the painted puppets – eyelashes, brows, freckles, lips etc. They were delighted with them.

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After lunch I brought them into the classroom to show the teacher and other SNAs. We began by sitting around and reminding ourselves of the various connections between the puppets and ideas for stories, using the “Puppet Passports” where necessary.

I had prepared a red carpet and then each puppet took a turn at walking down it accompanied by some music. The children are also familiar with the music as they play it in the music classes and we are considering the possibility of one of the other classes playing it for them if we decide to do some kind of performance. It might be good for the puppets to dance or move to. My puppet asked each puppet some questions, and after awhile the children took over this themselves.IMGA0393IMGA0390IMGA0387IMGA0385IMGA0383

The stories are slowly growing:

Lisa and Jackson are best friends and travel in time to the 70s where they love to dance together.

J is a robot and brother to Maddie. She just looks like a schoolgirl but really she’s a robot in disguise.

Paul looks like a robot but he is a boy, he lives in Blackrock with his family

Sofia is sister to Alexa / Amber, they are both half mermaids and live in a castle.

St Augustine’s Week 8 Clothes shopping and time travel


This week we attached cable ties to the shoes and gave each pair a round of applause as they were so gorgeous after the firing. The puppets took a bow. Then we glued and masking taped and brown taped them to the bodies (they are very heavy so it needs to be strong). Then the children took it in turns to bring their puppet “clothes shopping” – we had spread out the different fabrics along the counters, until everyone had chosen something. While they tried them on, the adults helped with cutting and hot glue gunning them onto the puppets. While this was going on some of the puppets were getting very lively, and some of their stories began to emerge.

There’s a big red wheel in the art room belonging to the printing press and the children love to turn it but this is not allowed. When I asked C why it was so irresistible he told me it was a Time Machine. So we decided to include this in our story. It is fitting then that K’s puppet has become a robot – perhaps they find it in the future.

Back in the classroom after lunch we talked about some of these ideas and developed them a little, again finding connections between the different puppets. I input it in the laptop and then the children did some drawing of these new ideas in their passport books.

We are looking forward to putting the hair onto the puppets next week, and maybe then they will be able to come to visit Miss Carroll in the classroom.

Lisa is a fashion girl

Maddie is a school girl and sister of robot K

C: “ It is a time machine you can turn back time when it is a knitting machine, and when you press the buttons there is an earthquake to the universe and they get dizzy and fall down”  “My puppet is called Jackson I picked out some clothes for him and like the colour pink and we mixed glue for his tee shirt and we had fun with him”

“Mine is Princess Sophia the first and me and A’s puppets are sisters, her’s name is Alexa but she calls her Amber, she’s a mermaid, an amulet turns her into a mermaid and can help her talk to animals” A’s “Alexa is step sister to Sophia, she loves the animals under the sea, like dolphins, so she’s is dressed like a Mermaid Princess and I could make some fish cos I am a really good drawer.”

This puppet doesn’t have a name yet “his jumper is orange, it has an orange scarf” he is pleased with the orange crocs that A made for his puppet because he has been away for two weeks.

St Augustine’s Week 7: Painting the Puppets

J: “We painted our shoes using glaze so they will be shiny

IMG_2048This week the children were able to glaze the puppet shoes which had been fired in between times.  As they work a lot with ceramics here, there was a wonderful range of color glazes to choose from.

A: “I coloured mine poppy red”

E: “I coloured mine blue”

I showed the children how if I cut a cross in the head with a paper knife, we could insert the rod.

“Miss Mc G sharpened the sticks and D helped her by cutting the sticks down”

A: “We put the sticks into the puppet’s head and the arm we used hot glue – it was blue to help them be stronger we used brown sticky paper wet with sponges.”

We reinforced the joints with gummed brown paper roll rather than papier mache to save time, so that we could progress to painting in the one session. Before painting the puppet heads and hands we put a little masking tape on the eyes to protect them from paint. Everyone is really looking forward to adding hair and clothes next week.

C: “My Puppet came to life”

Some of the puppets became very lively, we noticed they are not as well behaved as the pupils.

M: “Thank you all for making our puppets. I had lots and lots of fun. Lisa is a very good puppet and I will see her again next week. We love making our puppets come to life.”

IMG_2051IMG_2052Back in the classroom we looked at last week’s blog online and wrote this blog, allowing us to reflect on the process, and remind the children of names they have already given their puppets or encourage them to make new ones.

St. Augustine’s : Week 6. Puppet Shoes!

“This week we made  puppet shoes. We had to use clay, it was beautiful. All our shoes were pretty. M used butterflies on her shoes. K made BIG welly boots, P wasn’t there but we made him Crocs ( he likes to wear crocks without socks even in winter) and K missed P. We put the zip ties into the shoes so they would be the legs. We used slip clay as glue.

C used his puppet to make shoes. I got some legs for the puppet shoes I got some laces to put on the puppet shoes, rolled it like a big fat sausage.

J used a picture of Hello Kitty Boots.

A used a screw driver to decorate the shoes and put the logo and everything on it and laces on it too.

M decorated her shoes. Next week we will papier maché the legs onto the puppet. We wrote this all together in the classroom.”

Although I wouldn’t usually do so, I decided to make the puppet feet from clay as I know the children have a lot of experience in it, as it is the primary medium of the art room and of their teacher. I thought it might allow them more independence than the papier maché alternative. They can be baked in the school kiln and as they are chunky, should be strong enough and the weight of them should help their operation – they will be rod puppets operated from above so the feet will stand on the floor, so we should be able to use gravity and the floor to move them. I chose this form of rod as it will also allow the children the opportunity of painting scenery. I am looking forward to seeing them do more work in paint after the relish of their painted portraits, and it will give them a chance to paint collaboratively which might be an interesting challenge for them.

We began the session with a sample puppet of mine asking the children what they needed to do next to their puppets. Like theirs he had no legs yet, but as he had rods attached, he was able to give them an understanding of how their finished puppets would be operated and help them imagine how his feet would stand on the floor. We then looked at some images of shoes, most of them from Andy Warhol, with the children choosing their favorites as inspiration. I also brought some puppet shoes artist Fiona Dowling had made for one of my shows, which they enjoyed handling.


IMG_1968Then Carmel gave a demonstration, as she is so experienced in working with clay. She suggested a few things I wouldn’t have thought of, like using a damp sponge to smoothen the clay, and rolling the clay against the board to shape the front of the shoe. She also provided a clay slip which the children were familiar with.


At the end we strung them onto cable ties to create holes for them after they are fired, wiggling them a bit to allow for shrinkage, but we removed these to allow for firing.IMG_1973IMG_1974IMG_1975IMG_1976

Back in the classroom, we put the Dlr Primary Arts website up on the whiteboard and were able to use it to reflect back on the past 5 week’s work. Then they dictated to me what they wished to say about this week’s session. I was pleased to see they had an understanding too of the next step we were going to take with the puppets next week.

I also gave them an invitation to a work in progress performance of my own work to take place in the Lexicon at the end of the month which they will bring home to their parents. Hopefully some of them will be able to come along.

St Augustine’s : 5 Bodies! And Families

Now that the puppet heads were hard and dry it was time to give our puppets their bodies. We folded a few sheets of newspaper to make a rectangular torso and folded the cardboard base we had papier machéed their necks to, creating the shoulders, then taping them together. Then the adults cut slits in the hands and the children threaded cable ties through using the thick end to “lock” them in place, and we taped the thin end to the shoulders of the puppet. We checked how our own arms hang from our shoulders, thumb first, and copied this

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for the puppets.

Then we papier machéed over all the places there was a join – cable tie to hand and shoulder, and covered the bodies. By the end of the session, as you can see from the photographs – some of the puppets were already beginning to come alive!

Back in the class room after lunch, we returned to our puppets’ Books of Life begun the previous week. We talked about what else they needed to add and the children set about drawing their puppet’s family and friends, and in some cases where they live. Stories are already growing – for example we realised that two of the puppets are actually brother and sister, so their owners discussed where they lived and who else was in the family.

The teacher also told me how two of the boys had continued the idea of making paper puppets themselves in their own free classroom time and had created a collaborative game together with new paper puppets they made inspired by some lego characters, which they found very absorbing and enjoyable. As you can see I photographed these characters also.


As before, with addition of cable ties for arms.

St. Augustine’s: 4 Strengthening the Puppets and making their Books

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Art Room Session (hour and a half)

The children were delighted to see their puppets again. Using my demo from the previous week I talked them through how we were now going to add a Papier mache skin to the puppet to make them strong. First of all we all tore tiny strips of newspaper together, creating a stack for each child. When everyone was ready I used the glue that Carmel had prepared – a mix of wallpaper paste and PVA – to show them how to cover the paper and masking tape of the puppets. As they worked we assisted them individually with the more challenging aspects – covering the eyelids, the joint between neck and head etc. They did one layer of newspaper and then another of newsprint.

They worked so well and quickly that there was time also to make the puppet’s hands. Together we worked out how to break the hand down into simple shapes to make a drawing in permanent marker onto the plastic from milk bottles. Then each child drew a pair of hands, being careful to create two opposing ones as we had discussed but looking at our own hands. They then cut them out receiving help where necessary from the adults. As well as the art teacher we also have very good humoured assistance from a SNA who is also creating a puppet.

Class Room Session (half hour)

We returned to the questions from the previous week and read them out, preparing to answer them on behalf of their new puppets, and added one or two new ones as well.

I then introduced the idea of their beginning to make a Book of Life for their puppet, where they could “discover” and  create its character. I referenced Baby Books and passports, and the teacher told me how they use a passport system in the school too to share information about each child as they move from class to class. We made these books together, folding A4 pages in four, hole punching them and then using pipe cleaners to hold them together – this means they can be opened and added to again later if necessary. Then they cut them to create a book. They then drew a picture of how they imagine their puppet will look when it is finished.


Art Room:

Brown paper

Plastic bottles

permanent marker per child

Scissor per child


PVA / wallpaper paste

Glue brushes

container per child

Aprons per child

Class Room:

Last week’s questions.

A4 paper, pencils, coloured drawing materials.

Scissors for each child.

A4 sheets of paper

A4 sheets of colored card for the covers.

Coloured drawing and writing materials

Niamh brought:


St. Augustine’s: 3 Making “Real” Puppets

IMG_1491IMG_1492IMG_1495Art Room Hour and a half:

In response to the children’s pleasure in the paper puppets at the last visit and also to their wanting to make “real puppets – like yours” we embarked on a more involved puppet making process. I brought a paper mache puppet, Mary Mary to meet and chat with them first. She checked in with them about the previous sessions and asked what they had been up to in between times. But her primary objective was to provide an example of something made by a similar process they were beginning, so we discussed the materials her head was made of and talked a bit about the process.

We got some newspapers and tore masking tape strips and lined them up beside us ready for easy grabbing when needed.

I showed how they might ball or fold the newspaper into a small head shape of their choosing (about the size of a tennis ball) and how to make them firm using the masking tape. Each child then worked with newspaper to “find” a head shape they liked for their puppet.

We then discussed the shape of noses. I showed how they might make or cut out and “try on” various kinds of noses. They prepared more masking tape and made a nose for their puppet.

Then I showed them how the placement of different kinds of eyes can affect the character of a puppet. When they had chosen eyes from a selection, trying on various ones first till they found what they liked, they then marked where they wanted them to go on the puppet and the teacher glue-gunned them into position .

We talked about mouths, how different shapes show different emotions. How Mary Mary’s mouth is a little bit open as if she can speak and laugh. I showed them a couple of options re: mouth making – adding upper and lower lips to make an opening, using egg carton pieces or cut polyballs, building lips from folded newspaper or drawing a mouth on the face which the adults could cut into with the knife for them. Most of them chose the latter option and they then covered these open mouths with masking tape to make them stronger. A couple of them were interested in making teeth for the puppets too so we cut these from plastic milk bottles and taped them in place.

I then showed them how to cut a cardboard roll to make a neck, and how to cut into it to attach it to the head and to stand it on a cardboard base – this will later become the shoulders of the puppet. Each child wrote their name on the puppet and then it was time for lunch.

Classroom half hour:

As we hadn’t had much time with them before, I wanted to return to their paper puppets from the last session. Before we gave them out we worked together to collect some questions we might ask someone we were meeting for the first time, which we could then put to the puppets to begin a process of character creation. I used a large sheet of A2 to collect the questions they suggested. I then took out the Mary Mary puppet for them to try out some of the questions, with the children taking turns to ask, and her (actually that was me through her!) improvising answers. Then we took out their puppets and Mary Mary asked them questions from their list. The teacher also took out a wolf hand puppet and joined in the process which everyone enjoyed. They then could choose to take their paper puppets home if they wanted – not everyone did.

Materials for Art Room session:

7 Scissors


7 rolls of Masking tape (strong stick type)

Egg cartons and other nosy stuff

Small polyballs, cut in half (good for noses and eyes)

Shiny beads, marbles, sequins, buttons and other eye like stuff


PVA and containers for it

7 Glue Brushes

18 Thin bamboo or green garden rods approx 1.5 ft / 90 cms

Aprons for the children

Materials for Class Room session:

Some A2 sheets to collect questions on.

A thick marker

Niamh brought

Mary Mary table top papier mache puppet


Egg cartons

boxes to stand the puppets in when drying

Cardboard pieces and rolls

Gaffa / masking for stage building