TML 2021 #8: Puppet Attachments – Their “flesh” literally, and more…

by fingerplayers

This journal is an entry in The Maker’s Lab series. Click here to read the previous entries.

After entries about the harness and modular puppet structure, it’s time to take a closer look at the last part of the modular puppet structure system – the puppet attachments. 

Debris Girl

Debris Girl’s attachments are a mix of meat and debris. She is essentially blasted to smithereens. I shared in entry #6 that the meat pieces are made from sponge glued around a wire border; this entry will be about finishing them with a meat texture. 

Selection of textures used in Debris Girl

For the meat, I wanted to achieve the look of a freshly butchered chicken thigh. The surface should be smooth and glossy with tendons running through.

Materials used in the mixture to texture the flesh

The first step is to seal the porous sponge. I did it by preparing a trial mixture of water, wood glue, different shades of acrylic ink, watercolour and gloss medium. I then brushed the sponge with this mixture, laid Chinese calligraphy paper over, and brushed more of this mixture over to saturate the paper. It is essentially a modified papier mâché that glues the paper and textures it at the same time. (Papier mâché is my nemesis in making but this is a rant for another day.) I then sprayed over everything with diluted red alcohol ink to shade the fillet a bit more. The trial looked alright, so I went ahead with preparing a larger batch.

Mixture of water, acrylic ink and acrylic caulk before

Before using just plain water, I tried a mixture of water, acrylic ink, and acrylic caulk. 

Image on the left shows the early caulk mixture before i thoroughly mixed it. It looks like a tapeworm infestation. I intended to seal the sponge with this mixture, but the sponge soaked up the liquids a little too well, and puffed up, making the pores look even more pronounced. I kept the liquid around and wanted to repurpose it in the present mixture, but everything started to clump up like vomit. Maybe not.

Clumping up
Clumping up of wood glue and gloss medium

Thinking that the acrylic caulk is the problem, I mixed another batch of wood glue and gloss medium, with the intention of adding paint and water to it in the next step.

It turns out that wood glue and gloss medium are incompatible in larger quantities. The mixture clumped immediately. A scab-like semi-solid formed rapidly while oozing liquid. Since it already happened, I decided to use the solids as texture on the flesh to create a scabbing effect. Waste not, want not. 

Clumps added to the flesh
Clumping up of wood glue and gloss medium

I wanted to add gloss medium to the mixture with the intention of making the dried end product look plump and glossy like fresh meat (dilute wood glue dries matte). Since it did not mix in properly, I changed the plan to spraying the meat over with clear gloss spray once it’s dry. I chose to use a gloss spray finish instead of brushing over with this gloss medium, as applying mediums by brush add more weight to the finished object, compared to a thin coat of gloss spray. 

My final mixture is one part water, one part wood glue, acrylic inks and watercolour to tint. The sealing of the meat surface went smoothly, but was just a little tedious and messy. 

Table Boy

Selection of visuals on Table Boy

Table boy is an amalgamation of different table legs, mostly finished to look like different types of wood. In journal entry #6 they are made with Styrofoam and coated with papier mâché.

Table Boy with base coat of spray paint

Above, the papier mâché has already been sanded and primed with water-based spray paint. Water-based spray paint is really a game changer as I can confidently spray over Styrofoam objects without fear of it corroding away. I can prime the surface quickly and without brush strokes, and it takes painting over with acrylic paint decently. 

Wood grain texture

I created wood grain by first mixing various brown acrylic paints, a drop of shimmering copper interference medium, and satin Mod Podge, then applying this mixture with a wood grainer.

The end result is rather glossy. To create larger differences in texture for the next table leg, I used half satin half matte mod podge. 

Applying paint mixture with fingers

For this leg I applied the paint mixture with my fingers instead of wood grainer, to create a more subtle texture. It looked extremely glossy when wet but had a soft satin finish when dried. 

Overall Thoughts

Even though there were mishaps along the way I enjoyed this step of the puppet making process immensely. The exhilaration of finding the mix that gives your desired result is indescribable, and I have a new obscure nugget of information on creating scabby textures. 


Burnt sienna looks like a turd
Before and after