Puppets are Awesome. There's no reason to pretend otherwise. Muppets, Farscape, Avenue Q, Sesame Street, classic Star Wars, and so on just go to show that, if you have puppets and can use them properly, then you have solid entertainment and possibly even some good avenues for teaching things.
There are two major things you need to know about puppets: how to make them, and how to use them. Because this is so important, I'm going to reveal what is probably the single best piece of puppetry information you will ever learn. It will also ruin your ability to enjoy bad puppetry, so if you have a thing for bad puppetry, you might want to just close this down and pretend it doesn't exist. If you are performing puppetry, make the mouth go down when the puppet talks; do not make the top of the head go up.
Go ahead, pretend like your hand is in a puppet head, and have the puppet say something. Did your fingers go up instead of your thumb going down? That was perfectly natural, and entirely wrong. There's an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown is making chocolate chip cookies with a relative of the Cookie Monster, and the top of its head flaps through the whole episode. It's distracting as all get out and just ruins everything. The cookie recipes are great, but the puppetry… not so much.
Okay, back on task: first you make the puppets, and then you bring them to life. I'm not particularly good at making puppets, so instead of trying to fake it, I've found a bunch of puppet-making Instructables to go through several different types of puppets. I love love love Instructables, and over the course of our time together on Awesomeography, I will be making liberal use of its content to help you become more awesome.
Before the Instructables, however, you might want to watch this video, because it's Jim Henson from 1969 showing you how to make Muppets. Go, go, watch the video and revel in it.
Okay, let's have some Instructables. Awesomeography has a Pinterest account, so if you ever want a sneak peek at some of our upcoming content, or want to use it to keep track of articles we've done, go ahead and follow us. Here are some Pins of Instructables of puppet making:
Now that you can make a wide range of puppets, how are you going to use them? Any way you want, of course! Still, there are some good tips out there for using your puppets well, and not just the mouth flapping one.
- Five Basic Techniques for Good Puppetry - including the bit about the mouth. Which, yes, I am obsessed about, but it's important.
- A PDF of puppetry manipulation, including how to hold the puppet, tips on voices, interacting with the audience, and so on.
- A Muppet Wikia article about alternate puppetry techniques, especially for more complex puppets that require you to be "invisible" on stage or on video.
Naturally, there's so much more information out there; this is only a starting point. Keep an eye on the comments in the Instructables, which often contain tips to make your life easier or your puppet better. There will be links to books and other information as well. Explore, play, and have fun with your new puppet skills.