Tag Archives: puppetry

Bumblepost: Types of puppets

Owen here! Today I want to talk to you about puppets!

Puppets are great fun to make because they can be made out of pretty much anything. Rocks and some string? PUPPET! Googly eyes on a milk jug? PUPPET! I think this is one of those few art forms where you are only limited by your imagination, rather than your budget.

If you want to try your hand at making some, here are a few styles to consider:

Practical Arm:
This is a puppet with an arm you control with your own. Our big dragon puppets are practical arm puppets. This puppet can be controlled by one or more puppeteers.

Rod Puppet:
You control the mouth of the puppet with your hand, and the arms with sticks attached to the hands. These are more portable than practical arm puppets. This type of puppet is for one puppeteer.

Marionette:
A puppet controlled by strings. If you know the story of Pinocchio, you’re already familiar with marionettes. These can be elaborately carved and painted, and are often very beautiful. Marionettes are capable of very complex movements – which means there is a big learning curve to using them.

Shadow puppets:
These are flat puppets used to cast a shadow against a curtain. They can be rod or marionette style.

Hand shadow puppets:
Your hands are puppets! The art of hand shadows is very popular when the electricity is out, or when a projector is handy nearby. This is purely skills based. Here is a set of tutorials on doing shadow puppets with your own hands.

Ventriloquist puppets/dummies:
A puppet with a moving mouth controlled by a ventriloquist’s hand. Ventriloquists often learn to control their mouth movements to give the illusion that their puppets are talking.

Sock puppets:
A decorated sock you put on your hand and control. This sounds simple, but they can actually be very detailed. Shari Lewis’ characters (Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy) are all sock puppets.

Bunraku (Japan):
Bunraku is a term that comes from a specific puppeteering company in the 1800s. Previously, this puppetry was known as Ayatsuri Joruri Shibai, or Ningyo Joruri. Each puppet requires three puppeteers – One for the head and right hand, one for the left hand, and one for the feet.

Water puppets (Vietnam):
Water puppets originated in Vietnam’s Red River Delta in the 11th century, as a way for people to entertain each other with the readily available rice paddies. Wooden puppets are lacquered to be waterproof – because this form of puppetry happens in the water (hence it’s name!). The puppets are controlled with bamboo rods and strings.