Making puppets - Part 1 – Silicone puppet head
The puppets parts were made separately and joined together after casting. At first we thought of making a whole body casting but there were too many details and too many things that could go wrong on the way, so we went for the separated way.
Tom made sketches for the armature according to the drawing of the character. Then I made separated models, molds and castings for the head, the body, the legs and the hands.
This was the longest process. We wanted to make replacement heads, for different expressions. So I needed to make a master model and a master mold, where I could cast identical heads and modify them.
For the master model I used Super Sculpey clay, and painted beans for the eyes the same size as the final eyes will be. Once finished shaping the head model I put some wire into the eyes and mouth to keep them in place and backed the mold in the oven, until it became hard.
From the backed model head I made a two piece silicone mold, using TinSil 70-11 silicone rubber. I made a water based clay bed, pocked it around with a round stick to make keys, placed the model on top of it, made a Lego wall around it, sealed the slots with clay and poured the silicone into it until it covered half of the model. When it cured I took off the clay, cleaned the mold, turned it upside down and made the Lego wall around it again, this time taller. Applied a layer of separation material for silicon (you can use Vaseline instead) and poured the second half of the mold. Once it cured I had a two piece silicone mold.
Casting in Plasticine
The next step was heating some NSP Plasticine in a pot on the stove, mixing until it becomes liquid. Then put the eye beans in place, brushed the mold inside on both faces with some Plasticine, closed it and poured the rest of the Plasticine into it through the neck hole. Once it cools it becomes hard. Then I opened the mold and took out the Plasticine casting.
The casting didn't come out perfect, it had small holes in it, which I had to fill with some more Plasticine. I made the casting several times, one for each replacement head.
Then I shaped every head differently, with different expression, such as laughing or surprised look.
Making plaster mold
For each head I made a plaster mold. The process of making it was similar to making a silicone mold. Instead of Lego I used the water based clay for the walls as well, with some foam board to support it around.
Casting in Silicone
Once the molds were ready and clean, Tom made the armature for each head out of wood and aluminum wires so the mouth and eyes can be opened, fitting everything inside the plaster mold. We covered it with some thin foam straps, glued to the wood.
Then the casting process began – I used Gel-00 silicone, which is a very fast silicone – less then 6 minutes of working time. It has its advantages but you have to work really fast.
I mixed the same amount of the two parts of silicone, and added a very small amount of flesh tone silicone color (Silk Pig). I brushed it on both parts of the mold, put the eyes in place and let it cure.
When it was ready I placed the head armature inside, made some more flesh tone silicone and poured it to both parts of the mold, then quickly closed them together and poured the rest of the silicone through the neck hole, pressing the mold with clamps until the silicone cures.
Then I opened the mold, carefully got the head out. It comes with a crust around it so I cut it with small scissors, made some more silicone and filled the gap, using a very small brush and feathering it gently.
I used SycoPaint base silicone, thinned with Naphta, a very nasty staff and yet effective, but you really have to be careful with it and use protection such as gloves, glasses and work in a ventilated place. I mixed it separately with small amounts of flesh tone, red, blue and brown and started painting. First I took the eye beans out and applied a layer of flesh tone all over the head. Then started to add the other colors – brown for shading, a little blue and red on the chicks and nose, some more red inside the eye holes and on the lips.
Once it was done I sprinkled some sugar powder all over it, then brushed it gently with a soft brush and let it cure. When it was done I wiped it with a wet cloth.