I enrolled in a two day course over this past weekend to learn how to make a puppet creature and then do stop time animation with it.

My dad’s cousin was the instructor. I’ve seen the amazing stop animation films she has done, and the fascinating creatures she’s made, so I decided to go WAY out of my comfort zone and give it a try!

(Just between you and me, I haven’t done anything creative with my hands, other than through my fingers on a keyboard, in about 25 years. I fully expected to slink myself home on day one and find a reason why not to return on day 2.)

First, we had to decide what we were going to make as a “puppet” (animation talk for the creature who was going to star in our movie.) I decided I had a hundred pictures of Hank handy on my phone, so I’d start with him, and if it turned into an abstract creature, then so be it!

Then, we had to draw our puppet, at the size we wanted to make. HA. I liked sketching and drawing as a kid, but that was so long ago. I sheepishly started a really light sketch based on a side view photo I had, then had my cousin check it over for proportion and make a few suggestions.

Then we had to built a wire armature for inside! First, we drew the lines over our drawing where the armature should be. Then, with wire, we made the armature. The key here is to make it all one piece, with no connections, so there is a full loop in each appendage, and then make it bend where the joints in the skeleton would be.

So far so good! I didn’t have to sneak out yet!

Then, we learned how to do felting! Using sheep’s wool, we added wool, and then continuously poked it with a hideously sharp needle (that drew lots of blood if when you missed and hit your finger or hand).

As you hit the wool with a poker needle, it meshes the wool fibers together, turning it into felt. You can control the density by how much you poke it. Here’s mini Hank’s first layer:

By the end of day 1, it was time to add some colouring! I was pretty nervous, but so far so good! To colour him, I just started using different colours of wool.

It was hard to believe it even looked like a dog. It was just some wire and some wool and some needle poking!

I kept Hank’s photo open on my phone, so I could get the colouring to match.I was nervous about doing the face. That is the most important part, really. I put it off as long as I could, and worked on adding some pink and beige to his ears and nose.

Then for eyes, I tried to use the round coloured ends of push pins, but they didn’t look good. Instead I just used different colour of wool. I was blown away when they actually worked! Then I added his white markings on his eye brows and top of his forehead.

HA! Hello little Hank!!!

And for reference, the full sized Hank:

Then it was time to bring him to life! We used a free little app called “Stop Motion Studio” available for iPhone and Android. I probably put 30 minutes into my little videos. I went too fast and you can see my hands sometimes, and the light changes, and his legs move on his own, and his movement is certainly not natural, but holy! I did it!

Here are some of the other puppets made by my classmates!

I’m so glad I ventured out of my comfort zone. I did so well! I may have to do this again some day 🙂