School of Fine ArtsBallard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
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The University of Connecticut (UConn) is a public research university in the U.S. state of Connecticut. UConn was founded in 1881 and is a Land Grant and Sea Grant college & member of the Space Grant Consortium. The university serves more than 30,000 students on its six campuses, including more than 8,000 graduate students in multiple programs.

Join us for Puppet-Building Workshops on Facebook Live!

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While the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is closed to visitors, we still want to bring you exciting puppetry-related events online!

We will offer short, puppet-building and craft workshops via Facebook Live every Wednesday and Friday at 2 p.m. ET!

All past workshops are available on our website, Facebook and YouTube.

Upcoming Workshops: 

Wednesday, 8/19: “Puppets for the Screen Performance Workshop” with Felicia Cooper and Elise Vanase

We’ve spent so much time this summer building puppets! Let’s let them do what they do bestperform! Learn tips and tricks for performing puppets on screen in this age of virtual meetings and performances. Recommended for ages 5+. 

Materials needed: Peepers! If you don’t have a pair, that’s okay! Puppeteer Hobey Ford will show you how to quickly make a set here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZejPKU683Y

Friday, 8/21: “Painting Puppets Workshop” with Elise Vanase

**Our final Summer Online Puppet-building Workshop!

Painting is an important part of the puppet-making process! Learn how to effectively paint a puppet for theater, as well as how to create cool textures with what you have around the house. Recommended ages 4+.

Materials needed: paint, paint brushes, newspaper, plastic wrap, something to paint (papier-mâché or newspaper and masking tape heads are great), optional: netting, old toothbrush, sponge

 

Past Workshops:

Wednesday, 3/25:  “Paper Puppets” led by Ballard Institute graduate assistant and UConn Puppet Arts student Felicia Cooper

Using paper, tape, and scissors, create fun and funky characters! Recommended for ages 4+.

Materials needed: paper, tape, scissors, markers, crayons, pencils

 

Friday, 3/27: “Fun Toy Theater Workshop!” with Ballard Institute Director John Bell

Make and perform a miniature 2-D puppet spectacle about anything your heart desires, using household materials and re-purposed images. See Great Small Works’ “Short, Entertaining History of Toy Theater” here: https://vimeo.com/41259631. Recommended for ages 7+.

Materials needed: a cardboard box (any size will do; small is good); cardboard (cereal box cardboard is best); colored paper; images from magazines, newspapers, or the internet; tape; gluestick or white glue; coathanger wire, barbecue skewers, pencils, or other like objects; scissors; if you want to get fancy: hot glue gun, pliers, string or fishline

Wednesday, 4/1: Simple Dinosaur Marionette Workshop led by UConn Puppet Arts graduate student Abby Bosley

Make a simple dinosaur or dragon string puppet using things you have laying around your home. Recommended for ages 7+ (adult help may be required as there may be poking sharp things into paper or plastic cups).

Materials needed: 2 toilet paper rolls (or a paper towel roll cut in half) or 2 paper cups (plastic also works); string, yarn, or ribbon; popsicle sticks, straws, sticks, or pencils; something for feet like bottle caps from soda bottles, washers, buttons, beads; masking tape; paper; pen; hole punch; scissors; markers; anything else to decorate your puppet (pipe cleaners, beads, tissue paper, fabric, etc); hot glue is optional

Friday, 4/3: Hand Shadows Workshop led by UConn Puppet Arts student Tracy Becker

Have you ever made hand shadows on a wall? Learn how to create hand shadow shows with shadow people, animals, and more! Recommended for ages 5+.

Materials needed (besides your hands!): light source (flashlight, phone light, or lamp will all work, as long as the light is projected somewhere); wall or floor space to project shadows; paper and scissors is helpful for some puppets, but not required

Wednesday, 4/8: “Paper Shadows Workshop” with Tracy Becker

Make and perform simple paper shadow puppets with materials you already have at home! Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: light source (flashlight recommended, but a lamp or phone light will also work); wall or floor space to project shadows; paper; scissors; handles for the puppets (this can be skewers, chopsticks, pencils, straws, popsicle sticks); tape or glue to attach handles; markers, crayons, or colored pencils can be fun but aren’t required; white fabric (can be hung up to make a shadow screen, but isn’t required ); optional to play with: any object that might have an interesting shadow, plastic wrap and markers are optional supplies to use as an alternative to lighting gel

Friday, 4/10: “Anything Can Be A Puppet! Object Performance Exploration!” with Felicia Cooper

Use household objects to explore movement, expression, and storytelling! We’ll discover movement patterns and gesture, working towards character development. Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: anything around you (check in with a grown up if it doesn’t belong to you)

Wednesday, 4/15: “Rod Puppet Workshop” with Abby Bosley

Make a simple rod puppet with materials you have lying around your home! Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: newspaper; tape; a toilet paper roll or paper cup: markers; string, yarn, or ribbon; 3 chopsticks, skewers, straws, or pencils (for your rods); scissors; hole punch; colored paper, fabric, pipe cleaners, cardboard, beads, or anything else to decorate!; optional: Hot glue

Friday, 4/17: “Sock Puppet Workshop” with Maggie Flanagan

Make a fun sock puppet with your stray socks and a few items you can find around your house! Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: sock; cardboard and felt; construction paper or markers; items to use for eyes (buttons, plastic Easter eggs, ping pong balls, or egg carton); any decorations you’d like to add: feathers, pompoms, and beads; hot glue; optional: you can use bits of fluff and cut up rags to make puffy noses/heads/bumps

Wednesday, 4/22: “Mask Making Techniques” with Abby Bosley 

Learn to make two different types of masks: one using folded paper or cardboard and one that is made up of just a single cereal box and glue! Recommended for ages 5+.

Materials needed: cereal box (or any box); hot glue, but any glue will work; scissors; scrap paper; tape; hole punch; string or elastic; scissors; anything else to decorate (paint, markers, etc); optional materials: X-Acto blade or box cutter

Friday, 4/24: “Stop-Motion Workshop” with Tracy Becker

Learn how to make your very own stop-motion movie at home! Recommended for ages 5+.

Materials needed: phone or tablet; objects for stop motion (This can be anything! Toys, clay, paper, or any type of puppet will all work); optional additional materials: cardboard, a tripod, lamps or flashlights, or any other decorations you might want to use; recommended apps: Stop Motion Studio Free Version: https://www.cateater.com/ or StikBot Studio 2.0: https://stikbot.toys/app/

Wednesday, 4/29, Friday, 5/1, Wednesday, 5/6: “STEAM Workshops!” with Felicia Cooper

Join us online on Wednesday 4/29, Friday 5/1, and Wednesday 5/6 for a three-session exploration of STEAM in Puppetry! The culmination of an independent study by graduate student Felicia Cooper, these workshops will give an overview of the engineering principles that appear in the puppet design process. Learn about simple machines, methods of attachment, three-dimensional sketching, and using repurposed materials. In the spirit of the maker movement, we will engage in the iterative process and creative thinking as we celebrate the intersection of puppetry and STEAM education! Participate in one, two, or all three of the sessions. Recommended for ages 7+.

4/29: Session 1: design with recycled materials and work from two dimensions to three to make a prototype puppet! We’ll talk about dimensions and the planning process. For this one, you’ll need tape, recycled materials, cardboard, newspaper, paper, pencil, and a ruler. 

5/1: Session 2: Learn about simple machines and how they’re used in puppetry! We’ll engage in an iterative process and think through problem-solving together. You’ll need a spoon, a cup, recycled materials, and a curious mind. 

5/6 : Session 3: We’ll apply what we’ve learned in sessions one and two to create a puppet that waves hello! In this session, we’ll discuss methods of attachment, design feedback, and weight transfer. You’ll need recycled materials, newspaper, tape, a dowel or stick, and scissors.

Friday, 5/8: “Ask A Puppeteer!” with Abby Bosley and Tracy Becker

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a professional puppeteer? Now is your chance to ask soon-to-be UConn Puppet Arts graduates Tracy Becker and Abby Bosley any puppetry-related questions you might have! We encourage you to send questions in advance via email (bimp@uconn.edu) or Facebook! Tracy and Abby will also be showing off puppets they have made and explaining some of their favorite materials to use.
Wednesday, 5/13: “Paper Fortune Teller Puppets” with Elise Vanase

Do you remember making paper fortune tellers in school? Come see how this classic game can be turned into a puppet! Recommended for ages 7+.
Materials needed: paper (preferably thicker); paint or markers; scissors; hot glue (best option, but glue stick or tape will also work)

Friday, 5/15: “Picasso-Inspired Abstract Masks” with Elise Vanase

Embrace the world of abstract in puppetry! Inspired by the iconic painted faces of Picasso, we will create funky handheld masks out of geometrical shapes. Anything goes in creating these—you can’t mess it up! Recommended for ages 7+.

Materials needed: cereal box/thin cardboard; paint; paint brushes; hot glue (best) or glue sticks; scissors

Wednesday, 5/20 and Friday, 5/22: “Two-Part Ping-Pong Ball Hand Puppet Workshop” with Elise Vanase

Hand puppetry doesn’t have to be complicated! In the first part of this series, learn how to make an effective hand puppet using just a ping-pong ball (or other available object) on your finger. We will also explore methods of personalizing this puppet! Hold on to what you created because in the second session of this series, we will explore performance techniques for these puppets using fun exercises! Recommended for ages 5+ (with adult supervision when using the X-Acto knife).

Materials needed: ping-pong ball (if you don’t have a ping-pong ball, you can sculpt a head using newspaper and masking tape!); X-Acto knife; things to decorate (such as permanent markers, paint, googly eyes, paper, yarn, etc.)

Wednesday, 5/27: “Colorful Coffee Filter Dancers” with Elise Vanase

Make a basic stop-motion figure out of coffee filters and pipe cleaners! Recommended for ages 5+.

Materials needed: pipe cleaners, scissors, coffee filters, elastic bands, tray/plate for coloring, markers, water, a stop-motion app (such as Stop Motion Studio https://www.cateater.com/, it has a free, basic version or paid plans)

Friday, 5/29: “Make a Milk Jug Head!” with Elise Vanase

Learn how to make a large puppet head with just a milk jug, paint, and a dash of creativity! Recommended for ages 5+.

Materials needed: empty milk jug, paint, paint brushes, paper/plastic bag shreds (for hair), stick/dowel/rod

Wednesday, 6/3: “Wrist Puppet Workshop” with UConn Puppet Arts senior Elise Vanase

Come turn your hand into a walking puppet with just a few simple materials! Recommended for ages 4+.

Materials needed: old sock, scissors, hot glue or tape, cereal box cardboard, markers, yarn (optional), pipe cleaners (optional)

Friday, 6/5: “Egg Carton Heads” with UConn Puppet Arts senior Elise Vanase

Hold on to your empty cardboard egg cartons, because they can be cut up and rearranged into interesting puppet heads! Recommended for ages 5+.

Materials needed: egg carton, glue, scissors, markers or paint, popsicle stick

 

Wednesday, 6/10:Jellyfish Puppet Workshop” with UConn Puppet Arts senior Elise Vanase

Make an ethereal jellyfish with life-like movements out of just a paper bowl and a plastic bag! Recommended for ages 5+.

Materials needed: paper bowl, scissors, plastic bags, paint or markers, yarn, tape or hot glue

Friday, 6/12: “Make a Puppet of Your Pet!” with UConn Puppet Arts senior Elise Vanase

Do you love your pets as much as we do? Come make a rod puppet of one of them! Recommended for ages 7+.

Materials needed: newspaper, masking tape, paint, yarn or string, 3 one-foot-long sticks (chopsticks, skewers, unused pencils, or even straws will all work!)

 

Wednesday, 6/17: “Clothespin Puppet Workshop” with UConn Puppet Arts senior Elise Vanase

Did you used to pretend that your clothespins could speak? Come turn them into talking puppets with us! Recommended for ages 4+.

Materials needed: cereal box cardboard, hot glue, paint/markers, pipe cleaners, yarn, clothespins

 

Friday, 6/19: “Toilet Paper Roll Marionette Workshop” with UConn Puppet Arts senior Elise Vanase

Start making use of all of those finished toilet paper rolls and turn them into a marionette! Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: two toilet paper rolls, spare cereal box cardboard, three popsicle sticks/skewers, hot glue, yarn/string, pipe cleaners, markers/paint

Wednesday, 6/24: “Cardboard Party!” with UConn Puppet Arts graduate student Felicia Cooper

Cardboard has unlimited possibilities! Learn methods of attachment, ways of folding, scoring, and slicing that can be used in a variety of ways! This will be an exploration of material and techniques, and we’ll build a simple puppet from a cereal box! Recommended for ages 8+ (or adult supervision-potential sharp stuff!).

Materials needed: cardboard, hot glue, tape, utility blade, scissors, water, and markers

Felicia is leading this workshop with the support of the Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Friday, 6/26: “Trash Monster Puppet Workshop” with UConn Puppet Arts senior Elise Vanase

Make a gnarly monster that looks like it came straight from the trash can (in a cool way!). Recommended for ages 8+.

Materials needed: two small cardboard boxes (granola bar boxes work well), newspaper, hot glue, masking tape, paint/markers, clean trash that can be used for decoration (plastic bags, garbage bags, bottles, cans, wrappers, etc!)

Wednesday, 7/1: “Paper Maché Workshop” with Ballard Institute graduate assistant and UConn Puppet Arts student Felicia Cooper

Paper maché and puppetry go together like PB&J. Paper Maché Professional Felicia Cooper will share her time-tested techniques. Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: brown paper bags/craft paper, newspaper, toilet paper, cornstarch, vinegar, baking soda, white glue

Felicia is leading this workshop with the support of the Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Friday, 7/3: While no new workshop will be posted on Friday, 7/3, we encourage you to revisit past workshops posted on our Facebook and YouTube channel!  

Wednesday, 7/8: “Direct Manipulation with Stuffed Animals!” with Abby Bosley (pre-recorded)

Join us for a pre-recorded workshop led by UConn Puppet Arts Program alumna Abby Bosley as she shows us how to turn your stuffed animals or toys into puppets! This workshop is a great two-person activity, so bring a friend! Recommended for ages 5+.

Materials needed: stuffed animals or toys (preferably ones that can be manipulated or moved)

Friday, 7/10: “Toy Theater Aquarium Workshop” with Elise Vanase 

Don’t want the responsibility of owning fish? Come make your very own toy theater aquarium and fish out of a cereal box! Recommended for ages 7+.

Materials needed: cereal box, scissors, paint/markers, hot glue, tape, pipe cleaners

Wednesday, 7/15: “Puppets for Demonstrations Workshop” with Felicia Cooper

With so many opportunities to use striking images, voices, and sounds in public spaces, here’s a way to make it even louder! Perfect for neighborhood parades or activist events in your community, puppets have been a significant part of public demonstrations throughout history! Recommended for ages 9+.

Materials needed: big sticks, paper maché, cardboard, tape, newspaper, scissors, glue, fabric, and an idea!

This workshop is made possible with support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Friday, 7/17: “Nature Puppets Workshop” with Elise Vanase

Make some simple, beautiful puppets out of natural materials you can find in your own backyard! Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: sticks, leaves, yarn, hot glue or tape, paint, googly eyes

Wednesday, 7/22: “Let’s Get Crankin!” with Felicia Cooper

A crankie uses a pulley system to create a scrolling image or moving panorama. Create an analogue movie to show your pals! Recommended for ages 7+.

Materials needed: paper (long scroll preferred, but pieces of paper taped together is okay too!), box, utility knife or scissors, tape, crayons/pencils/markers, dowels or sticks

This workshop is made possible with support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Photo by Kitoko Chargois.

Friday, 7/24: “Fish Puppet Workshop” with Elise Vanase

Make a wriggly fish puppet that glides through the air with two control rods! Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: egg carton, paint, hot glue, two sticks/skewers, yarn or string, scissors

 

Wednesday, 7/29: While no new workshop will be posted on Wednesday, 7/29, we encourage you to revisit past workshops posted on our Facebook and YouTube channel!

Friday, 7/31: “Edible Puppets Workshop” with Elise Vanase

Who said you shouldn’t play with your food? Make some puppets you can take a chomp out of! Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: apple, banana, toothpicks, Twizzlers, pretzel rods, string cheese

Friday, 8/7: “Ask a Puppeteer!” with Felicia Cooper and Elise Vanase

Ask Felicia Cooper, a UConn Puppet Arts graduate student, and Elise Vanase, a UConn Puppet Arts undergraduate student, all about being puppeteers and students during these trying times! They will be open to questions about materials, performance, and construction techniques as well as their experience as students of puppetry. They will discuss their upcoming projects this year in addition to how they will continue their studies effectively online. Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: none!

Wednesday, 8/12: “Storybuilding Workshop” with Felicia Cooper

Puppets are a wonderful way to tell stories, but where to start? Take it from Felicia, certified Bad Writer™, how to put together stories that make sense. We’ll go over some exercises, ways to think about structure, and inspiration exaltation! Recommended for ages 5+.

Materials needed: timer or watch, note cards, pen, and paper

This workshop is made possible with support from the Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Friday, 8/14: “Literal Glove Puppet Workshop” with Elise Vanase

This isn’t your average glove puppet! Come make a funky puppet out of your recycled gloves. Recommended for ages 6+.

Materials needed: glove (rubber, cloth or dishwashing gloves all work), yarn, hot glue, googly eyes, permanent marker

Follow the Ballard Institute on Facebook, Twitter, orInstagram for updates on upcoming performances, forums, and workshops online!

 

 

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