I'm a puppet maker with a degree in theatre. A former lighting techie, stage manager and producer. And I like to think that with puppetry, the only limit is your imagination. More...
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As well as having a list of puppet types, I thought it would be a good idea to develop a glossary of regularly used terms relating to puppet building, performance, puppet parts, etc. For instance, a regularly asked question about puppetry is: "what is the name of the wooden handle on marionette/string puppets?" So here I will be adding explanations of terms like that. This list only covers terms used in a variety of ways in puppetry. If you want definitions of actual types of puppetry, head here. What puppetry is is described here.
|Antron fleece ||A special type of fabric (aka the fabric that The Muppets are made from) that is preferred by puppet makers when creating muppet-type puppets. It can be sewn, dyed and is used as ’skin covering’ in most cases. The stitches are hidden very well by the fleece, which is one of the reasons why puppet makers prefer using it. It is manufactured by one company: Georgia Stage, in Georgia, USA. In most cases, antron fleece can be substituted for cheaper fleeces found at local fabrics stores. I discuss where to buy it in Australia here.|
|Cable-control ||A method of operating a puppet by using a wire, thread or elastic (often run through a tubing of some sort), by which pulling the wire/whatever moves the puppet in some way. An easy example of this is Scar’s moving mask in The Lion King musical; the cable runs from the mask ontop of the performer’s head, down his arm, and into a control mechanism in the performer’s hand. Or another example would be ’shoulder puppets’.|
|Controller||Usually referring to the puppet’s control on a marionette, there are many types of controls; on marionettes, there are horizontal or vertical controls. The term can be extended to include control mechanisms for rod puppets (especially when dealing with cable-controlled puppets)|
|Fish control||A term given to a particular way of building a control on a marionette. It is a vertical control; that is, the control is oriented in a way in which a puppeteer is holding it as one would hold the neck of a bottle.|
|Full body puppet/full bodied puppet ||This term is referencing muppet-type puppets. Most of the time, they do not have legs (hence, are ‘half bodied’). This lack of legs is two-fold: the legs are often not seen on TV shows as false walls (’flats’ in theatrical terminology) hide the puppeteers and would end up hitting them in the head; it’s also very hard to make a muppet-type puppet walk realistically. However, some people do use legs, and the puppets then are called ‘full bodied’. Mostly ventriloquists or street performers use full-bodied puppets, since they are more realistic and don’t require much ‘walking’.|
|Gallows||The name for a marionette stand. Imagine playing hangman: that’s what a gallows looks like. Using a gallows allows puppet makers to string the puppet to the control bars, whilst ensuring that correct balance and weighting occurs.|
|German control|| See ‘fish control’.|
|Glove arm||This refers to muppet-type puppets when (usually for close-ups on TV/film) a glove/human hand is used in order to operate the puppet’s hands/arms. Ie. You get more dexterity and ability to pick items up with a human hand, than with a puppet hand and rod.|
|Half body puppets/half bodied puppets ||See ‘full body puppets’, above.|
|Hand mouth puppets||I’ve never heard any pro puppeteer use this term, but I suspect that if anyone does, it’s because they really mean ‘muppets’ but don’t want to be sued for infringing on a trademarked name. See muppet-type puppets for more info.|
|Horizontal control||A term given to a particular way of building a control on a marionette. A horizontal control is one which is held as if one is pouring liquid out of a bottle.|
|Human arm|| See term, ‘glove arm’|
|Mouth plate||Another name for the mouth of the puppet. This is usually used when referring to muppet-type puppets. The mouth plate is simply a circular piece of material, folded over; much like a paper plate folded in half.|
|Soft foam||Usually refers to full-bodied muppet-type puppets, used for ventriloquism. Instead of having access to the inside of the puppet via a hole at the bottom, as muppet-types do, soft foam puppets used for ventriloquism have holes at the back of the puppet (ie. literally in the small of the back)|
|Vertical control|| See term, ‘fish control’|
Australians may want to buy locally. Where? I explain here.