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...
Unless specified, all text, images and files are © by School of Puppetry, 2007 onwards. This means you can not use any of the text, images or files without my permission, unless specified.
If you recall two years ago (yikes, two years already!), I went to UNIMA 2008. The first thing I did was to do Nori Sawa’s workshop on building ningyo joruri heads (aka bunraku). Since then I’ve been on his mailing list, and recently he sent out an email with some pictures of him training some students. It’s a fascinating insight into the 30-year process of learning bunraku manipulation, especially as these kinds of photos don’t usually appear on the net or in books. (Not that I go looking for them, so if they exist, I’ve not seen them) These include many of his students learning to perform with these Japanese puppets, in groups and individually.
ALL PHOTOS ARE COPYRIGHTED NORI SAWA AND USED WITH HIS PERMISSION. A big thank you to him for allowing me to share these with you.
Nori has given me permission to post them here, but I will note that he has also posted them on his site. You can find the entry here. If you want a laugh, check out this totally hilarious pic of Nori with one of his puppets; did you know he also makes marionettes?
I don’t have any text that goes along with the images, so I hope Nori doesn’t mind if I add some (hopefully explanatory) comments to go along with them.
|Manipulating the legs. All photos are copyrighted Nori Sawa and used with his permission.|
Left: Here we can see the students practicing the movements of the legs. You can see in the foreground the woman is holding a rod that comes out at the back of the foot.
|Three women operating the puppet as is done for main characters in bunraku plays. All photos are copyrighted Nori Sawa and used with his permission.|
Above: Three women operate the full puppet: as with all bunraku, one person operates the head and right arm (the master/woman on the left); one person operates the feet (middle woman); and one operates the left arm (woman on the right… and yes, she’s operating the arm.
The rod on a bunraku is actually at the elbow joint, in this case the angle makes it look like the back of the puppet). I assume the others are looking on in order to understand the techniques.
|Making the puppet walk. All photos are copyrighted Nori Sawa and used with his permission.|
Left: Again we find three puppeteers operating the puppet, from the image it appears that they are making the puppet walk. To the left you can see one of the puppeteers in traditional costume and shoes (not the master puppeteer who operates the head, as the costume pictured is black, typical of assistant puppeteers).
If you see the larger version of the photo, you can more clearly make out the rod at the elbow of the puppet. It has a trigger system which makes the puppet’s hands rotate and make different gestures. Many bunraku have similar systems.
|A female puppet. All photos are copyrighted Nori Sawa and used with his permission.|
Above: This is a female bunraku, which appears to be ‘reading’ a scroll, with the help of some black-clad puppeteers/prop assistants (propeteers? ). The woman at the bottom of the kimono operates the ‘feet’. Female bunraku actually don’t have feet, since the kimono covers any sight of the feet, so the puppeteers actually bunch up the cloth with their fists in order to give the appearance of feet. You’ll notice the man on the right has his left hand tucked under the obi - this is how the puppeteer accesses the head mechanism, as there is a hole in the costume for the hand.
|A male puppet. All photos are copyrighted Nori Sawa and used with his permission.|
Left: In this image we see a male bunraku. Note the high shoes worn by the lead puppeteer. This is part of the costume that signals the difference between the master puppeteer and the assistants. But the height also allows for easier manipulation by the master, since it gives some distance from the third puppeteer (the one crouching).
We also see a drum used for accompaniment, and a low ‘hide’ or curtained wall, which is often used in puppetry to create scenery and hide the puppeteers.
|A female puppeteer. All photos are copyrighted Nori Sawa and used with his permission.|
And finally we have this wonderful image of a female puppeteer with a bunraku. I love how this image shows a sort of rapturous expression to the puppet, and the concentration of the puppeteer; I still find it remarkable that one can have such split attention despite the fact that the puppeteer must always be aware of the eyeline of the puppet.
… That’s it for the pics, but if you head to Nori’s site, you’ll find more great images and things. Head to the main url given above; click ‘English’. Check out the gallery for pics of the marionettes; and the ‘report’ page for other images and news… and even videos on Youtube. A big thanks once again to Nori for allowing me to post these pics.send feedback / have a question?
Australians may want to buy locally. Where? I explain here.