Operating marionettes is a real art, one that requires many hours of practice to perfect. The marionettes themselves are often works of art, too, with delicately carved features and beautiful costumes. Because so much work is entailed, recreation and camp directors often do not attempt to introduce marionettes but confine themselves to work with puppets, which take less time to produce and less skill to operate. It is possible, however, to introduce marionettes in a very simple form, such as the type described here (Figures 31 and 32), and so to determine whether there is sufficient interest in them to go on to the more elaborate types. These little figures may be made simply as dolls, for favors, to hold place cards or for various purposes, but if the strings are attached and the children are given an opportunity to practice operating them as marionettes, they may soon become sufficiently skilled to work out simple plays and sufficiently interested to want to devote more time to this fascinating activity. Many a lifetime hobby has grown from just such casual beginnings!
* The design for this project was contributed by Mrs. Edward S. Cross and her daughters Barbara and Nancy, and is reproduced by permission.
For the head of the marionette choose a smaller spool than the one selected for the body; a head spool about l 1/4 inches high and a body spool about 1 3/4 inches are good sizes.
To join the head to the body, take a piece of heavy wire 2 1/2 inches longer than the height of the head. Bend one end of the wire into a hook and insert this hook into the body spool. With a hand drill, drill a hole in the body spool near the top and drive a nail through the drilled hole into the other side of the spool, through the hook. Now poke the free end of the wire through the head spool and bend the end of it into a hook wide enough so that the head spool cannot slip off the hook.
Cut a clothespin in two and cut down each half to 2 1/2 inches in length to make the forearm. Cut a piece of 1/2-inch wide cotton tape 2 1/2 inches long. Turn under each end, making the tape 1 3/4 inches long. Tack the ends of this tape to the shoulder and to the forearm. The tape constitutes the upper arm and gives flexibility, so that the marionette can move its arms freely.
Make the legs in the same way as the arms, using a section of tape 3 inches long and turning the ends under 1/4 inch, making the finished tape 2 1/2 inches long. Tack one end of the tape to the top of the lower flange of the body spool and the other end to the legs, which are made of a piece of clothespin 3 inches long. The leg pieces are made from the upper half of the clothespin, so that the head of the pin forms the feet of the marionette. Use very small tacks to fasten the tapes, and hammer down the ends of the tacks if they protrude (Figure 31). The height of the marionettes can be changed by changing the size of the spools and the length of the tapes; a boy, for instance, might well be slightly taller than a girl marionette.
Paint the features or draw them on with crayon. Colored yarn may be used for the hair, or tinted absorbent cotton-yellow, brown, red or black; the hair is glued to the marionette's head. The hands and feet are usually painted; if desired, the arm pieces may be made from the top of the clothespin, so that the head of the pin forms the hands, or the curved portion may be used for the arms, as in the diagram (Figure 31).
The marionettes may be dressed in modern clothes, as characters in a fairy tale or legend, or in any way that suits the child. The little girl in the diagram (Figure 32) is wearing a sports suit consisting of blue cotton shorts, a pleated skirt of the same material, a plaid cotton jacket with wide shoulders and pearl buttons. A strip of white bias binding is sewn around her neck to conceal the joint and another piece of the same material makes a jaunty bow under her chin. Her hair is tinted yellow and her hands and feet are tan.
A boy to accompany her might wear a pullover shirt made of a white knitted glove, and blue cotton slacks.
The control (Figure 33), which is made to be held 16 inches above the floor, consists of a piece of wood 5 inches long and 1/2 inch wide, plus another similar piece to which is wired at center a heavy copper wire with loops at each end. The copper wire, when in position, should measure 4 inches long. Notch the control bars at points A, B, C and D. Attach black linen thread at the various points as follows:
Strings A and D to the feet of the marionette.
Strings B and C to the ears (fasten to tacks under the hair).
Strings (2) at G to the hands.
String E goes to the back of the marionette at the waistline (fasten with a tack. )