Inca owl and tumi masks


These masks were made for walk-about performances by The Fool Factory at the National Gallery of Australia‘s festival during the Enlighten Festival, Canberra, March 2014. They were themed to go with the NGA’s exhibition Gold and the Incas.

The owl design was suggested by  a golden bead in the exhibition, while the other was based on the decorative hilt part of a small sacrificial knife known as a tumi.

Light-up emu egg prop


This is the finished emu egg prop made for BiamiThe story recounts how Biami ‘created the emu Dinnawhan, the female emu, whose spirit he used to create the Wiradjuri people; who now believe they are of the egg of Biami and the female spirit’. This is symbolised by the shadow of a baby in the coolamon within.

The egg is made from Plastimake, small pellets of plastic which soften when heated and can then by modeled. I this kind of plastic at Philip Millar’s puppet doctor session at the puppetry conference in Melbourne last year, and have been itching to have a good reason to use it! Peter, who I contacted at Plastimake, was very helpful, and it turned out to be a great material for this project.

I found it quite tricky to think through the various steps in how to make this, as it had to light up from inside but be self-contained, and you have to be able to access the batteries so they can be changed.

I started by making a polystyrene egg about 20 cm long as a former. Here it is with Special Tool A, a bit of plywood with some blunt sandpaper gaffered onto it, which happens to be ideal for smoothing  polystyrene once you have carved to roughly the right shape. Then I cut the egg in half lengthwise and put a bit of polypropylene in between so that I could later split the egg in half easily, and also cut away a small section at each end so that the ends would end up thick enough to hold screws to keep the two halves together.


I used small quantities of Plastimake, heated in boiling water. The pellets turn transparent when they are hot enough to fuse, and then you can fish them out with a spoon and mold them to shape. I found that squishing them together a bit with the spoon while they were still in the water was a good idea too. (The little bag of black pellets are colouring pellets of Plastimake which I didn’t end up needing).


This photo shows the egg completely covered with plastic, in various stages of setting. The opaque areas of white at the large end are set, but in other places where it is still warm you can see right through to the gladwrapped polystyrene inside. Once the egg was covered roughly, I spent quite a bit of time heating it with a hairdryer and then smoothing it out. One of the great things about Plastimake is that it can be reheated and reused, as well as added to, drilled and cut.


The egg has a flattened part for it to rest on so it doesn’t roll around, and into that I set some polypropylene sheeting with the black contact cut-out of the the baby in a coolamon. In the other half is an led light unit from the dollar shop, with it’s switch button rewired to fit into the right position poking through to the outside of the egg. I also replaced the batteries that came with the light with button batteries instead as it seemed neater, hacking a tealight battery holder so that it held two batteries rather than one. (Thanks Zaiga!)


Once the egg itself was made and joined up I paper mached the outside with white tissue paper because although paint takes well to Plastimake it can rub off fairly easily with wear. The speckled finish is spray paint and a little green acrylic paint.


Grey felt


I couldn’t find any fur fabric that was right, so opted for felt for covering the kangaroo mask. I was actually happy about that, (although it still leaves the question of what fabric to use for a tail), because I loved the masks using this technique that I made some years ago. I built a section into the inside of the mask that will fit the wearer’s face comfortably and firmly. There’s still quite a bit of detailing to be done on the ears, eyes and mouth.

While the mask was drying I went back to  making an emu egg for the same show, Biami. I’d already made a polystyrene form for it, but had set it aside while I considered how to make it light up inside. Today I finally covered the egg in Plastimake. I’ll have some photos of the egg later as it progresses.

And now a kangaroo mask


Today I’ve been making a kangaroo mask. This is for the Biami production I blogged about yesterday. I decided to use paper mâché even though it’s a little time consuming. For something fairly small like this it’s fine, and I am pretty quick. I like doing paper mâché very much and find it meditative. I’m not sure on the final finish yet – fur or felt?


Unima 2008: Carnival Day

A mindblowing day at the puppet carnival: see my Flickr photoset for heaps more photos; I’ve just chosen a few here. Also Naomi and Gary have more, too, each a different take :). As far as I can see its just the three of us blogging from Unima 2008.

Cheryl Linnaker’s Yawaru gecko

Puppet Carnival Day

Joan Baixas’ masterclass present the ‘Great Laughing Mutant Project’

Puppet Carnival Day

Hersute Monsiour Telefon, the puppet I put in the Million Puppet Project

Puppet Carnival Day

Trans Faunas by Swerve Association

Puppet Carnival Day

Perhaps one of the creatures by Edith Cowan University Contemporary Performing group?

Puppet Carnival Day

Murphy’s Puppets Allenby’s FAMOUS Flea Circus

Puppet Carnival Day

Swerve Association’s sheep

Puppet Carnival Day


My attendence at Unima 2008 is supported by the ACT Government

Delightful strange creatures

Students from the Edith Cowan University Contemporary Performers Group, lead by Deborah Hunt entertained the lunchtime crowds in James Place, Perth, yesterday, as part of the UNIMA Worl Puppetry Festival. These made my day! By chance there was a busker playing, and they worked their activities in around what he was playing.

Puppets at Unima Worl Puppetry Festival

More photos in my Flickr photoset.


My attendence at Unima 2008 is supported by the ACT Government

Pollies masks

The GreensBlog has some politician masks you can download and print. They were intended for halloween, but, you know, they might come in handy in the next few weeks!

Here in Canberra this time around we have a unique opportunity to alter the balance of power in the Senate immediately. The Coalition parties hold 20 of the 40 seats in the Senate, and it only requires the loss of one of their seats to a progressive to bring some accountability back to the Senate. In the ACT we can do that immediately if only 11,000 people change their vote to a progressive one in the Senate. GetUp! is running a campaign and unique multi-party ad to this effect.

Eye of Sauron

Eye of Sauron

The Eye of Sauron goes off to a villian’s party!

Now don’t you worry about that

Now don't you worry about that

An action shot of Joh Bjelke-Peterson welcoming guests to the launch of the Campaign – Federal Elections exhibition at Old Parliament House yesterday! Here is a slightly clearer one of him with Malcolm Fraser. Old Parliament House had a collection of the photographic masks of politicians, but I was asked to make the cartoon Joh last week.

The exhibition itself consists of photos by Andrew Chapman; you can see some of them here. They are wonderful ‘fly on the wall’ glimpses of electioneering politicians and political events from the Fraser years onwards. I was most amused by the ones of Beazley, because he so often looked like a jovial dag, but others were arresting.