Friday, February 28, 2014

Crazy Crafty: Brown Baggin' It

There really isn't a word to describe the exact depths of indignity reached (for everyone involved) when a well-intentioned mother asks her ostensibly-mature, thirty-something-year-old son, "So, how are your puppets coming along?"  Such is the wacky tacky life I lead.

For better or worse, I think my parents resigned themselves long ago to the fact that my avocations would always skew toward the puerile, the sophomoric, the tragically-remedial.  Armed with no socially-acceptable excuse/explanation for my interests, all I can do is try to promulgate the unmitigated joy found in great literary volumes like More Paper Bag Puppets (1968).

The best thing about my thrift store find, More Paper 
Bag Puppets (besides 77% off of the list price), is the title;
"More" indicated the promise of a primary publication,
a tome of even more ideas for lunch-bag transformations,
a prequel that I can only assume is cleverly entitled
Paper Bag Puppets.

I happily bought the book but I couldn't shake the nagging
feeling that the sequel is never as as good as the original...

When I found More Paper Bag Puppets on the children's bookshelf at one of my regular, thrift shop stops,  I admit to being guilty of judging this book by its rather uninspired cover - BORING!  Except for the title's suggestion that its pages bore the great secrets of brown-paper puppetry, it is small wonder that it was still sitting on the shelf.  Upon breaking the binding, however, I discovered a wealth of late-60's line drawings.

I love these illustrations!
From goose to gander, wolf to granny, Jack to
giant, everyone in More Paper Bag Puppets
is giving the side eye.  

Given that each page was printed with the two-part face of a different character, my first thought was that the objective was to color the page, cut out the image, and adhere it to a paper bag.  Tut-tut...following that logic would result in the thoughtless sacrifice of one puppet per double-sided page; a quick glance back to the page of instructions (I HATE following instructions) revealed the proposition of a lengthy process including tracing the puppet face on transparent paper, transferring the image to "paper the quality of construction paper," coloring the bisected face, cutting it out, and pasting the pieces to the underside of a paper bag.  This book was from 1968; hadn't they ever heard of a mimeograph machine?!!

Trading one lengthy process for another, I decided that I would use the book's illustrations combined with the art direction for the opening titles of The Misadventures of Merlin Jones as inspiration for my puppets.

Putting a wacky tacky spin on the book's illustrations, I cut and layered colored papers,
starting with the violet-haired miss on the right.  After thinking of other big-haired
beauties, I set about creating a nod to Beetlejuice's Miss Argentina.  I knew that a trio
was in order so I made the cotton-candy bouffant-ed lady in the middle.
This was a great start but the real objective was a full-blown puppet production.
What was I supposed to do with this trio of overly-teased tresses?

The book was divided into sections that recommended intuitive dramatic play - a wolf, a granny, and a young, hooded girl were meant for enacting the perils of "Little Red Riding Hood."  Jack, his mother, and the giant lent themselves well to an all-paper-bag retelling of "Jack & The Beanstalk."  I wasn't sure what story to tell with my gals...the story that they told on their own seemed fairly unsavory.  I decided to clean up their image by making a sticky-sweet music video using a tune by the squeaky-clean McGuire Sisters.  It was "SUGARTIME!!!"

"Sugartime" - The McGuire Sisters

Can you tell that we're not professionals?
Our videos were shot using a very fancy, very borrowed camera but once I 
uploaded the videos to youtube, they lost some of their high-definition properties.

Feeling like I betrayed myself by investing so much time supporting the song-stylings of a different team of musical siblings, I realized that it was high time to add a couple more faces to our puppet repertory.

Tiny & Mary Puppets!!!
I made my cowboy hat removable so as to not be limited in future lunch-sack storytelling.
Tiny & Mary were just begging for a video of their own so I made a desert backdrop by painting and layering
large sheets of heavily-textured paper that have been in the stash for years - thanks hoarding tendencies!!!

Pay no attention to the smell of bologna sandwich and the leaky
Capri-Sun...we didn't know we were supposed to use new paper bags.

"Like A Stranger" - Tiny & Mary
(an original tune by Mr. Tiny)

Wouldn't you know it, just after production on our videos wrapped, I made a return trip to the thrift store.  Guess what I found.  Go ahead, guess!  Come on, just humor me and guess...

You guessed it, the original!!!
Paper Bag Puppets (1966)

Stay tuned...

A special thanks to our pal Fabian for filming, directing, editing, and producing our contribution to the history of puppet cinema.  Eat your heart out, Muppets!!!

Have you ever ventured into the world of paper-bag puppetry?  I must be honest, it is actually much harder than it looks (and I'm afraid we made it look pretty difficult).  Do you think you've outgrown your homemade-puppet faze or have we inspired you to start crafting?  Would you be interested in a personalized, paper-bag portrait of your very own?  Imagine being immortalized in craft paper!!!


Mr. Tiny


  1. UM!!! I LOVE THE TINY AND MARY PUPPETS! I kinda want a kimmie puppet! Could I commission you to make one? Dead serious. These are so much cuter than those fug fandango puppets!

    1. Thanks Kimmie!!! I'm thinking that we might be hosting a personalized-puppet giveaway!

    2. Don't toy with me!!! Do it!!!

  2. Is there nothing at which you do not excel? Mr. Tiny, you are amazing. LOVE these puppets!

    1. Oh jeez, where to, fulfilling employment, abstaining from potato chips... Hahahaha!!!! Thanks, Gabriella!

  3. Once more, but this time quit looking off toward the monitor...

    1. Oh, I wish we had monitors! They were dangling a donut from a string to keep me motivated...

  4. I would love to be browed bagged by you !

    1. Hahahaha!!! Well, I'm thinking about hosting a personalized-puppet giveaway...stay tuned!

  5. Best music video EVER!!! The puppets turned out perfect and I love the song!

    1. Thanks, Elisa!!! If Mary's puppet didn't already have bright-pink circles on her cheeks, she'd be blushing!

  6. <3!! I'm super serious when I say you and Mary *really* need to put together a childrens cd...not that this song was juvenile, but my kid digs your voices and you could even make more fun videos with your paperbags. I know a lot of toddlers, we could do test marketing. Okay...i'm done. You are fantasitic! Love Love Love!

    1. Thanks Cari!! I guess we are going after the wrong demographic; we keep trying to get a more mature set to like us and we're missing the newly-potty-trained set. Funny, because every time I sing for my nephew, he tells me to be quiet because it's his turn!

  7. I love everything about this! so talented in so many ways!

  8. the puppets turned out so perfectly! i''m glad you picked up that book, i really won't have even looked inside with that cover! the first one has a much better cover! i LOVED the song in your video too! you guys are so talented!

    1. Lamest cover ever, right?! I'm so glad I looked inside...inspiration lurks in even in dull places! Thanks Rae!

  9. Goodness gracious my day is made!!! Your puppets look WONDERFUL, and I think yours and Mary's turned out the best! I just loved both videos, and the layering of paper reminds me of Disney's "Symposium on Popular Songs" from 1962! Excellent job, well done!

    1. Disney paper sculpture and animation are and endless source of inspiration! Thanks Mick!

  10. These are amazing! I think you have found your calling. Seriously, you need to do a follow up post with the original puppet book!

    1. Thanks, pal!!! I hope my life's ultimate calling isn't paper bag puppets but if it is, it is a lot of fun!!!