Thursday, February 26, 2009

Making Señor Calavera

Publia asked me the other day about getting a Señor Calavera puppet like mine, and she decided to give a try to making one for her class.
I made mine a while ago, but I found this picture I took while I was making it. I have marked some of the material I used to make him.

Basically my Señor Calavera is made out of pulp paper mache. The recipe I used called for ripping strips of paper (I used tissue paper for mine), boiling it with water over the stove fire, putting in the blender until it was of smoothie consistency, straining off the water, and finally mixing it with white glue, wallpaper paste, whiting, and linseed oil.

The result is a paste soft and sticky like clay.

Here are some fact about Señor Calavera Puppet:

  • It took me about a week to create it
  • I sculpted the head on plasticine first, the layered with news papers, until it was thick. Then I cut the head in two and took the placticine out leaving me with the newspapers shells only. I glued together the newspaper head and continued sculpting over with pulp paper mache
  • I did a lot of drying in my kitchen oven (paper mache can be dry safely at low temperature).
  • The spine is made out of wooden beads strung with thick wire
  • The feet carry fishing weights inside it as to make then flop down.
  • The limbs are attached with leather strips
  • The head, being hollow, it attached it to the spine with a special but simple mechanism that allows it to wobble (I learned how to do this from a master puppeteer).
  • Pulp paper mache has a rough finish. A lot of sanding is required.
  • I sealed the paper mache with a special formula of plaster of Paris, talcum powder, and glue.
  • One day one of Señor Calavera’s eyes popped off its socket right before I presented him to the kids, and I had to scramble to put the eye back in place before anybody screamed.


Maria Madonna Davidoff said...

It's nice to see your process. It amazes me how much work is involve in creating your illustrations and they come out very beautifully too.

ziggy stardust hates to love said...

I love your senor calavera. I was wondering if you make any online workshops? I am sure many people wold love to learn the step by step process of this type of art. I am trying to put together a calavera for a 5 de mayo event we have at school. I dont know where to start!

Yuyi Morales said...

Maria and Ziggy, thank you.
Ziggy, what kind of Calavera are you planning to make? Paper Mache calaveras are cool, but they are also complex and time consuming. Have you thought of making one of cut-out paper? You could make it as bag as the paper allows you (make it from very sturdy cardboard and painting with acrylics), and you could old it up with sticks from the head and the hands. Children could help you hold it and move it. I have a template for making a small Calavera puppet (no sticks on this one , though, but that can be figured out). You are welcome to use it as reference if you want. I.But I am sure you can also find more resources online. Here is the template from my Señor Calavera paper puppet if you are interested: