Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Indonesian Shadow Puppets

Shadow Puppets on display at Picasso's Basement Gallery Show at the library!
Traditional Shadow Puppet

I'm going to cut to the chase with this post. No ramblings about how the Picasso's Basement kids and I "traveled" to Indonesia and learned about the culture and ate Indonesian fruit. Which we did. But what we really did that even I found miraculous was that we made SHADOW PUPPETS!  You know those beautifully carved and decorated puppets that are manipulated with sticks? And are then shown behind a screen? Well, we made them! Sorry, I don't mean to gush but it was pretty cool!


  • Black Card Stock
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Strong Balsa sticks from craft store (test them at the store: too thin and they will break)
  • Xacto knife (teacher should use this)
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Markers that show up on black paper (Gel markers often do)
  • Fasteners from the stationery store (the gold kind that you poke in the holes and then bend back)

Artist with her mermaid puppet
Each artist sketched out their ideas and then drew them on the black card stock with a pencil (you could see the lines fairly well.) Then they cut out the basic shapes with scissors and brought it to me to use my xacto knife to help with some of the detail work. I encouraged details because it would add to the effect when a light was shined on them and the shadow was created. We cut eyes and mouths into them, made cuts for hair and fingers. I asked all the artists to be sure to add at least one appendage which was cut separately and attached with a fastener.

NOTE: If you are doing this project encourage the kids to make the appendages wide, at least in the spot where it connects with the body. The more delicate the appendage the more likely it is to break off. This is another prime example of my learning curve: I realized that appendages were too delicate about half way through the lesson.

Anyhow, after you attach the appendages with the fasteners the fasteners can be trimmed from behind (by an adult or older child only) with sharp scissors. The artists then embellished their puppets with the markers. We used the hot glue gun to attach the sticks to the puppets. And here they are:
Artists with their shadow puppets (complete with articulated tails, arms, etc.)
Posing unhappily because they REALLY wanted to put on their puppet show!
I have to say I'm so proud of the Picasso's Basement artists. They utilized so many new skills, were patient while waiting for help with the details, and were amazingly creative. I thought they would all make people. But we ended up with a monster, a horror movie character, a cat, a giant person, a mermaid, a pegasus, a hippie with his Love Bus, and (last but not least) Zeus with his lightening bolt! Fantastic work, guys! And thank you to my teen assistant who kept the peace through all of this!


  1. wow they look really cool i should try them with my lessons

  2. They were so much fun to do! Also I notice the art supply stores have many more options for markers that work on black paper: Sharpies now have poster paint markers and many more companies make the kind used for scrapbooking.