Mondays with Mrs. Sparkles: A Colorful New Technique for Making Puppets

Grandmother Power at Ali Center
Family Adventure Day

Today Mrs. Sparkles dons her educator cap and makes out for Frankfort, Kentucky. I will be appearing today at the Paul Sawyier Public Library at 1:00 and 2:30 to present a program on Asian shadow puppetry for the Crane House, the Asia Institute Inc. I wanted to give you a sneak peak at what we will be doing and inspire you to try a new technique (or at least new to me).

Today I will be leading a program where we will be making a pí yĭng xì (皮影戏), pronounced pea ying see, known literally to mean a shadow of hide (because they were often made from animal hides). A pí yĭng xì is a shadow puppet that is translucent, brightly colored and has articulated limbs. A puppeteer, hidden behind a screen, moves the puppets in front of a light while telling a story. Here are some fantastic examples:

Shadow Puppetry 1

Shadow Puppetry 2

 During the program today at the Paul Sawyier Library, we will be making our own pí yĭng xì, but not from animal hides or vellum, but instead from a process that a colleague shared with me at the Speed Art Museum. I wanted to share this technique with you today. It will remind you a lot of melting wax shavings between two sheets of wax paper with an iron. By following the instructions below you can make your own colorful translucent image.

For your own translucent puppet or window hanging you will need:
  • Crayons (Crayola twistables are best if you don’t want colors to run)
  • Tracing Paper
  • Drawing Paper
  • Pencil
  • Black Permanent Marker
  • A visit to Office Max or Staples


Using a pencil and drawing paper, draw a character/flower/car/etc. as large as the piece of paper.

Next, using tracing paper and a permanent marker, trace your drawing onto tracing paper with a permanent marker.

Next, using crayons (or twistables for younger children who may be upset that their colors mix and run) color your character/flower/car/etc. in on your tracing paper.

Next, cut away the excess tracing paper from around your drawing, leaving a seam of tracing paper around your drawing. Don’t cross your scissors over your drawing or you will loose detail.

Finally, LAMINATE your cut out character/flower/car/etc. at your local office supply store or at home if you own a lamination machine.

Here are some examples of what we have made here at home…

A Flower Suncatcher

A Translucent Butterfly Puppet

If your child enjoys puppet making or theatrical displays, also check out Squallis Puppeteers! I hear that their summer camps are wonderful.
Louisville Zoo Halloween
KCD Open House
Papa Johns Pizza

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