Friday, March 27, 2015

Cotton Ball Sheep

Spring is an extra special time of year, filled with the promise of warmer days and new life. It is a magical time when plants begin to push their first green shoots out of the ground and when many baby animals are born. One of the most delightful of these baby animals are lambs: 

A mother sheep with her baby lamb

Sheep are pretty fascinating creatures as you can see in this video of farmer Adam Henson learning about the behaviour of the sheep on his farm:

Although I likely won't be lucky enough to see any real sheep this spring, I thought it might be fun to make some of my own

Here's a list of the materials required for this project:

Because I have a dog, I've also got a constant supply of little cardboard tubes that are on the inside of the rolls of plastic bags I use for picking up his poop. These are really useful for craft projects, so if you can get your hands on them, they're worth saving.

If you don't have any of these tubes, you can make your own out of card stock or some other stiff paper. Cut a strip a couple of inches high and half the width of the sheet of paper. Wrap it around a pencil and add some glue so that it stays rolled up. You'll need four of these- one for each of the sheep's legs.

For the body of the sheep you'll need a toilet paper roll. Make four holes on what will be the underside of the sheep, two near the front and two near the back. Make some small cuts radiating out from the hole in a starburst pattern- this will allow the legs to fit in snugly. 

To finish off the sheep's body, trace around the edge of the roll to make two circles from the lid of an egg carton. Using some white glue, add these to the roll to make the sheep's chest and bum. 

The egg carton is also what I used to make the sheep's head. The rear part of the head is made from one cup, while the front part requires additional portions from the adjacent cups- these will become the sheep's ears.

Attach the two parts of the head using white glue. At this point, you can also paint the head and legs white.

To attach the sheep's head to its body, poke hole for a toothpick into the shoulder-area of the body and the base of the head.

The sheep also needs a tail! I cut one from a scrap of the egg carton lid and glued it to the top of the rear of the body.

Now it's time to add the sheep's fleece. Take some cotton balls and add them to the body with glue. I started at the back and worked my way to the front adding the balls in layers around the body to make sure I covered all the cardboard evenly.

Once the body is done, it's time to finish the sheep's head. Using markers, I drew on eyes, a nose, a mouth, and some detail inside the ears- pencils, crayons or paint could also be used to make these features.

Glue more cotton balls to the back of the head and then attach it to the body by fitting it onto the toothpick.

And there you have it! A lovely, fluffy springtime sheep:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Burrowing Animal Coffee Cup Puppets

A while ago, this charming video of an ermine popping in and out of a tree stump caught my attention:

Ermines are stoats in their winter coats

Inspired, I made a puppet version of the scenario.

The paper ermine pops up from its coffee cup tree trunk with the help of a wooden skewer. This got me thinking about other burrowing animals that would make good subjects for pop-up puppets. Next I tried a burrowing owl.

Burrowing owl in a desert landscape

Here's a video of the puppet in action:


I then decided to try making an animal well known for its burrowing prowess, the mole. 

Here's a step-by-step description of the process. First, gather these materials:

It's best to start this project with the coffee cup burrow, since it will take time for the paint and glue to dry. To make your burrow look more like a landscape and less like a cup, add some texture by gluing on crumpled-up bits of tissue paper (for this burrow, I used paper towel, which works equally well).

When the glue is dry, add some colour. Try to match the colour of your burrow to the environment that the animal you've chosen lives in. For example, I chose tawny yellows for my owl's desert landscape, browns for my ermine's log and my mole's dirt home.

You can also add other features to your burrow at this point. For my ermine's log I added some moss I'd picked up from a local florist's shop and some cotton ball snow. As for the mole's burrow, I glued on some tufts of grass cut from a scrap of coloured paper.

While your burrow is drying, you can get to work on the creature that will live inside. Take a piece of card stock or other thick paper on which to draw your animal. Measure your coffee cup- your animal needs to be no wider than the base of the cup and no taller than the height of the cup or else the animal won't fit properly in its burrow.

Colour in and cut out your animal. I used markers, but pencils or crayons would work equally well.

Now it's time to fit the animal into its home. Take your wooden skewer and poke it through the centre of the bottom of the cup (if the cup is too stiff for the skewer, use the tip of a sharp pair of scissors or a sewing needle to make a small hole).

The last thing you need to do is tape your animal to the top of the skewer.

Now mr. mole is ready to hide away at home

and pop out to say hello.

These three creatures are but a small sample of the many living things that could be subjects for this project. Here are some artists' illustrations of different types of subterranean animals, any of which would make great pop-up puppets.