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
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.