As I was recently scanning through Instagram, I happened upon a beautiful wooden magpie looking staring at me. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on, but it turns out that it was a puppet, carved from wood. I reached out to the creator, Claire Brooks, for more info.
I’m pretty new to wood carving and this magpie was the second puppet I ever carved from wood. I spent two weeks with puppet maker John Roberts from Puppet Craft, based in South Devon, England. He’s a well respected puppet maker/puppeteer and does these courses every year. I was lucky enough to get on the course the previous year where I made a marionette skeleton. John’s a fantastic teacher. I really wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without him being so patient!
This amount of carving and artistry couldn’t have been done very quickly, especially when you consider that Claire is technically a beginner. In regards to the bird, Claire said:
She took about 4 weeks to make in all. I had to work pretty extensively for over two of those weeks so I could go home with all the parts I needed. When I did leave, the only thing left was refining the shapes, painting her up, and putting all the joints together. I think that was the scary part because even though John was only an email away and I had detailed notes on how I needed to finish the project, I knew that if I made a mistake, there was the potential that I wasn’t going to have the tools to fix it.
When I asked her about the most difficult part of the project, Claire said:
The biggest challenge of all was making the wings! The body was made from Jelutong which is an absolute delight to carve but everything else needed to be carved from lime so I could get in the details. The lime for the wings was particularly hard and it needed to be carved on the inside so it could fit the body and then on the outside so it could as thin as possible. I had to work on it in stages and constantly check that it would sit right against the body. The first wing I didn’t check enough though and it doesn’t sit as snugly as I would like it to. That made getting it to sit neatly so the wings will flap a bit of a problem.
I found the results simply stunning. The colors, especially those greens and yellows that peek from the darker plumage are extraordinary. In response to the final product, Claire said:
It’s certainly given me the bug to carve more, there’s something really satisfying to take a block of wood and working in into a shape and really getting fine details. I’ll be with John again this summer learning to make another puppet, and I’m already making plans.