BS&WW Prod Journal. 4: Carved vs Patterned

There are two primary ways, when building a hand-and-rod puppet, to get make a head. The first is called ‘flat-patterning’. This involves a flat piece of half-inch foam which you draw a pattern on to. The pattern should have small or large triangular darts in it, so when you cut the pattern out and glue the darts together it forms a rounded edge. The other method is ‘foam carving’. This one is more self-explanatory; you get a large block of foam and carve out the shape you want. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.

As you can see from the picture we opted for the carved foam approach. We did this for a number of reasons. Firstly, unless you already have a pre-made pattern, flat-patterning, essentially, requires you to reverse engineer; you have to know what the end result will be, and then work out how to create patterns from that. With carving, however, you have a design and you simply take away the unnecessary foam. In addition to this, we find it easier to make adjustments to your design after the fact. With flat patterning, you can add more darts here and there to force a new shape, but essentially you are stuck with the patterned shape.

Another reason we prefer to carve is the level of detail. It is much simpler to sculpt the detail into a block of foam than it is to pattern it in. With that being said there are many advantages to flat-patterning. The first is waste. Foam carving creates a lot of wasted foam, whereas patterning requires you to only use what the pattern needs. Another advantage is time. You could spend a day or two carving out a foam head, where patterning could take you 20 minutes. And then there’s skinning; adding the fleece, or fur or whatever it is you are using. For flat-pattering you can use the exact same patter to put skin on the foam, which again saves time and waste. With a carved head you have to drape the fleece; essentially creating a pattern for your head. The process is wasteful and time-consuming, but we feel the end result is worth it.

Thanks for reading. Next week we will discuss the arms and hands.

See you soon,

Aaron and Elizabeth.

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