Some folks suggest Scott Foam, others use the standard foam you get that the fabric store. I always suggest that if you are new to Puppetry and want to know more as far as construction that you check out (and buy from ) www.projectpuppet.com
First of all I want to agree with Fozzie that Project Puppet is ABSOLUTELY the best place for a budding puppet builder to get started! That being said my personal feelings regarding which type of foam are...it depends. If you're going to be covering the puppet with fleece I think the typical foam (available at most fabric stores in rolls of 1/2" thickness) is fine, but if you're going to use the foam as the puppet's skin then Scott foam is probably best.
I have some of the reticulated foam that I got from Project Puppet, but I have yet to make a puppet using it. So ALL the puppets I've made to date have been fleece covered using the more readily available foam. Whichever you decide to use HAVE FUN!
There's a bazillon ways to build a puppet. And there's a bazillion materials and techniques to use.
The best thing to remember is there is no "wrong" way to build a puppet (unless you decide to use concrete or something!).
There are certain techniques and materials that will give you a particular look or movement to your puppet. Its just a matter of applying the right ones to the task.
And don't think that building a puppet means you're finished forever with that character. I know lots of people who've built and re-built the same characters over and over trying to get the perfect "look" or movement.
And don't think that a puppet is supposed to last forever either. Sure... make yours of quality and they will last... but if you're using them as working puppets, they will wear out and need to be repaired or replaced eventually.
Also: enjoy the journey of making your puppets. Learn from everyone and everywhere. Ask questions. Try new things. Test ideas. There's usually many more than one answer to any given question. I know that I can see my own growth as a builder in the puppets I still have hanging around. Especially inside.
I completely agree with the folks above... if you're serious about making some nice puppets right out of the gate,go to Project Puppet and get one of their patterns. Then USE it. Just that process will teach you a ton about the materials and techniques that are most commonly used. Its a great, inexpensive, and educational place to start.
Gordon has it exactly right! Except that now I'm thinking about how I will make my first concrete puppet. A piece of advice that goes along well with all of that is one I often forget myself when embarking on any new artistic endeavor. And that is YOU HAVE TO BEGIN SOMEWHERE. And odds are your first results wont be as wonderful as you'd like them to be.
When I started making puppets I immediately wanted them to look like the Muppets. And not the early Muppets either, I wanted my first efforts to look like the puppets they were creating after 10 or more years of experience. Not very realistic, right? Yet that's what I usually expect from myself, and I know many other artists who have those same unrealistic expectations. I may eventually make puppets that will look that good, but first I had to make my FIRST puppet...which pretty much sucked. But with each puppet since then I've learned SO much and they've gotten exponentially better.
It's very much like the advice I read when I was working on writing a novel. I read similar advice from several different authors who all basically said the same thing. Your first novel is going to suck. But if you want to be an author you have to write it so you can throw it in a drawer and move on to your SECOND novel. Pretty much the same thing with puppets, only it takes A LOT LESS time to make a puppet then write a novel.
Now if Gordon and I haven't completely overwhelmed you with advice and encouragement it won't be for lack of trying! Again, HAVE FUN!
Thank you all for posting this stuff. I've been studying puppets pretty much my entire life, but I'm really learning the technical stuff now. I've been scared all along, but realizing that I have the skill sets necessary. This is exactly why I joined the forums :-D
Yes, this is very true. Once and awhile when someone asks me about puppet making advice (not that I am the best puppet builder) I usually say something like "go take these patterns, build a few dozen and then come back and talk to me" because you really have to make a lot of mistakes before you get a good grasp of it.
Really? What makes you say that? I've found exactly the opposite; Scott Foam (which is just a brand name for reticulated open cell foam) seems to break down much faster than regular poly (upholstery) foam. I have puppets that I made back in high school 15 years ago with poly foam that are more or less completely intact; puppets from 10 years ago made with reticulated foam are slowly breaking down. Eventually the insides become "toast" and partially crumble.
I do tend to pack and store puppets very carefully in opaque though. Puppets left out in the open will not hold up as well; UV light does much more damage to foam than air does.