Theatre Director Rebecca Gadsby approached me to design and construct a large dog puppet for a touring production of Jane Eyre, being produced by Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham. I had previously worked with Rebecca in conjunction with Chapter House Theatre company, in particular creating a willow mask for the character of 'Bottom' in A Midsummer Nights Dream.
The dog design brief was for a contemporary style puppet with a fairly realistic head but more abstract and minimal body, which suited my own visual style. The puppet needed to run, sit and ideally be operated by one puppeteer. It needed to be of a large size, inspired by an Irish wolf hound, with a grey/brown coat.
In the design of this dog puppet I was inspired by the artist holy-smoke, who creates textured animal sculptures using burlap. I was instantly convinced this rustic fabric would make a great alternative to fur and provide both strength and movement.
The dog was constructed with a carved foam head and lower legs. Insulation tubing and webbing for the main body. Wooden upper legs. Rope joints and a hessian/burlap skin. Keeping the weight manageable on a puppet this scale proved the main challenge and ensuring realistic proportions of a dog was essential.
It was great seeing the performers working with the puppet in rehearsal, experimenting with movement and character. The dog was named 'wilko' after his purchased rear end handle, he will be playing the role of 'Pilot' in the play and i'm sure he will be the highlight of the show!