Monday, October 18, 2021

Elvis Costello and Paul Weller as Puppets!



What happens when you catch me in the moment of being on a puppet making tear (having just shown off the newly minted Conny Plank puppet) and a dear friend says "IF I had any artistic ability whatsoever there would be Elvis Costello and Paul Weller ones.  They could fight for my heart, like Karate Kid.  Also if I wasn’t lazy.  Also if it wasn’t your brilliant idea."

Well, I said CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

So it began.

Making the Small Fry body was the easiest part. The pattern is quite simple and I was already in the process of sewing one other caucasoid puppet, so adding two more to the batch actually made the process go smoother. Two I sewed together by hand and the third one I sewed on the sewing machine. Machine sewing the Small Fry body turned it into a nearly complete puppet (body, hands, legs, and feet) in just over 3 hours. Someday I'll learn the Muppet ladder stitch, but so little of their face seams are even going to be visible on these two puppets, I didn't sweat it too much.

I started on Elvis first because, in my opinion, he's pretty straightforward with regard to his visually recognizable markers. His teeth, oversized glasses, and excellent hair make it easy to turn him into a recognizable puppet. The part I was finding challenging was deciding WHICH LOOK to use as the guideline for his hair and clothing. Rocky said for him that decision was easy - the look he's got on the This Year's Model album cover. GOSH THAT'S EASY. Now I had something to work with for Elvis's clothing. Black suit, white button-up shirt with tiny grey polka dots, and a grey satin tie.


<insert image of this year's model cover>

I looked around online for suitable patterns for 18" dolls (they're comparable in size to the Small Fry puppet) and ended up buying a couple of patterns. There isn't much out there for Small Fry clothing patterns (yet) so I got to sewing and modifying the 18" doll patterns. The biggest issue with a pattern for an 18" doll is that the doll has a NECK and the Small Fry doesn't. Shirts and jackets don't fit as cut on the first try. I made a few mock-up dress shirts until I'd modified the dress shirt pattern well enough to look right and close at the top collar button on a Small Fry puppet. Here is a link to the Small Fry puppet patterns I've created through trial and error. I've included all the sewing instructions for the dress shirt and blazers.


I sculpted Elvis's teeth out of some FIMO I had leftover from making puppet noses for Kraftwerk. It wasn't going to matter that they were not teeth colored color to start with. I scoured the internet for good photos of his nose and sculpted a tiny nose for him. Then thinking it might be handy to have a small reproducible puppet nose, I made a mold of it and used it for The Reverend Fred Lane puppet. I did a DIY flocking of the sculpted/cast nose to make it blend with the puppet fleece skin once the nose would be attached to the puppet face.

Elvis Costello's teeth and nose


I painted his teeth using acrylic craft paint I had on hand. The paint probably won't stand up to lots of abuse over time, but I don't anticipate that Rocky has a lot of hard use in mind for his Elvis puppet. While I was daydreaming about how I was going to affix Elvis's teeth to the puppet mouth I decided I didn't want to make them permanently attached so I made a new puppet and puppet mouth plate and used some small round magnets I had on hand to make Elvis's mouth plate attach the teeth MAGNETICALLY. I cut and glued little strips of magnetic metal to the backside of the upper and lower teeth. The magnetic teeth work like a champ. I'm thrilled.

Redoing the mouth plate (and puppet body) to make the teeth magnetically attach!

On the cover of This Year's Model, Elvis is standing behind Chris Gabrin's (the album photographer) Hasselblad 500 camera and tripod. As luck would have it, some scouring of the internet turned up a papercraft pinhole camera model of the Hasselblad 500. The original creator of the papercraft is Kelly Angood but her site doesn't host the file any longer. I found it on Scribd. I printed out the Hasselblad at an appropriate scale for the Small Fry puppet, making the camera dimensions around 1.5 inches. Putting the papercraft together was tedious, but I was happy that I wasn't trying to make a tiny, functioning pinhole Hasselblad 500.  

Papercraft Hasselblad 500

I measured the lens diameter needed and poured 4 exploratory lenses out of clear two-part resin. The first one worked like a champ. I did a light sanding to the edge of the lens so the UHU would hold it in place and then I googled to see what kind of aperture the Hasselblad has. I was on the fence about making it look exactly like the album cover, or making it true to life. I chose true to life. I printed out and cut the leaf aperture opening and glued it to the lens.


Papercraft Hasselblad 500 lens with leaf shutter

Now that the lens was in place, I made the rear of the camera attach with magnets and inserted a stabilizing base and threaded nut for a tripod mount inside the camera. Once the glue was dry, I painted the inside of the camera black (why not?).

Papercraft Hasselblad 500

I went looking on eBay for a Small Fry sized tripod that looked similar to the one on the album cover. I scored with a nice vintage Escot tripod in black/chrome with a handle that looked quite a lot like the one on the cover.

Papercraft Hasselblad 500 comparison photo

I completed his jacket with three working buttonholes and then cut his hair out of coal Mongolian faux fur from PuppetPelts.com (leftover from the Kraftwerk creations). I then attached his eyes, nose and then gave him a haircut.

Elvis Costello - looking good

Another search of eBay turned up a pair of perfectly sized, childs' hornrimmed glasses. When they arrived, I used some loose lenses from broken reading glasses to give Elvis's eyeglass frames something to hold onto and reflect the light.

Elvis Costello - yassssss

With his clothing, camera, glasses, and tripod complete, I was able to recreate the UK, US, and Swedish release album covers of This Year's Model.

UK Cover


Elvis Costello This Year's Model 

  US Cover

Elvis Costello This Year's Model

Swedish Cover

Elvis Costello This Year's Model

One more scouring of the internet turned up Axman - a woodworker in the UK who makes replicas of famous musician's guitars, including Elvis Costello's iconic Jazzmaster guitar (!!). Take my money, right?

Elvis Costello PUMP IT UP

The hard part was shooting a video of Elvis to replicate a tiny portion of the Pump It Up video. Green screen is hard y'all. Trial and error, shoot, re-shoot and then spend an inordinate amount of time in Adobe Premiere Pro masking around his feet to avoid reshooting again. I'm happy with how it turned out and it makes me laugh hysterically! That was the goal all along. 

I didn't send Rocky any process photos once I'd shown him a shot of the teeth pinned into place for a trial fitting (!). Keeping the pictures I've taken off the 'net and hidden has been sooo hard because I've been wanting to share each success I've had in this creation.

Here is the final video cut of puppet Elvis in all his glory in the Pump It Up video!



Creating a Paul Weller puppet was much less challenging by far. I found a tiny doll wig on AliExpress, made it a bit smaller by running a long stitch up and back around the scalp of the wig to "tighten it up" and make it fit the Small Fry better. I picked one of Paul's least-bad haircuts to give the puppet. I didn't have the heart to give him a severe hairline like I saw in most of Paul's earlier photos.

I found a tiny Fred Perry polo shirt on eBay, tailored it to fit Paul, and made him a pair of dark pants.

Paul Weller lookin spiffy!

Shoes were found on AliExpress and modified to be more like suede boots.

Paul Weller's tiny suede boots

I made Paul's nose a more traditional puppet nose - a bit of foam wrapped in fleece and sewn in place. I did some searching to see if he has a signature guitar strap (he does) and I made a tiny guitar strap to match the "real" one.

Paul Weller

I learned a lot in the creating of these puppets and I'm happy to have sent them to their new owner! I can't wait to see what Rocky does with Elvis and Paul!!


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