Shadow Theatre

Some time ago I designed a shadow theatre and then laser cut a couple of them. But the design meant that there was a lot of waste plywood after the cut, and more problematically the dismantled theatre was bulky and not postal friendly. So I didn’t try selling it, other projects took precedence.

Recently someone contacted CATO Press, where I’m a member to say she was interested in shadow theatre, so I thought I would dust off the old design and try again.

To have some impact and to accommodate puppets a shadow theatre needs to be quite large, my first attempt was rather small. This time I started with the central idea that the structure would be fully demountable and would flat-pack to 700mm x 200mm or less with a pack thickness of less than 50mm. I would include a cloth screen and if possible a lamp of some sort, LED lamps make this a practical proposition, even a torch with a wide angle beam should work.

With the Corvid 19 lockdown on-going it is not possible to make laser cut prototypes, so I’ve made one in 5mm construction board, ½ size.  The final version would be 3mm plywood.  The slot-together pieces are not all shown, no screen and no decoration.  Screen would attach by velcro, scenery to hang from cross-bars which slot into the tops of the wings, for quick change.

Shadow theatre mock-up 1/2 size

In the distant past I made quite large shadow theatres decorated with dragons etc. from construction board, but of course they don’t have a long life, unless treated very carefully.  I used these working with adults with learning difficulties (a privilage) and had plenty of fun.  It was often surprising to see who could project themselves into the puppets, and who struggled.

Puppets can be bought and one or two sites provided designs for free, Adventures In A Box is one, and these may be cut by hand, or with a vinyl cutter or stencil cutter.  Making the sort of fabulous designs seen in traditional Indonesian shadow theatre is certain to demand time and skill, but far simpler things can be quite effective.

Miller Toys and Models

My new website – Miller Toys and Models – is up and running – thank you Bristol Web Design – and during the lockdown I have designed a further seven plywood models plus two variations and two steampunk(ish) models.  But I haven’t been able to cut any of these because if my cutters at Basically Wooden are working they are working on protective equipment, not toys.

Dredger in construction board
Part of the instructions for assembly of the dredger model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course until I cut and assemble the prototypes I can’t go any further.  There are always some errors in the design, no matter how much I check them on screen or make them in construction board.  Construction board is soft and bends easily of course and so model parts can appear to fit when in fact they don’t.

On a positive note CATO Press in Easton, Bristol is reopening soon and I will be able to do some print making.  Time to get some collagraph plates ready.