4 day workshop

4-day workshop: Carve a simple wooden puppet.

23, 24, 25, 26 July 2024. Devon, England.
Tutor: John Roberts.

A 4-day workshop for you to carve your own wooden puppet.
Work from prototype drawings of a male or female marionette, with the aim to have a fully working, simple puppet by the end of the week. You can add your own design to the face, hands and detailed shaping of the body.

The days will be as intensive or relaxed as you choose to make it….. there will be beginners and experienced makers… but by keeping the numbers down to only 4, individual needs will be catered for. Each person’s level of skill, aim and speed-of-working can be accommodated. You could aim to make a complete puppet … which is a lot to do within the week… or you can work at a more leisurely pace, to at least go away with all the bits and knowledge to complete a truly unique and beautiful puppet.
Extra week: If you want to guarantee to have a completed puppet, fully refined and painted think about booking on an extra week. There is a £50 reduction in the fee for the second week.

I will guide students through key aspects:
Design of a puppet; Safe handling of tools; How to carve wood; Keeping chisels super sharp; Jointing techniques that produce a puppet that really works!
Aspects that will not be covered include painting, costuming or operating your puppet.

The methods taught are versatile, fast and require minimum tools and equipment…… you can use this method without the need for a bench, vice or electrical tools, using only a sturdy table and some hand tools. It is a combination of Chinese and European puppet techniques: freehand carving using very fine chisels is done very fast in China with no pre-design or cutting out of the wood, which is combined with the more considered way of carving used throughout Europe… designing a puppet first on paper…. transferring this to the wood …. And using a saw to cut accurate profiles before carving begins.

John Roberts

John Roberts is renowned as a skilled maker of finely crafted puppets, with a particular interest in marionettes. For ten years he was a director at the famous Little Angel Puppet Theatre in London, touring around the world performing at festivals and seeing the best contemporary and traditional puppetry. 
In 1986 he became the first non-Chinese person to train in making and performing in China at the amazing Quanzhou Puppet Theatre.He is director/founder of Devon-based puppet troupe PuppetCraft.
For nearly 40 years John has taught puppet carving to adults.
Past students say: “An inspirational teacher… Most enjoyable…Excellent course…This man knows his onions…”

  • The workshop is in a shed built under a large oak tree… which has survived gale-force winds!
  • The shed is set up to provide a simple but comfortable work space with lots of light, good tools and fantastic carving chisels.
  • A band-saw is in a nearby garage – which reduces noise and dust in the workshop.
  • There is a small covered outside area to sit or work in, and a garden where you can relax… if you have time!
  • A small fridge is available for your use.
  • Tea/coffee making, toilet and basin is a very short walk away in my house.
  • Parking is nearby.

For adults: not for anyone under 18 years old.

Please bring:
Closed shoes or boots… as there is a lot of standing while carving and your feet need protection from falling chisels.
Rain-gear… as it is a short walk to the loo.
Something to eat for lunch… as we will only have a short lunch break.

All tools, wood and other odds and ends will be supplied.
Some specialist tools will be available for sale at the end of the week.
Tea and coffee will be provided.

START Tuesday: 9.30am to 5.30pm.
Wednesday: 9.30am to 5.30pm. Evening session for those who want to work on till 7pm.
Thursday: 9.30am to 5.30pm. Evening session for those who want to work on till 7pm…Then maybe get a takeaway meal.
Friday: 9.30am to 5.30pm. END

In my new workshop shed at my home: 1 Venton Oak Cottages, Dartington, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6DW.
This is about 2 miles out of Dartington village, and 3 miles out of Totnes.

By car, or by train to Totnes which is on the main line train from London (3 hours). A taxi from Totnes station costs about £15. Book your taxi in advance!

Accommodation is available at many B+B’s. Typically a single costs from £40 to £70 per night. Do sort your accommodation as soon as you can. I have a list of places past students have stayed at. Let me know if you want this list. Camping and Caravan: Please contact me for details.
Visit Totnes website has some accommodation listed.
If you do not have your own transport, book accommodation that is in/near Dartington or Rattery, or on the bus route between Totnes and Dartington on route to Plymouth (GOLD bus).

Food (not included): There are pubs and shops within 10 minutes by car.

Sightseeing and entertainment: You will be 15 minutes’ drive from Dartmoor, 45 minutes from beaches, 10 minutes from an excellent cinema on the Dartington Hall Estate.

Course fees £420.
£80 deposit is required: details be given when you book.
This includes all materials and use of tools. Accommodation and food is not included.
There is a £50 reduction in the fee if you book an additional carving workshop.
Cancellation: The course may be cancelled due to not enough students booking or unforeseen events….illness of tutor etc. – then naturally your payment, including deposit will be fully refunded.

To book
Email or phone to let me know you want to come on the course and I will send you a booking form.

Best wishes and I hope you can make it to a course.  

John Roberts
PuppetCraft and Yellow Van, 1 Venton Oak Cottages, Dartington, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6DW. Great Britain.
Tel: 01803-867778 Email: john@puppetcraft.co.uk
Mobile: 07973 442253 international phoning: + 44 1803 867778

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