Participants of the ongoing summer camp at Goethe Zentrum Trivandrum were taught how to make puppets by Sara Andreis

There is a group of children surrounding Sara Andreis. While some are asking her if what they are doing is right, others are asking her for a needle and thread.“First you take a sponge ball and then cover it with a sock. That forms the head. Rice grains are stuffed to make the body and the excess piece of sock is cut and used to make hands. Attach strings on top and you have a puppet sans legs like those of the ‘Kathputli' (puppets),” says Sara.

The children are hard at work sewing the hands on the puppets. Says Sharanya S. Nair, a student of class eight of Arya Central School: “This is easier. It was difficult sewing the head.”

The children who are gathered at this puppet workshop led by Sara cry out in protest when she says they will have to sew on the clothes for the puppet. “It is easy,” promises Sara as she shows them the technique of bunching a piece of cloth so that it resembles the pleats of a skirt.

Sara, who hails from Italy, is a self-taught puppet maker. “I loved puppets even as a child. The town which I hail from near Turin has a rich tradition in puppetry. I picked up a few of my skills from there.”

The skills were honed during a six-month stay in Delhi, where she stayed with a group of Kathputli artistes from Rajasthan.

In this workshop held in connection with Goethe Zentrum's ongoing summer camp for children, Sara hopes to teach the students how to make a puppet, how to decorate it and how to stage a puppet show.

Creative skills

“Puppet making requires skill. It is a challenge to give it a personality. You can let your imagination grow wild while making a puppet and staging a puppet play. For those who are shy, like me, it is a great way to express yourself,” says Sara, who teaches Italian at E-Team Informatica at Technopark.

The workshop which began yesterday concludes tomorrow. While the kids made the head of the puppet yesterday, today it was all about making the body, hands, and dressing it. The children will learn how to move the puppets using the strings tomorrow.

Says Sara: “It is the strings which give the puppets life.” Something the children are all looking forward too. Says Farzana Anzar, a class seven student of Holy Angels ISC, Nanthencode: “I hope we get to stage a play.”

Sara, however, says: “I don't think there'll be time for the kids to stage a play. What I'm going to teach them tomorrow is how to move their puppets to different kinds of music.

Act of expression

“For instance, if it is a fast song, they will make fast movements with the puppet, if it is a slow number, moving the arms and head slowly and so on. If time permits, I will teach them how to make their puppets express themselves – happy, sad, angry… Perhaps, on another day some other teacher will help them stage a play.”