Sunday, 26 October 2014

Nigel's Calypso!

For the first time ever, we went out on location with a puppet! And broke out into song! We spent an enjoyable afternoon freaking shoppers out, and making small children piss themselves laughing, on Walthamstow High Street as we filmed Nigel's Calypso!

Here we penetrate the veil concealing the magic of Rubber Balls...

Monday, 13 October 2014

Rogues' gallery...

You don't want to be in my workshop at night...

And you can see most of the buggers here:

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Meet the cast!

Yesterday was spent shooting new Rubber Balls sketches with our new cast! Here are some action-packed shots to whet your appetite...

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Call me Dave...

Next up is David Cameron. Even though he has a fairly distinctive face, all smooth and sleekly chubby as all well-fed aristocrats should be - Caitlin Moran once said in an immortal line, "Cameron looks like C3P0 made of ham" - nevertheless, when it actually came to sculpting him, I found it immensely difficult, despite having made a small-scale maquette first. The final sculpt ended up departing somewhat from the maquette - what works small often doesn't work life-size...

By the weekend, Boris and Dave should be complete in puppet form as we prepare to shoot new Rubber Balls videos, so watch this space!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Who's the slaphead, who's the slaphead...?

It's Baldy Boris! In a departure from my usual technique of sculpting the hair as part of the final rubber casting, in the case of Boris Johnson that simply wouldn't do - his famously unruly hair simply cannot be sculpted. And so he's been modelled bald and will have a shaggy blonde wig fitted! Also, in another departure (behind the scenes this time), I'm using Alec Tiranti's Basic Alpha Plaster to make the mould. It is much harder, though more expensive, than the Prestia Classic I have hitherto used, and this increased robustness has already been noticeable as I dug the clay out of the mould with wooden tools and at no point scratched the surface of the mould, whereas with Prestia Classic even a wooden tool can mark and gouge.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Rubber Balls Promos

Last week I made a sort of promotional 'poster' for the Twitter using Ed Miliband. Having finally finished the Clegg puppet today, I decided to do one for him too.

The slightly odd 'letterbox' format is because Twitter shows attached images in a preview in exactly those proportions, so if the image is more square, it cuts the top and bottom off and you have to click 'expand' to see the whole image. So as to maximise the impact of these 'posters' on Twitter, I formatted them so that the whole image appears in the preview.

Sunday, 14 September 2014


Here's what the rubber heads look like after being removed from the mould (this one has been tidied up a bit, having had the 'flashing', the excess latex around the casting that seeped in between the mould halves, trimmed). This example is a puppet head of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The liquid latex was tinted beforehand, as the natural colour is a slightly translucent pale cream which makes seeing (and correcting) surface blemishes very difficult. By tinting the latex so it's darker and more opaque, tidying up the surface is made far easier.

As you can see, it is merely a rubber 'skin', albeit fairly thick, such that it can just about stand up without any internal support. Later, it will be turned upside down and soft foam will be poured in roughly half-filling the head, as described elsewhere on this blog, leaving the mouth downwards empty but enabling the upper half to keep its shape.

One Ed is better than, er, I'll get back to you...

In all his glory...

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Bring me the head of...

...Well, maybe you should have a guess? Recently I showed the photos below to a friend of a friend who knew nothing of my work and she immediately identified the gruesome twosome...

The clay chap, which above was some way off completion, is now embedded in several kilograms of plaster. Annoyingly, I have only just this moment realised that I took no photos of the completed sculpture before committing it to the tender embrace of that versatile gypsum-based product. What a dick...

Incidentally, I still haven't yet poured the latex for Nick Clegg's head. Even after going through all that effort to sculpt it and make the mould, he inspires absolutely nothing in me other than apathy...

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Nigel Farage Eyes & Nick Clegg...

You've got Nigel Farage eyes! As nobody ever sang... That's a feeble way to segue into the fact that I upgraded Nigel's eyes recently in time for Ukip's Alternative World Cup 2014:

Also, Nick Clegg is in the works! Woohoo! As nobody ever said... Anyway, here's the master sculpture prior to the mould being made. That having already been done as well, all that remains is to pour latex, so watch this space...

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Virtual Props

Whilst Jon shoulders the burden of post-production duties and I deal with making puppets and performing them, I have also provided some doctored images used as background plates for greenscreen shots and what I suppose could be termed 'virtual props', that is to say, for example, the various products stocked by Ukip Poundland. The first few appeared in all their glory but, sadly, to improve the tempo of the sketch, the later items moved across the screen and so couldn't be seen at all clearly. As there were a couple of gags I quite liked, I shall indulge myself by displaying them here...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Behind the Balls!

As mentioned earlier, Jon's blog has ace coverage of the filming of our first video, so rather than repeat it here, I thought I'd first of all chuck in a few photos of the sculpting process and some behind-the-scenes images that amused me, and then explain a bit about the construction process afterwards, so as not to bore the casual browser...

Right, that's the pretty pictures done with, now for the boring bit which you can conveniently skip if you like...

As ever, the puppet starts off as a clay sculpture, using bog-standard (and cheap) water-based clay. From this, a plaster mould is then made, much the same as with the Nick Griffin head. However, when it came to casting, rather than a thin latex skin filled with soft polyurethane foam, I tried a different approach. With Nick, I found that filling the head completely with (even soft) foam made it stiff and difficult to manipulate, so for Nigel I made a thick rubber skin, formed by leaving the latex in the mould for six hours to build up a skin around an eighth of an inch thick, with the intention of leaving the moving parts (the mouth) empty and retaining their shape solely by virtue of the thickness of the rubber skin.

As such, I just filled the inside of the top of the head with foam, leaving the mouth downwards empty. Inside the upper and lower jaws I glued 'mouth plates', rigid plates made from 3mm thick styrene sheet with elastic fabric straps attached into which the puppeteer slips their fingers (upper jaw) and thumb (lower jaw). A few chunks of furniture foam were cut to shape and inserted to provide more support for the puppeteer's hand and voila! A puppet head was born!

The body was cobbled together from plumbers' plastic pipe, furniture foam and a pillow(!), with a couple of ropes looped out of the neck. These were then placed over the puppeteer's hand (between thumb and fingers) so that the puppet torso hung from the head at the right level. This proved knackering, and a great strain on the puppeteer (me), because the one hand and arm have to support (and manipulate) not only the head but the body too, so a better arrangement will be made for future use. Some sort of harness to be worn about the puppeteer's body will be needed to support the puppet torso's lower edge, thus taking most of the weight, whilst the ropes at the neck will be replaced with some kind of fabric webbing.

And that's about it for now.

Rubber Balls!

Bloody hell, yet again a massive gap since the last post! And nobody gave a shit! Well fuck you, I'm going to post again anyway...

Being a massive (aka fat) fan of Spitting Image, I wondered if it was possible to create something in that spirit for our jaded online age, and to that end I decided to see if I could round up some like-minded people, as I lack many of the skills required to attempt such a project, and I need someone to kick me up the arse now and then when my energy/interest flags.

So thanks to the Twitter, I hooked up with mega-talented short film maker* extraordinaire Jon Rist, aka Jonofthesouth, and hot-shot up-&-coming improv comedy wizard Nick Brown.

But being aware of logistical limitations, in particular the length of time it takes to make a puppet, what to do? Without spending many months first making puppets, there was no way we could even hope to mount some kind of ensemble production like Spitting Image, or even the much cheaper (and admirable) Aussie puppet show, Rubbery Figures (well worth checking out on YouTube, BTW).

So what single figure could we take the piss out of? Aha, we thought, 22 May is Euro Election time! And who is flavour of the month and never off the bloody telly? Nigel Farage... That might give us time to make perhaps two puppets (if we were lucky), or (as it transpired) one.

So, allied with my old Nick Griffin puppet (to provide a foil for Nige), we decided to take the plunge, writing a script which incorporated the most feasibly filmable material we'd dreamt up.

But what to call this venture? Well, the puppets are rubber, and it's mostly going to be a load of old balls, so how about... Rubber Balls? Ace!

And this is the final result, Rubber Balls Presents Nigel Farage TV:

So how was it made? I don't hear you ask... Well you'll have to wait for another post to find that out. Or just look here.

*As in he's normal height, his films are short, rather than he's a short-arsed maker of films (regardless of length). Got that? Good.