chinese skin puppet query


Mar 2, 2006
Clarion Pennsylvania
Customre brought in 3 old chinese skin puppets. These ae jointed marionette type figures with articulated arms and legs, made of translucent mule skin (not unlike a thinck, heavy vellum). The figures are supported and moved by long bamboo sticks. She would like them to be framed in a small stage setting so that they can be manipulated from outside the box. I have most of the engineering figured out, but one problem remains. how can I support the individual sections of the figures so they remain flat (they curl in response to humidity changes and gravity), and flexible. I figure I will have to back each section of the puppets by sewing them to some kind of transparent support material. Does anyone out there have suggestions on how to proceed with this plan or another?
You might remind your client that such puppets
are often used to create shadows and stitching them to stretched muslin could recall that fact.
They are probably made of raw hide and since they
will only be lighted from one side, they are
likely to dry out on that side and curl. The
more the hide is restrained with stitching, the
less it will curl. Leaving the puppets' limbs free for manipulation will allow them to change

You're right Hugh, they are rawhide. They are made from Musk Ox and horse hide.

I've taken as few stitches as I could get away with in the body of the costume and never restrain the limbs, unless you have to for possition purposes(ie: arms akimbo or legs walking.)

Inwhich case you might want to only run a "loose" stitch through the "joint" that allows movement.
We've seen the legs swell and shrink as much as 1/2".

I like your idea of the stretched Muslin Hugh... very classy.

The Muslin if stretched over stretcher bars will also be somewhat forgiving with the movement.

If you are worried about weight on the Muslin, stretch fiberglass screen-door screen first, then the Muslin. Take your stitches for the body all the way through the two layers, but try to keep the "joint" stitches through only the Muslin.

And by all means: POST PICTURES!!