Monday, 10 August 2015

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: A PAPER WORLD

Through the Looking Glass shadow puppets
Alice and White Knight on horse
Lion and Unicorn shadow show
Theatre Box made using card and maps with tracing paper screen
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Alice in a train carriage with a man dressed in white paper

We've just carried out a paper workshop for the Eden project Big Lunch Extras that involved demonstrating to participants how paper can be transformed into a magical theatre shadow show. Since the workshop was only a short session, we designed a series of paper shadow puppets, based upon the original illustrations from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, that participants could cut out and provided boxes with tracing paper for the screen that could be customised to make a theatre.

In revisiting the illustrations from the book, it was fascinating to see origami being worn by some of the characters within the scenes from the book. A book about Pollocks toy theatres explains that the Carpenter character is wearing a paper origami hat specific to his craft:

The carpenter's hat [is]a form of paper hat whose construction is still explained in origami manuals, and whose most famous depiction is in Tenniel's illustration of "The Walrus and the Carpenter", in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass (1872). During the nineteenth century, the hat was worn by stage-hands, known in those days as "stage carpenters", and by a variety of (usually indoors) craftsmen, including printers. Its practical purpose seems to have been to keep bits of paint, ink or glue out of the hair, but it was also something of a badge of office, and West wore his when he sat for his portrait.

Reading about Victorian street performers, paper and origami demonstrations were used as a form of entertainment and amusement:

As with the singers, many performers were street entertainers because they had no other way of earning a living [...] Sala remembered a man who stood outside St Martin's-le-Grand with a piece of paper, shaping and reshaping it, calling out, 'It forms...now it forms a jockey-cap, now a church-door, a fan, a mat, the paddle-boxes of a steamer', hoping for a few coins. 

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