The Art Of Making Myanmar Marionette

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The Art of Making Myanmar Traditional and Professional Marionettes …

The Art of Making Myanmar Traditional and Professional Marionettes
by Kyaw Myo Ko,
Director of Mandalay Marionettes
Myanmar (Burma)

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  • Very useful information for making the Myanmar marionette. This is one of the oldest surviving traditional forms of marionette making. It is remarkable for its dance movements which would also serve well for dramatic movements in a play. This puppet is particular interesting to western puppeteers because its horizontally oriented movement compliments the verticality of western string marionettes.
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  • Size of Myanmar Traditional Marionettes   Despite the different size, the majority followed the ‘norm’ of royal puppets used in the royal palace. On the ‘Puppet Stage for the King (or) Royal Highness’, (approx.) 28-inches height puppets had been used. On the other hand 24-inches height puppets were used for Princely stages and Commoners’ Stages. Although bigger than 28-inches dolls had been used, string-play was difficult because of their heavy weight. Thus those faded out.   As the traditional measurement of ‘ta-daung’ ‘ta-htwa’ and ‘ta-mite’ slightly differed with modern measurement of ‘inches’, we will use ‘about’ or ‘nearly’ in referring measurement.  
  • Choice of Wood to carve the Puppet.   Although various wood were used in making puppet-dolls, "Yamane Wood" the favorite choice of carvers, painters and puppet players.   "Yamane Wood" was soft and smooth, easy-to-handle, light and durable. Then users chose it as it had fewer flaws and less knots.   When Yamane Wood became rare, later teak was substituted for. Despite its lightness and easy-to-handle nature, its flaws and knots disturbed the painters. But modern water-paint used as putty could solve the problem. Water-paint could easily cover teak-flaws as well as made teak as smooth as Yamane doll face.
  • The Art of Carving (1) Typical Ratios of 28” and 24” Height Puppets Head of the 28-inches sized puppet had the length of 3½ inches from the edge of forehead to the edge of the chin. For a 28-inches sized puppet the circumference (girth) above the ear round the forehead is about (9½ inches) to 10½ inches. On the other hand 24-inches sized puppet had about 3-inches for that part. For 24 inches sized puppet it is about 8½ inches to 9½ inches approximately.   Sometimes due to the error of the carvers sizes varied slightly. Whatever it may be edge of the forehead to edge of the chin has the basic measurement of 3-inches to 3½ - inches on which body-ratio is calculated. Even though the head of the puppet is more than 3-inches or more than 3½ -inches the ratio would not be based on the stretched length. It must be based on original 3-inches and 3½ -inches.   The length of palm and sole of the puppet would be the same with the length from the edge of forehead to the chin. Thickness would be ½- inch.   By having 7½ times of the length from the edge of forehead to the edge of the chin and the doll was fixed. See figure (1). It is to be aware that as those were joined with the strings extension and shrinking had to be counted like 24-inches puppet became 25-inches and 28-inches puppet became stretched up to over 28-inches   In the traditional way of carving the puppet pieces in Myanmar, there are two kinds of carvers, head - carver and body-carver. The head-carver is responsible to produce head in addition to proportionate size of head-link, foot with toes and palm with fingers. On the other hand, the body-carver had to carve upper part of the body and lower hip in addition to 2-arms, 2-elbows, 2-thigh-root, 2 middle thighs and 2 calf of the leg. The measurement of the above pieces can be seen in the illustration. Some parts are shortened and some parts are lengthened in accordance with the likeness of the puppet-players.  
  • The Art of Carving (2) To appropriate with the nature of Myanmar Traditional dance, the important facts are in carving (1) The important facts are in carving: the head neck of the puppet never went down straightly. Instead the neck curved to one side. Shape of head , however, is based on egg-shape. Because of the curving position of the neck, Myanmar-puppet has head-action. (Illustration-4)   To fix the head and upper torso, rear of the head-link is about ¼ -inch and it upper surface is the same width as that of neck. But front and underneath of the head-link is slightly slope like that of breast-slope.
  • The Art of Carving (3) To appropriate with the nature of Myanmar Traditional dance, the important facts are in carving (2) To appropriate with the nature and dance steps of Myanmar Tradition; The important facts in carving the body are, as showed in Illustration, roundness of the shoulders and roundness of the arms would be the same.   As in the illustration edge of the shoulders might exceed that of arm . Then only joint of arm and shoulder is convenient.   Upper part of the arm joined to the shoulder is round and edge of the elbow might be flat and smooth .   Similarly edge of the arm joining to the elbow might be flat and smooth .   On the other hand, joint of palm and wrist might be round .. Then the middle thigh, having 1-inch thickness, would be flat . (See the figure.) Lower edge of the knee-joint would also be smooth .  
  • The Art of painting the puppet forbid reflection at night-performance Most of ancient Puppeteers used to paint the head, hand and leg of the doll themselves. Myanmar calls painting as paint-laying . Before painting, the doll was made smooth by sandpaper.   Next, like the process of the painting the doll as usual, the puppet was painted with water paint thickly and it was dried under the sun. When dried it was again rubbed with soft sandpaper. It was a kind of puttying the face of the doll. Then according to the character of the puppet it was painted red, white or make-up as the player wished.   Notability, previously it was painted with mixture of tamarind-paste and talcum powder. For red color vermilion was used. For black color soot was used. As that method of coloring took long time and now it was no more used.   Modern paints are widely used as those are long lasting, easy-to-paint and firm. But what we only available the modern paint in Myanmar is so reflective. So tin of paint has to be kept in stable position. Then varnish-oil has to be fetched out. After that paint is to be mixed with right ratio of chalk-powder . At that stage, face of puppet can be safely painted with it. No more reflection. By applying that method for other colors and those were used in painting eyes, mouths and noses. Advantage of using that paints are; no reflection, firm and any stain on it can be erased by rubbing with a wet cloth. Damaged surface also can be easily repainted.   The most important need to paint a puppet was to forbid reflection in the night-performance. As you may noticed, light in the night usually called for reflection.
  • Joining the Pieces of the Puppet (1) Myanmar method of joining string for the pieces of puppet In this slide, I am going to present particular Myanmar method of joining string for the pieces of puppet. In Myanmar it is called "Asi string”. "Asi String" means Guy string (or) durable string or joining string. As mentioned in Figure "Asi String" can be obtained first bring the necessary sized string, second, twist and thirdly fold it once before knotting the twisted string. Thus one "Asi String" was obtained.   When the two parts of the doll are going to be joined by "Asi String", insert the "Asi String" through the holes of two parts untwist the twisted Asi String a ring emerges by inserting the knot at one end of the Asi String through that ring two pieces of the doll have been joined to loosen that joint, extend the aforesaid ring and pick out the knot. Thus the two parts are separated.   Strings joining to body and other parts are connected to Asi String System. The advantages of the Asi String System are: easy to fix and unfix, ready to loosen and tighten accurately…… strings connected on pieces of the body and other parts would be called…" Joining Strings ". Also strings on head, neck, arm, knees and fingers also are connected by "Asi String System". Thus in time of string-breaking and string-confusion the Asi String System can easily solve… Also strings connecting to doll and handle-jack are also connected to Asi String…..  
  • Joining the Pieces of the Puppet (2) Parts of Myanmar Marionettes and String System In this slide, as mentioned in Figure, we would focus on common and normal 18 pieces puppet. Pieces or parts are from head to foot including the neck. Those (18) parts are connected with the Asi String System. In connecting those (18) parts with Asi String the string might be 1 or 2 inches more than it is necessary. After measuring the necessary strings, extra one will be cut off.   Previously shoulder-joints as showed in Figure, mortise-joint "Bazun Myetsae" has been used. Shoulder and arms are connected with string. Later 4- string system, 2-string system and 1-string system has been used as showed Figure B and Figure C.   Thus as showed in Figure 12 parts have been fixed (or) connected with Asi String System In fixing sinuously moving puppets of prince and princesses elbow-joint is 1 ½ or 2 inches apart for 24-inches height puppet and 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches apart for 28-inches puppet. Waist-gap of prince and princess are 1 ½ inches for 24-inches puppet and 2-inches for 28-inches puppet   For swiftly moving Zawgi, Ogre and royal page waist-gap is shorter than that of prince and princess. Also elbow joint is shorter.  
  • Joining the Pieces of the Puppet (3) How to connect with string for exact length When joining shoulders, arms and elbows, the elbow joint is measured before connecting the string. How to connect with string for exact length is showed in Figure.   If you want 1 ½ -inches for elbow-joint 1 ½ -inches sized wood-piece might be inserted between the Asi String and pulled off the knot of the Asi String and make a mark there. By pulling off the wood-piece 1 ½ gap is obtained. In this way 2-hands have the same length…….By using this method, strings of thigh-roots, knees and middle-things get the same length.   As in a typical ratio to let you get an idea, from the middle of the back of 24-inches puppet to its wrist is 12 inches. So doubling that length is the height of the puppet.  
  • Joining the Pieces of the Puppet (4) connecting thigh-root and hip As in Figure have shown; make a hole outside of thigh-root insert the string through it and jammed with the string-knot. insert the string out of thigh-root through the hole of the hip string coming out of two hip-holes are tied and thus two thigh-roots are being connected   Then "method of fixing the head" can be seen also in Figure Strings coming out of the neck can be seen.. Neck-string came out of the body and emerged at the neck. Again the string passed through Head-link (or) neck-ring which suited the body. Those 2-strings are tied to the 2-strings which came out of the 2-holes of the neck through the neck-hollow. By knotting them the head was already fixed. But fixing followed after wearing the costume.
  • Enclosed with Cotton as necessary and rounded with Cloth Joining strings between the two parts are enclosed with cotton as necessary and rounded with cloth. Ends of the elbows are flat. To fold the elbows those are to be rounded with woolen cloth in flat shape . As for shoulders cotton-ball is based and above, it would be rounded by cloth . As for knees shape of cotton is inserted and cloth is rounded for making knee-shape . As for thigh-root and middle thigh, cotton ball is inserted before rounding with cloth .   The following those cloth rounding are important, to appropriate with Myanmar Traditional dance and its nature .   that arm should be fixed, so as to be able to move up and down in addition to left and right sides. Upper part of the cloth-bounded elbow would be well folded although lower portion -need not be folded. The joint of thigh-root and middle thigh would be soft… no need to be folded Upper part of the cloth-bounded knee would be folded….lower part need not be folded   Apart from the aforesaid methods mortise joint, driving wedge can be used.
  • Installing Joining ( Asi ) Strings on the puppet To fix the Joining Asi strings on the palms respective, half-inch above the elbow-joint of arms and half-inch above the knee-joint in the edge of middle-thigh, holes are to be drilled…… Then Joining Asi String would be inserted through those holes to be connected with performing strings Then on, other string is to be inserted 1/3 of the above portion of the hip. It is important that the flat at the edge of the arms would face the front, not to face vertically.    
  • Dressing the Doll to a Puppet   Before dressing: take care of male and female features take care of hip and breast shrinking parts due to false carving would be filled to be normal. In filling up hip and breast would be stuck with sack or linen cloth… nowadays easily available foams are used. Only then hip, breast and waist would become elegant… To be fitted the doll and dress, when dressing, it is to take care that arms, elbow-joints, waist, knee, thigh-root and middle thigh would be movable.
  • Basic Strings (or) Jack and Puppet-strings   First, Jack for the puppet should be explained. The most common Myanmar puppet-jack resembles English "H".. Generally, the Jack might have 5-holes. 2- for respective temple, 2 for edge of the shoulder blade and 1 for Hip.   As I have presented in previous slide, Joining Asi Strings are based for the strings of 2- temples, 2 - around shoulder and shoulder blade and 1- hip. Similarly 5-holes on the Jack are to be based with Joining Asi String. Then by joining the aforesaid 5-strings with Joining (Asi) Strings, joining with the puppet, namely, basic strings, what we also called main strings are obtained.
  • Installing Three Basic Strings of the Doll   There are only three basic strings for performance. When the 3-strings are lifted, it can be seen as 6-strings. Those are:   string from one arm to the another string from left palm to the right palm string from the left knee to the right knee… totally 3-strings   After fixing the 3-strings left, the three strings with right hand while the left hand holds the Jack, palm and fingers of the puppet come up to 45*. Then the 3-strings in the right hand would be fixed at the same level. 3-strings in the right hand and height of the Jack would be about11 or 12 inches. Generally height of the handrail is approximately 3-feet and 2 or 3 inches. When the doll stands upright before the handrail, the Jack is 9-inches above the handrail.   Apart from the pulling strings and doll-strings some extra strings are installed for special movement. For instance, heel-string, toe-string, twisted chest-string, tongue-thug and mouth moving string….
  • Thanks you for your …………..

Transcript

  • 1. Presented by Kyaw Myo Ko Mandalay Marionettes Theater Myanmar
  • 2. Size of Myanmar Traditional Marionettes www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 3. Choice of Wood to carve the Puppet.   www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 4. The Art of Carving (1) Typical Ratios of 28” and 24” Height Puppets www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 5. The Art of Carving (2) To appropriate the nature of Myanmar Traditional dance, the important facts are in carving (1) www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 6. The Art of Carving (3) To appropriate the nature of Myanmar Traditional dance, the important facts are in carving (2) www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 7. The Art of painting the puppet Forbid reflection at night-performance www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 8. Joining the Pieces of the Puppet (1)  
    • Myanmar method of joining string for the pieces of puppet
    www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 9. Joining the Pieces of the Puppet (2) Parts of Myanmar Marionettes and String System www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 10. Joining the Pieces of the Puppet (3)
    • How to connect with string for exact length
    • connecting thigh-root and hip
    www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 11. Joining the Pieces of the Puppet (4)
    • “ connecting thigh-root and hip”
    • “ method of fixing the head”
    www.mandalaymarionettes.com
  • 12. www.mandalaymarionettes.com Enclosed with Cotton as necessary and rounded with Cloth
  • 13. www.mandalaymarionettes.com Installing Joining ( Asi ) Strings on the puppet
  • 14. www.mandalaymarionettes.com Dressing the Doll to be a Puppet
  • 15. www.mandalaymarionettes.com Basic Strings (or) Jack and Puppet-strings
  • 16. www.mandalaymarionettes.com Installing Three Basic Strings of the puppet
  • 17. Thank you for your attention: www.mandalaymarionettes.com