I’ve been playing around with this articulated cat doll puppet for a while now, and I started to connect the cats with linking elements into garlands. Connected with hearts, these dancing cats can make a fun Valentine’s Day garland when a number of them are strung together with your choice of messages.
While I really appreciate both historical and contemporary articulated toys, there’s something very appealing to me about the simplest rendering of this concept, especially when it’s a CAT. I like the lack of detail, which invites me (and perhaps, you, as well) to experiment, to make variations, to try different things. This project is well-suited to crafting with kids. Younger children enjoy designing outfits for the cats, while older kids can cut and assemble the figures themselves.
To get things started, you can download the free pattern. Here are a couple of variations I made recently, playing around with different styles. The first one uses pages copied from a vintage French textbook. I added a lacy doily skirt.
More about articulated figures
Of course, this is a contemporary expression of toy with a long history.
Castle in the Air offers 11×17 giclee reprints of historical pantins for sale, along with many other wonderful vintage paper models, games, toys, and scenes originally published over 100 years ago by the Pellerin company of France.
There are a couple of vintage St. Nicholas pantins for free download from Wikimedia via Creative Commons license. These would be fun to dress up with Dresden, tinsel bullion and glitter for the winter holidays.
Print outs from downloads should be printed on card stock or glued onto a heavyweight paper. You’ll want to balance ease of cutting with the stability of your base stock. I used Mod Podge on chipboard for my black-and-white kitty, which worked out fine, and the patchwork kitty was cut from postcard weight stock.
Thinking about articulated dolls always brings to mind silhouettes and shadow theaters, which inevitably leads to Lotte Reiniger, the brilliant early pioneer of animation. I remember first learning about her many years ago when I saw photos of her shadow puppet theaters in a book. I dreamed of actually being able to see one of her films, but at the time even art cinemas screened them very rarely. It’s one of the miracles of the internet that YouTube lets us watch her masterpieces (mistresspieces?) at will. Thanks to the web, these treasures have not been lost. If you’re new to her vision, her Papageno film, set to Mozart, is a good place to start.
If you’re already familiar with her work, you might enjoy this documentary showing how she developed her film ideas. Of course, once you’re on YouTube, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole and watch all her amazing work.
Let me know if you make a project based on the cat pattern or any of these ideas. I’d love to see your work!