Making Patches the puppet

Patches is a commission marionette based on a clown drawing I did some time back. I was a given a name and a style, and asked to create a dancing clown doll with a vintage feel and lots of personality. I decided to make a child Patches. I tried to imagine what the clown from my drawing looked like when he was a little boy. I thought it humorous that he was born with clown face paint.

Patches is constructed from wood, plastic, copper wire, various fabrics and a bunch of different glues and adhesives, oh yes, and strings of course. His face and hands are the only plastic parts, the rest is hand-carved wood. The face is grafted onto a head that fit his size and personality. It is of course hand painted to match the character.

The first thing I made was the face. Naturally, I needed him to have a personality above all.


The next step was to gather the limbs. Thankfully I live surrounded by an acacia forest, so there is no shortage of wood. I carved, sanded, and polished the perfect size limbs.


Setting of the joints is the single most important part in building a puppet. It is crucial to set joints securely, and allowing for free and smooth movement. For the head, I did not want complete rotation. I wanted front to back movement only. For that reason I set two hoops in the neck.


As I connected more joints, I had to wait for glues to set. I used that time to carve and polish more limbs.


The really fun part began with the assembly of the body. Watching my puppet come to life as he gained more limbs was truly fascinating.


I soon discovered that puppets are dramatic. Patches did not share my enthusiasm for limb attachment, and spent most of his time laying around and rolling his eyes.


He did however perk up when I began introducing clothes. These are his undergarments.


He got especially excited about socks.


But… he is a child after all, and dramatic displays of boredom soon recommenced.


Pants! Ooh, I got his attention once more.


Nope, never mind. Waiting for wood glue to set on shoes bore him nearly to death. Even his adorable oversized hat didn’t seem to cheer him up.


Total boredom.


This could be kind of exciting. After days in the workshop, we are in a new room. What’s this all about? Did you say … strings?


Yay! Strings!




At last Patches is complete and content.


I even got some smiles.


Now it was time for his first walk alongside his creator.


That was a success.


The controls on Patches are a single, easy-to-maneuver handle. Ideally it requires two hands to operate complex moments. While one hand holds and directs the puppet, the other can pull on individual strings for finer movements of the doll’s arms and hands. The corners that maneuver the knee strings are extended. That way a knee string can be wrapped around the tip for a leg to remain lifted, while other maneuvers are being performed. There are two back strings and a head string. In a natural configuration, Patches holds his head up high. For him to bow his head, the back strings need to be held, allowing for the head to gently fall forward.


So ends the story of a girl and her clown. Well, not hers anymore I suppose. Now it is time for Patches to be wrapped in purple papers and bubble wrap and be sent to his forever home.


I hope you enjoyed this story. To view more of my creations, please visit and follow Nights And Mares Toys on Facebook. If you have an idea for a doll or a puppet, I am happy to take on new commissions. Please send me a private message here.