Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Elephant No. 115: Sock Puppet

A couple of days ago, I decided to tackle my basket of odd socks. I always think the mates will show up, but there are a few socks that have been in the basket so long that it's time to give up on them. Hence today's elephant.

In their purest form, sock puppets are indeed made from socks. The sock is decorated and embellished, then worn on the puppeteer's hand and forearm like a glove. The puppet's mouth is formed from the sock's heel and toe, with the puppeteer's thumb manipulating the jaw. Sometimes the mouth is cut and re-stitched, and may be padded and/or have a tongue glued inside. Occasionally, legs, arms and clothing may be added.

There is little information on the history of sock puppetry, although sock puppets are probably as old as socks themselves. The largest sock puppet may have been a puppet made in 1873 by  famous English sock puppeteer John Carpenter. Measuring 47.5 cm (18.7 inches) in length, the puppet required both of the puppeteer's arms to be effectively manipulated. The mammoth sock from which the puppet was made was half of a pair of "Musty Socks" made in Musty, Scotland, a small village south of Glasgow famed for its production of long, warm socks.

Sometimes a sock puppet is manipulated from behind a stand; more often, the puppeteer stands in full view of the audience, holding conversations with the puppet using ventriloquism. One of the most famous practitioners of this form of puppetry was Shari Lewis, whose sock puppet Lamb Chop was a beloved character for two generations of children.

Shari Lewis with Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse on her 1960 show.

Sock puppets are not limited to children's entertainment, however. During the 1990s, Ed the Sock was an abrasive sock-puppet character on the MuchMusic video network in Canada, and used a dog "spokespuppet" in its advertising. Perhaps one of the most unusual sock puppets is the puppet Mr. Socko, used by professional wrestler Mick Foley. Mr. Socko is usually drawn out of some part of Foley's clothing, just in time for a manoeuvre he calls the "Mandible Claw" or "Socko Claw".

Sock puppet by Wendy Pearsall. See this link for her charming
tutorial on making a giraffe sock puppet.

For today's elephant, I started with two mismatched cotton socks belonging to my husband. I figured I'd need two: one for the body and trunk, and one to cut up for ears.

To make a sock puppet, it's not a bad idea to put the sock on your hand first to inspire you. Your thumb goes in the heel, and your four fingers go in the toe. Because my hands are relatively small, and this is a man's sock, the sock looks a bit like Mr. Snuffleupagus of Sesame Street fame. 

Rather than add on a trunk, I simply gathered the extra material in the toe with some loose stitching. I wanted it to look a bit eccentric, so the gathers aren't particularly even, but I liked the lumpy, sculptural quality I ended up with.

Next, I wanted to add some ears, so I cut up the other sock. I made the ears single-layer, with a simple rolled hem around three sides.

To place the ears, I put the puppet back on my hand, and pinned the ears where I wanted them, then stitched them in place, gathering slightly to give them a bit of lift. I also tacked the corners of each ear to the main body of the sock, so that they didn't look too flyaway.

To shape the mouth a bit so that it wasn't quite so floppy, I put the puppet back on my hand and sewed about four stitches through the roof of the mouth into the top of the head. This divided my fingers into two sections, but shaped the mouth nicely.

To finish the stitching, I sewed on two faceted plastic button eyes, but you could use any kind of button.

I had decided against adding tusks, so the final touch was painting a bit of pink inside the mouth. I used acrylic paint and painted it with fairly soft edges.

I really like this little guy. It was very easy, and took less than an hour. He's also pretty cute in real life—even more so when animated with a a little paw inside.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Although elephants never wear socks, they do occasionally wear prostheses.

Many elephants migrate across current and former conflict zones that are peppered with landmines. As a result, many elephants have been killed or grievously injured. In Thailand, however, several elephants have been fitted with prostheses to replace their lost limbs. Two of these—Mosha and Motala—are elephant survivors of landmines. Living permanently at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) Elephant Hospital, both Mosha and Motala have been fitted with multiple prostheses over the years.

Elephant prostheses, FAE Elephant Hospital, Thailand.
Photo: Soraida Salwala

Mosha stepped on a landmine in 2006, when she was only seven months old. In 2008, she received the world's first elephant prosthetic, designed by Dr. Jivacite of the Prostheses Foundation, which normally provides prosthetics for humans. The following year, Motala received her first prosthesis—a decade after she stepped on a landmine. Just like humans, elephant prosthetics must be refitted from time to time, particularly as an elephant grows. In November 2011, Mosha received her seventh prosthesis, and Motala received her fourth.

All of the prostheses at the FAE Elephant Hospital were designed by Dr. Jivacite, and were donated by the Prostheses Foundation in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

Motala wearing her new prosthesis.
Photo: Soraida Salwala

Elephants in other countries have also been fitted with prostheses, including Chhouk, who was injured by a poacher's snare in Cambodia. You can see Chhouk walking with his prosthesis here.

Interestingly, elephants moving into southern Angola seem to have developed the ability to avoid the landmines that still litter the region. Biologist Michael Chase of Elephants Without Borders first noticed this ability from satellite-collar tracking images. When the war in Angola ended in 2002, elephants began migrating back into the country. Unfortunately, during the initial migration, many elephants were killed or horrifically injured by landmines. 

Since that initial migration, however, Chase has discovered that later arrivals are avoiding mined areas. Although no one can be sure, it appears to Chase that elephants have "learned" to avoid landmines. In the three years that Chase and his team have been studying the region's elephants, there has been no evidence of elephants being either blown up or injured by exploding landmines.

While the elephants appear to know how to avoid mined areas, it isn't clear whether this is due to a learned response, or to an ability to detect the mines by smell or some other means. Since elephants move with their trunks along the ground, they may pick up the scent of mines as they walk. However, elephants are also intelligent animals that travel in herds, and may have learned to avoid areas where they have seen other elephants killed.

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society
Bring the Elephant Home
African Wildlife Foundation 
Elephants Without Borders

No comments:

Post a Comment