Studios and Monsters – Stories and Art at V22 Louise House

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My studio is my nest, my hut, my secret woodland clearing; it’s my place for dreaming, playing, rearranging objects, for making stories, pictures, things: nests, huts, secrets…


What happens in a room of your own? What do you do there, what do you make inside it?

Imagination in miniature is natural imagination… one could say, in the manner of Schopenhauer: ‘The world is  my imagination’. The cleverer I am at miniaturizing the world, the better I possess it.

Gaston Bachelard, ‘The Poetics of Space’




From empty boxes, card, pens, tissue paper whole worlds emerged, with drapes and pull-out panels to screen an occupant:

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A shrine, a place for reflection:




… by lovingly crafted characters:

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One must go beyond logic in order to experience what is large in what is small

Gaston Bachelard, ‘The Poetics of Space’

Stacked, these fantastical rooms created a house of many lives, of reverie and work and creativity…

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…where a monster girl (made by my fabulous assistant, my daughter aged 8!) lurked,


disrupting the peace.

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But the story ended happily: the lonely wooden girl found a friend; the monster was found by her mother…


…and order was restored to the house of fantastical rooms where people could dream and play and make stories again!




Ena & Tib Puppet Shows in Grow Mayow Community Garden this Summer!


Ena and Tib, the two little children who live in the woods in their little wooden house,  have been updated for our puppet plays this summer, made up as proper table top puppets with weighted bases so they do not fall over (as much)!

Here are some photos of how I put them together if you fancy making characters for your own productions:


The bodies were filled at the base with dried lentils and topped up with natural wool stuffing. The head is a ball of wool stuffing with stretch fabric held tightly together with a rubber band then sewn into place. The hair and eyes and mouth were stitched in wool.story hug ena and tibs

Making up stories becomes so much easier when you make your own characters, choosing colours, shapes of hat, decorations, clothes, all lead you further into the possibilities of the doll you are shaping – every scrap, every toy left lying around the house can lead to a new idea forming…

The newly stable Ena and Tib will be appearing at the lovely Grow Mayow Community Garden Project in two new stories I have been thinking of for some time! We will make props together for the puppet show, which you can then carry on playing with at home! Hope to see you there!





Art and Craft and Making Stories – StoryHug Workshops

beautiful petal bird

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein

Making things in StoryHug workshops is all about story – an art with intent, purpose. We make props for our puppet shows:





… and create characters from the wonders of our imagination…



…to present themselves in the stories we make and tell.

“Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

Art is a way into other worlds, into the minds of other people, and when making our characters speak we find our own voice, our own story and show ourselves. It is terrifying and freeing. But children are not afraid; in acts of the imagination children are trusting and fearless.


Whenever I show my story prompt dolls and animals and ask: “whom shall we have as the main character?” there is always the shout, sometimes several: ME! How gladly they declare it!

We are all at the heart of our stories. Art offers us a way in to that place of playfulness and safety where true good stories begin.


“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They  can make the heart bigger.” Ben Okri



Fairy Babies


Last week we made fairy babies!

The babies were made from salt dough (see this post for recipe) and dried fully – in the oven for an hour then left for a couple of days on a radiator.

The children (with a little help from the adults!) drew in faces and coloured in clothes with felt-tips.


The cradles were made from egg-boxes covered in tissue paper and lots of glue-stick which dries very hard.

A coloured cotton wool ball was added for each baby to snuggle into!


It was very sweet to see the great care and tenderness with which the babies were handled and carried around the woods.


Later all the babies made an appearance on the puppet stage for a grand fairy party!


“…imagination in miniature is natural imagination which appears at all ages in the daydreams of born dreamers… the cleverer I am at miniaturizing the world, the better I possess it.”

Gaston Bachelard in ‘The Poetics of Space’

Making Beads




In our StoryHug Woodland Workshop we made salt-dough beads.




Later, in our interactive puppet play, very similar beads were found by an old elf in the woods. With the help of Hedgehog, Squirrel, Little Owl, the Two Tiny Children who live in the woods and all the lovely Story Hug children, the beads were strung into a necklace for a princess!


If you would like to make your own here is the recipe:

For Salt-dough:

2 cups plain flour

1 cup salt

upto 1 cup water


1. Mix flour and salt.

2. Add water gradually.

3. Add food colouring or poster paint to the dough, if you would like it coloured.

4. Bake the beads at 75-100C for 30mins-1hour and leave to finish drying on a radiator. Or simply leave to dry without baking.




Old Man Elf Finds A Thing In The Woods – An Interactive Puppet Show

First we made Woodland Creatures… IMG_2676




…then we had a story: ‘In Dacres Wood there lived two tiny children: Ena and Tibs…


…They lived in a little wooden house under the trees. At first, the house had nothing inside:


“Waaa! Where will we sit to eat?” cried Ena.

“Where will we sleep? Waaaa!” cried Tib.

But Old Man Elf had left them a bag full of furniture.’


The bag went around our little circle and one by one, a chair, a table, a bunk bed were brought out and carefully put in place by the children: a bedroom upstairs, a kitchen-diner downstairs – such sureness in these little homemakers, such care as they made a cosy little home for Ena and Tibbs to eat a supper of sausages, eggs and baked beans

I had wondered if involving the audience in arranging props might not be a distraction, instead it seemed to pull them in closer into the reality of the tale. The magic of a dolls house, however simple! The real and the imagined blur so seamlessly.

Soon there was a party attended by the Woodland Creatures:




And the story went on, until a little Gnome baby had been reunited with his lost cradle and finally went to sleep while his Gnome Mama had a nice cup of hot chocolate and sat gazing at the milky white moon as the night grew quiet over Dacres Wood.



The Three Little Pigs – a simple tabletop puppet play

House of Straw

“Straw? But a straw house won’t be strong,” said Tiny pig.

“Strong takes too long!” cried Big Pig. “And I want to play!”

So she gathered up the straw and built herself a fine house of straw and ran out to play.

House of Sticks

Little Pig looked around and saw sticks fallen everywhere under the trees.

“I’ll build my house from sticks,” she said.

“Sticks? But a stick house won’t be strong,” said Tiny pig.

“Strong takes too long,” laughed Little Pig. “And I want to play!”

House of Bricks

Tiny Pig walked into town and came back with a pile of bricks. He started to build. Slowly, steadily, the house came up and one sunny day it was finished.


(We didn’t have a wolf but we did have a tiger who came to visit…)

The Three Little Pigs

“Ow!” yelled Tiger. “That pot is too hot, I’ve hurt my bottom!”

He ran back as fast as he could to his home in the deep dark woods, far, far, away and he never came back!



How to make: a Woodland Tabletop Puppet Show

tabletop puppet show

What you will need:

a long stick


hamper, square basket, small suitcase

scarves and shawls in different sizes and colours to include: green (fields, hills, mountains), brown (paths, ground, mountains), blue (rivers, sea)

dolls, soft animals, wooden figures

props: sticks, stones, acorns, pinecones, doll furniture, clothes and accessories as required by your story


1.Find a spot with space for rugs or ideally logs for seating.

a perfect spot

2.Prop or tie the stick across two trees and drape over a blanket to act as a back drop:


Hold the blanket in place with clothes pegs:


3.Create your tabletop using the baskets, hamper or suitcase:

create table top

4.Cover with shawls and scarves:

green shawl

5.Cover characters to be met later in the story so they can be revealed as the story progresses:


6.Arrange your set. Keep it minimal. Place any props in sequence under the scarves or behind the stage so you can reach for them easily.

7.Tell your story… and enjoy!







StoryHug Summer Woodland Workshop No.1

Woodlands are full of possibility…

Dacres Wood
Dacres Wood

In the morning we invented people to inhabit the woods:

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…like Baba Yaga in her hut on chicken legs:

Baba Yaga and her Hut in the Woods - (source unknown)
Baba Yaga and her Hut in the Woods – (source unknown)

We made puppets of our people and made a story together:

Once upon a time there was a girl who met a fairy who invited her to a fairy party, but the fairy flew too fast ahead and soon the girl was lost. She walked and walked until she came to a hut… Did she knock on the door? Of course, she did! And was there a fierce old woman inside who might be a witch? Yes, there was!

Several of the children were quite sure that the girl should avoid the hut.

“But she would stay lost in the woods,” I protested.

So, anxiously together we persevered – just as heroes and heroines do in stories, moving deeper into discomfort and danger, probing the unseen and unknowable – and seeing in our watchful fearful progress into the story how to have faith striving to meet challenges and overcoming obstacles to where a place of greater contentment and security awaits.

The storyteller’s daring in exploring the continents of unknown tales gives their child listeners the bravery to face the world. For storytelling takes courage to reach out to the new… uncertainty is always creative.

Horst Kornberger, ‘The Power of Stories’

In the afternoon we made people who changed bodies and changed places – like the Goose Girl and her maid (‘The Goose Girl’, Brothers Grimm) whose story I told later.

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Legs, heads, bodies were swapped (as in Consequences) and strange new characters emerged



Where would such people live? Of course there were many possibilities…

Dacres Wood Nature Reserve
Dacres Wood Nature Reserve