Note: If you enjoy this project, you might also enjoy my Tennis Ball Rod Puppet Project. A classroom of kids in Belgium sure did!
Not a day goes by that I am not approached by some stranger and asked "hey, how do you make a pair of those 'practice eyes' that I've heard so much about?" It doesn't matter if I am in the grocery store, at my favorite coffee shop, or in a public restroom. The question rings in my ears like a ubiquitous alarm clock, plaguing my waking hours and haunting my dreams.
In the interest of showing that I know how to do stuff, I present ...
ANDREW'S GUIDE TO MAKING THOSE 'PRACTICE EYES' YOU'VE HEARD SO MUCH ABOUT!
[NOTE: Kids, do not try this at home. This project involves deadly, sharp objects and you will poke your eye out and/or cut off something important. Seriously.]
Ping pong balls
Adhesive back felt pads (round)
1/4 inch stretch elastic
Needle and thread
Carefully cut two parallel lines approximately 1/2 inch long, and spaced approximately 1/4 of an inch from each other. Do this to two ping pong balls.
(I used the printing on my ping pong balls as a guide.)
Being careful not to crack open your incisions any further, cram one end of the 1/4 inch elastic into one cut and out the other.
Do the same with the second ping pong ball.
Measure the elastic around your middle finger, ensuring a snug fit. Cut off the excess elastic, and sew the ends together.
Carefully place adhesive back felts on the ping pong balls to simulate pupils. As you do, ponder the words of great and powerful Jim Henson, who once said that the key to a character lay in the placement of its eyes.
Don't screw this up.
(Be sure to bring your creation with you on dates. You'll score for sure!)
The thing you just made is the exact same thing you'll use when and if you ever audition for a puppetry gig through Disney (unless something has changed with their process.) It's good for practicing eye focus, movement and lip sync, and it costs a heck of a lot less than a "real" puppet.
Next Time on "Project Corner": How to improvise a bandage when you slip and cut yourself with an Xacto knife!
UPDATE: Muppet Central forum user Rick has a few refinements to the above tutorial. I would quote them verbatim here, but I haven't been able to secure Rick's permission to do so (if you are Rick or know him, ask him to drop me a line, would you?) You can read his forum post here. Thanks, Rick!