Thursday, 29 November 2012

How to Make Hand Shadow Puppets

Hand Shadow Puppets

Hand Shadow Puppet Camel
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
The art of making and performing hand shadow puppets probably dates back to ancient China (they are still sometimes called Chinese shadows) and has remained a popular entertainment for thousands of years.
One of the lovely things about hand shadow puppets is that you don't need anything other than a light source, a blank wall or screen and a pair of hands, to be able to make them!
Despite their simplicity, these puppet shows can be extremely beautiful and entertaining and the basic puppets can be learned and performed by anyone, including children.
hand shadow puppet is different from a shadow puppet.
The shadow puppet is made of leather, wood or cardboard, cut to represent a figure, that then creates a silhouette when placed against a translucent screen.
A hand shadow puppet, as the name implies, is a figure formed simply by the hands themselves and brought to life as a shadow thrown onto a wall or screen.
Before we go into the details and step-by-step instructions on how to create and perform these beautiful puppets, let's first take a look at one of the masters of the art at work as a point of inspiration. Watch the following short video to see just what can be done with this simple technique:

The Amazing Hand Shadow Puppets of Raymond Crowe

Making Shadow Puppets
The key to success when it comes to hand shadow puppets is a willingness to experiment, try things out and be very playful.
That said, while there are no complex technological requirements, you will get the best results if you choose the most appropriate light source. The best light source is a portable, adjustable one with a powerful bulb and a medium to narrow focused beam.
An ideal light solution is an anglepoise lamp set so that it casts a clear circle of light against the wall or screen.
The closer that your hands are to the light source, the larger but less precise your shadow will be. The further away from the light source your hands are, the more clarity you will give to the shadow but it will be much smaller.
There are many good books that describe a traditional set of hand positions for certain characters but you really don't need to study in that depth if you are just starting out. In fact, in many ways, it is better to learn by playful experimentation so that you get a clear grasp of the principles.
Here follow the results of some of my experiments with casting hand shadow puppets. As you can see from the photos, if you only look at the hands, you can barely tell what it is supposed to be - but as a shadow, the image springs to life!

How To Make Chinese Shadows
To make Chinese hand shadow puppets, you will need:

·         a directional light source
·         A light colored wall or screen
·         hands
·         a darkened room
·         a little imagination

Hand Shadow Bird
An easy hand shadow to start with.
 A great one for kids to play with, too.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
How To Make A Bird Shadow

This is a great one to get started with as it is very easy to get a good result quickly and you can immediately start making it move.
The flying motion is made just by flexing the fingers up and down.
Opening the fingers out slightly gives the impression of a large soaring bird such as an eagle or vulture.
As always, the trick is to experiment and see what you can come up with for yourself.

Bulldog Shadow Puppet
The bulldog is a more complex 
shadow to create but very effective.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
The bulldog is a very characterful hand shadow puppet. You can make him bark by moving the thumb that forms his lower jaw up and down. The other thumb can also be used to have him waggle an ear!

'Cartoon' Mouse Shadow Character
This funny little chap is great fun and as he is single-handed,
 you can do two at a time!
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Mouse Puppet in Shadow
This is quite a contortion for the fingers!
The result is great fun and worth the effort. You simply bend all your fingers one at a time over each other, as you can see in the photo.
Then just experiment with the angle until this cheeky cartoon-style mouse appears. Bending the wrist and moving the thumb help to make him nod and chatter away.
Also, once you have the hang of it, you can do two at once and they can talk to each other.
Great fun.

Rabbit Hand Shadow Puppet
This is one of the classics and very popular with the kids,
 although it can be quite tricky to make.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
This is a classic hand shadow puppet and always popular.
You can make this lil' fella hop, waggle and comb his ears and bend over to nibble at grass - with a little practice!
Take note, that the hands are actually positioned 'back to front' in order to create the proper shadow forms.

Scooby-Doo Hand Shadow
This a cool hand shadow that I came up with. 
I think it looks a bit like Scooby-Doo!
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Not one of the classics this but one that I came up with myself. It is certainly a dog character and the kids and me thought it looked like Scooby-Doo.
This is one of the best things about the hand shadow puppets, that you can just mess about and have fun to see what you can come up with. It's another reason why children enjoy it so much. There are literally hours of creative, fun play to be had from it.

Human Face Shadow Puppet
This is one possibility for making a human face shadow puppet.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
How To Make A Shadow Face
This is one way of making a human shadow puppet face. He's a bit goofy.
Again, there are many possibilities and it is always worth experimenting - really there are no hard and fast rules.
When making a human face, it is worth remembering that it will only really be possible in profile and that the key aspects of the figure to get in place are the nose, mouth and an eye.
It is only necessary to make a 'suggestion' of a face. The imagination of the beholder will fill in all the details.

                 Turtle Hand Shadow Puppet

This shadow turtle is easily made and plods slowly along. If someone else can make the rabbit figure from above, which we can just as easily nominate as a hare, then you already have the makings of a little show that you can get the kids to make with you - Aesop's fable of The Hare and The Turtle.
If there are other little hands that want to join in, then they can make grass, a tree for the hare to rest against or just a bird flying overhead.
The red line shows the point at which a classic circular screen would cut the shadow off, leaving the arm in darkness and only the form of the turtle itself visible.

Guard Dog Shadow Puppet
This angry guard dog shadow puppet should
 keep burglars off your property!
Source: Austin Hackney (author)
Dog Shadow Puppet Using Hands
This is how you can make a more scary figure. This rather dangerous looking guard dog is simple to make . You can make his ears fall back and bark and growl for added effect.
If you think there's someone prowling in the yard, try making his shadow on the drapes - you never know it might just scare your intruder off!

How To Use Hand Shadow Puppets
You can just mess about on the wall like this for fun.
Or you can take things further by creating lots of characters with your kids and making voices, adding some music and slowly building up a story.
Or, as some have done, you could seek out some professional performances and become inspired to study the history and the art form in more detail with the idea of building up your own professional show.
That could be something that packs into a small suitcase to perform at parties and small events or a more ambitious stage show.
The only real limit with hand shadow puppets is your own imagination!

Cirque du Soleil Shadow Puppets

The History of Hand Shadow Puppets
The truth is that nobody really knows precisely when or how hand shadow puppetry began.
The first known performances originated in China and India several thousands of years ago - it really is an ancient art form.
Hand Shadow Puppets May Date Back to Prehistory

Some have suggested that it was watching the play
 of shadows on the cave walls that first inspired our
 ancestors to experiment with hand shadow puppetry.
Some have speculated that the origins of shadow play may well go back deep into prehistory, when our earliest ancestors were huddled around the flickering flames of their hearth fires and noticed the shadows cast upon their cave walls.
It is not difficult to imagine how they might have begun to play with the shadows and thus also have told stories through the moving images that they discovered they could create.
In 18th century Europe there was a fashion for parlor shows among the well-to-do and the Ombres Chinois orChinese Shadows were very popular indeed, along with conjuring acts and 'mind-reading' performances.
And the shadows still play a large part today with performances taking place on TV and even on stage in Las Vegas.
Primitive and simple as it is, the hand shadow puppet show clearly not only entertains us but still enables us to open the doors of the imagination and experience a child-like wonderment and delight.

If you are interested in learning more about hand shadow puppets then I can highly recommend the book, The Art of Hand Shadows. It is easy to understand, has beautiful and clear illustrations and is packed full of great and inspirational ideas. Click the book cover to check it out now!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

How to Get Rid of Dandruff Once And For All

Dandruff - An Unpleasant Condition
Dandruff can be a real embarrassment to many
 unfortunate sufferers. Fortunately, there are many 
effective treatments for keeping the condition under
 control.             Source: public domain

Getting Rid of Dandruff for Good

Dandruff, to those who don't suffer from it, may seem like a trivial matter. But for those that have to live with a constantly itchy, dry scalp and a cascade of embarrassing flakes falling at every movement of the head, it can be a very challenging and debilitating condition. I know from personal experience that it can have a real and very negative impact on your self-confidence. I also know that you can put it behind you. You can live a dandruff free life!
Fortunately, there are many effective treatments that can at the very least keep your dandruff under control and at the best practically eradicate it all together. The trick is to find the one which works best for you as there are so many different possible causes of the symptoms of dandruff and each will be responsive to its own particular range of treatments.
You do not need to suffer from dandruff any longer. There is a lot that you can do. Let's learn how to get rid of dandruff once and for all...

A Flake of Dandruff

A close up shot of a flake of dandruff.
 Dandruff is dry skin that falls from the scalp.
Source: public domain

What Causes Dandruff?

There are many different possible causes of your dandruff.
One thing to get cleared up straight away is to banish the idea that the presence of dandruff is in any way related to poor hygiene  This is simply not the case.
Shedding skin from all parts of the body in tiny flakes is a perfectly natural process - in fact, you completely renew every cell in your body every seven years of life! So, a certain amount of flaky skin falling from the scalp is normal and can be got rid of with regular, gentle brushing.
When dandruff is severe and persistent, then there is usually an underlying cause which goes beyond the normal and healthy sloughing of old skin.

  •         Seborrheic dermatitis 
The effects of seborrheic dermatitis are not limited to the scalp but can occur in many locations on the body. Most commonly it will occur in those areas which naturally secrete the most oils. For example, aside from the scalp, the eyebrows  behind the ears or on the cheeks and round the nose and even the groin. It can also be accompanied by reddening of the skin and a hot, itchy feeling. The temptation in such circumstances is to scratch but this can lead to inflammation, lesions and bleeding. If you have seborrheic dermatitis  you will certainly have dandruff but you will likely find that you also have flaky, sore skin in these other areas, at least from time to time.                      


Eczema can be a very severe condition. If you suspect that 
eczema may be the underlying cause of your dandruff, then you
 should seek advice from your medical practitioner or pharmacist.
Source: public domain
While this skin disorder cannot be cured it can be kept completely at bay with proper treatment and management. 

  •         Psoriasis and eczema - Psoriasis again manifests as itchy patches of sore, reddened skin often covered with scaly flakes of a yellow or silvery colour. The most common body parts to be affected are knees, elbows, back, feet, hands, head and face. Clearly the symptoms of dandruff often accompany psoriasis. It is caused by an immune system deficiency which leads to the over-rapid production of replacement skin cells. If you think you may have psoriasis then seek advice from your medical practitioner or pharmacist as there are many treatments available. Eczema may be a genetic condition causing red, swollen skin and flakes but it can also be caused by an allergic reaction. If you think that eczema might be the underlying cause of your dandruff, then request an allergy test from your medical practitioner. A change in diet may be all you need.
  •        The Wrong Shampoo - Dandruff can actually be caused by your hair-care products! If you suffer from dandruff, it may be advisable to switch to a product that is composed only of natural, non-irritant ingredients. That is not to say that you shouldn't experiment with the many anti-dandruff shampoos available but do consider if the chemical concoction that you apply daily to your poor head might not be better replaced with something else.

Malassezia Lilophilis - A scalp dwelling fungus.
Malassezia Lilophilis - A scalp dwelling fungus that occurs naturally but
 can reach plague proportions in certain individuals.It is very  common cause of dandruff  Source: public domain

  •        Malassezia - This is a fungus. I know, the idea that you have a fungus living on your head isn't very nice but in fact it occurs quite naturally on everyone's scalp. Normally it doesn't cause problems. However, in certain individuals it can get out of hand and become an infection. The microscopic fungus feeds on lipid secretions from the roots of the hair. If there are too many of the little critters, they gobble up all the natural oils, leaving the skin dry and flaky and that's dandruff.
  •          Diet - There is some indication that certain cases of dandruff may be caused by a lack of B group vitamins and zinc. Rather than spend a lot of money on supplements that may not work, the trick here is to eat a balanced, healthy diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and beans, oily fish - and red meat only once or twice a week. That way you should get the right amount of vitamins and minerals in your diet.
  •        Stress - There's no doubt any more. The evidence is in. Negative stress is bad for you and it's bad for your skin, too. Not all stress is negative. Sporting activity, rising to a challenge, even making love are all stressful in biological terms - but they are positive stresses which generally improve health and happiness. Skin conditions are especially prone to exacerbation from negative stress. So try and find time to keep things in perspective, laugh and relax.

Choosing the right shampoo is very important
Contrary to popular opinion, dandruff has nothing to do with personal hygiene
However, choosing the right shampoo to treat dandruff is very important.
Source: public domain (US-PD)

Your Plan of Attack - Natural or Pharmaceutical?
Well, as someone who used to suffer from dandruff and all its hideous consequences, I can only say that you would be well advised to use whatever works for you!
As we've already said, that will depend on the root causes of your dandruff. You will probably have to experiment to discover what product, home-remedy or combination does the trick for you.
Personally, I use a powerful medicated anti-dandruff shampoo fortified with selenium once or twice a week. In the meantime I use the honey and cider vinegar home remedy combo that I mix up myself. That works for me, but you'll need to find your own best treatment. To help you, I'll give you plenty of information about the most effective, proven pharmaceutical and natural products and remedies that you should try.

Natural Remedies
There is some evidence that tea tree oil has a powerful effect on alleviating the symptoms of dandruff. It is not advisable to use the pure essential oil as this can actually burn your scalp. It is certainly worth trying the best of the prepared tea tree shampoos. I have to confess that they didn't work for me - although I enjoyed the zing that it gives to your scalp which was very revitalizing in itself.
I undertook an informal survey of several friends and colleagues to see what they recommended and several did use a tea tree based product, which they swore by. By far the most popular was 'Jason Tea Tree Oil Shampoo'. I've never tried it myself but it could be a good place to start.
The other natural remedy I'm going to mention is the one that I personally use in conjunction with my favourite anti-dandruff shampoo. It's the brown sugar, cider vinegar and honey combo. Watch the video below for a detailed explanation and demonstration of how to prepare and use this home-remedy for dandruff.

How To Get Rid Of Dandruff

The Ingredients You'll Need
To use this home-remedy you'll need the follwing ingredients:
·         Brown sugar
·         Cider Vinegar
·         Honey
·         Olive oil
·         Mixing pot
·         Teaspoon or measuring spoon
Handy Hint: You can mix up a jar full in one go and keep it in the bathroom cabinet to save time. All the ingredients are also natural preservatives so there'll be no danger of it going off!
You can try this on its own if you have some objection to any allopathic preparations but I would recommend that you use it in conjunction with a suitable shampoo.
Certainly the possible problem of lingering odours can be eliminated by washing your hair twice in the same session. First time around with the cider/honey/sugar combo and then, a few minutes later, with a gentle shampoo.
Finish off with a little olive oil rubbed into the scalp.
You shouldn't need to apply this remedy more than twice a week but you may want to start out on a daily basis for a week or two to bring a bad case of dandruff rapidly under control. Once it is cleaned, use the remedy less frequently to keep it at bay.
Permission: CC-By-SA 3.0
Snake Oil and Quack Medicine
Just a quick word to say that if you really want to get rid of your dandruff for good and favour the natural methods then please don't be taken in by the useless remedies being peddled without any scientific basis. These include:
  •       Biotin supplements. Experiments have shown that there is no benefit from this in the treatment of dandruff that cannot be had much more cheaply and pleasurably by enjoying a healthy, balanced diet of freshly prepared foods.
  •        Not Using Any Shampoo. Some will tell you that in this way your hair will achieve its 'natural balance'. Nonsense. I tried it and if you suffer from dandruff it will only make matters much worse.
  •       HomoeopathyDespite all the anecdotes, extensive scientific investigations have shown beyond reasonable doubt that there is, quite literally, nothing in it. Don't waste your money.

There will always be those only too happy to sell you any old thing to turn a buck. The sad thing is that ultimately, the natural remedies that do work and have a sound scientific basis are often tarred with the same brush and people foolishly divide themselves into two opposing camps. Those that consider all natural medicines as pure quackery and witchcraft and those that are convinced the medical establishment are trying to poison us all!
Just apply a little reason and common sense and do your research. There is no need to be partisan.

The Best Medicated Shampoos to Treat Dandruff
So, having dealt with my recommendations for natural remedies - essentially a real tea tree oil based shampoo and a honey/cider vinegar/ brown sugar mixture with olive oil - let's take a look at the two best shampoos that will help you get rid of dandruff once and for all.
There may be others that work, but these are the two that I know personally and that I have discovered through research have scientifically proven ingredients.
The first is the Alba Botanica Rainforest Shampoo. As with Jason products, it is not tested on animals. It is based on Brazil nut extracts which are rich in the element selenium. This has been clinically proven to be an effective fungicide and so, along with the oil enhancing ingredients, can be a very effective anti-dandruff treatment.
The second is extremely potent. It contains ingredients that have historically been animal tested but there is no ongoing testing. For some that will be acceptable, for others not. However, it does work! The product is Selsun SeleniumSulfide Shampoo. It destroys dandruff and after initial treatment requires only very occasional use.
Three Point Plan to Get Rid of Dandruff
So, to finish off, here's a summary of my proven three point plan to vanish dandruff from your life forever:
1.    Eat a healthy balanced diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts (especially brazils) oily fish and red meat no more than twice a week.
2.    Take regular exercise outdoors (natural light strengthens the skin and immune system and physical work reduces stress)
3.    Choose a proven, medically reliable shampoo with selenium as an active ingredient and use in combination with the cider vinegar/honey/sugar remedy
Do these things and, unless your dandruff is associated with a very serious dermatological condition that requires direct medical intervention (in which case you should consult an appropriate practitioner) you will have learned how to get rid of dandruff.
Forever. Now isn't that good news?  Check out the products below for some excellent anti-dandruff solutions: