Make your own octopus

How we’re making the octopus:

The octopus puppet has a plastic bag ‘skin’ laid over a bamboo ‘skeleton’. The 20-ft tall body comprises a bamboo ‘crown’ set atop a series of circular ‘ribs’. The 30-foot long tentacles are made of more of the plastic bag material, which is draped over and held up by the puppeteer participants.

That’s the plan anyway. As things work/un-work and unfold we’ll let you know. Meanwhile, if you’d like to know the ingredients and method, here goes:

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You will need:

· 15 qty., 6ft-long bamboo poles, 2”-diameter (or 10 qty, 12ft poles)

· (optional) 8 qty., 6ft-long bamboo poles, 1”-diameter

· 1500 plastic bags (approx.)

· 20 bicycle inner tubes

· 2 rolls duct tape

· 50 rolls plastic adhesive tape (duct, packing, sellotape etc)

· Scissors

· Tools to split and cut bamboo: bamboo splitter/hammer/blade/saw

· 120ft thin rope

· An occupation (or start your own)

· Lots of people

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First Off

Split the bamboo poles into ½ inch wide pieces with a hammer and chisel (or similar).

Cut the inner tubes into ½ inch wide x 12 inch long ‘strings’ (sometimes they will need to be longer or shorter).

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Making the Body of  the Octopus

Join two of the ½ inch wide bamboo splits together end-to-end with a 12” overlap. Hold in place with duct tape. Lash the inner tube strings around the overlap to make it secure.


Continue joining bamboo poles together in this way until you have a 39-foot length of bamboo. Secure the ends of the long pole together using the same technique to make a 12-foot diameter circle.

Now you have the fattest part of the octopus body, repeat the process to make smaller versions: 2×10ft, 2×8ft, 3×6ft, 1×4ft. Here’s a handy calculator to work out the length/circumference ratio

To make the crown (see top image): Lash four pairs of poles together. Attach them to either side of an 8ft circle and secure them at the center using inner tube string. Attach the 6ft and 4ft circles inside the dome, securing with inner tube string wherever bamboo meets bamboo.

Attach remaining loose circles to crown using rope as shown

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To make the skin

Cut two plastic bags and lay flat, one atop the other, as shown. Tape together. Cut and tape more bags, making a bolt of material approximately 12-foot long. Fold up, store. Repeat.

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To cover the body

Loosely gather or pleat the end of one of the bolts of plastic bag material. Secure the gathers with tape (see above image on the bottom right). Attach to the top of the octopus’s crown using string and tape. Depending on the width of your bags, repeat with five or six bolts.

Arrange and tape the material so that it falls edge to edge, covering the crown.  Tape additional ‘bolts’ to extend the material and cover the bottom half of the octopus. Loosely gather or pleat the material and tape at the octopus’s bottom rung.

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To make the tentacles

The tentacles comprise ‘blankets’ of the plastic bag material draped over the puppeteers (see very top image). To make the blankets simply tape bolts of the plastic bag material together to roughly the dimensions and shape shown.

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For the optional ribs at the tip of each tentacle (see very top image on this page- the last figure to the right is carrying the “rib” with a pole): cut 8×3ft lengths and 8×2½ft lengths of the ½ inch wide bamboo. Bend and lash the 3ft lengths to the 2½ft lengths using duct tape and inner tube string as shown. Attach the 6ft-long 1”-diameter bamboo poles as shown.


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Operation

We’ll let you know when we’ve got that far, though live musical accompaniment or drummers would be nice.