My art students at the St. Croix Educational Complex High School and I had the privilege of learning recycled art puppet making firsthand from puppet master, Mr. Donovan Zimmerman. He was selected as an artist-in residence to create giant puppets depicting characters from the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge book collection. The book characters included a spider from Broo ‘Nansi and the Tar Baby, a pelican from Brown Pelicans, a crab from Fun, Fun, One Crab On The Run, a rooster from Moon Rooster/El Gallo Lunero, and a market lady from Kallaloo! A Caribbean Tale. Little bell Caribbean is the publishing company for these books. Zimmerman was also selected to teach other educators and students this art form. The puppets were created for the Virgin Islands Department of Education, Division of Virgin Islands Cultural Education’s entry for the Children’s Parade on January 6.
In addition, Mr. Zimmerman is one of the directors of Paperhand Puppet Intervention. The company is located in North Carolina and was established in 1998. Paperhand Puppet Intervention specializes in creating giant-sized papier-mâché puppets and masks from recycled materials for plays, parades, and theatrical performances. Paperhand Puppet Intervention also offers workshops and educational opportunities to individuals interested in learning the craft.
Mr. Donovan Zimmerman , Ms. Danica David, and SCEC art students
In retrospect, it was a remarkable educational experience working with Zimmerman on a daily basis for two weeks. We began working together during the later part of November until the first week in December. Throughout his residency, he taught his unique approach to puppet making with papier-mâché. After a formal introduction, he taught us how to make goop with water and cornstarch. Goop is the adhesive used to adhere paper strips to sculptural forms. The formula was quite easy and economical. Mr. Zimmerman taught how to use recycled materials such as cardboard and newspaper to create sculptural forms. It was amazing to see him manipulate everyday items that are carelessly discarded and transform them into whimsical puppet papier-mâché art. He did an exemplary job of teaching us his craft.
As a result, we all learned quickly and was able to successfully continue the puppet production for the parade. We continued working until January 5. During the last several weeks of the puppet production for the parade, I was asked to create a character called Mr. Squeaky. Mr. Squeaky promotes cleanliness to students in the Virgin Islands. I was able to create this character independently because of what I learned from Mr. Zimmerman. Overall, everyone who worked on this project and learned the craft of papier-mâché puppet making with recycled materials did an awesome job.
Teaching is a gift of the heart. Mr. Donovan Zimmerman came to share his heart and artistic passion with us. I am forever grateful that my students and I had such an amazing opportunity to learn from him.