I have started to research new materials for my animation classes. Although I love the colorful oil based clays I have been using in the kid's workshops, it sure is messy! The color gets on everything and the resulting clay figures and sets are not so permanent (easy to sit on and squash). So I have been researching an alternative for at least parts of the puppets and sets. I have found some info posted on a product called Friendly Plastic that sounds really cool and perfect for a classroom. It softens in warm water and then the child can mold it in sections over a wire frame work. It air hardens and can be painted. I will be researching armature wire next. Anyway here is where I purchased my Friendly Plastic. http://www.sunshinecrafts.com/body_friendly_plastic.html It was the cheapest I could find in my web searching. I can't wait for it to get shipped to me as I want to experiment with it and see if it really hold up well on the armature and if it takes paint well. I would be happy to have found a cleaner material that doesn't warp with handling.
I have also been talking with an animation instructor at San Jose State who is also a puppet maker, children book illustrator and musician (Renaissance Woman!). I hope to have her come as a guest speaker and talk with my students this summer. Her name is Raquel Coelho. Here is her site.
Wonderful figure above created by Raquel Coelho.