Shadow Puppets

AGOMakes From Home: Inspired by the AGO Collection

Ed Pien, Spellbound, 2007

Ed Pien, Spellbound, 2007. 3M reflector surface on Japanese Shoji paper, 257 x 365 cm. Purchased with funds donated by the Hal Jackman Foundation, 2008. © Ed Pien, 2008/4.

Ed Pien, Spellbound, 2007. 3M reflector surface on Japanese Shoji paper, 257 x 365 cm.

“I need to make, I need to use my hands, I need to feel that I can respond with my body, that the work has to be experiential. For me knowing resides in the actual making because through making I have the real time of negotiating decisions and making mistakes which I can learn from as well, so the making is really important” Ed Pein

Canadian contemporary artist Ed Pien’s practice is drawing-based. For Spellbound, he used an X-Acto knife as his drawing tool and traditional Japanese paper fused to reflective 3M material as his support. He removed sections of the paper with his knife, creating a huge image of a dense, unearthly forest where shadowy human figures hide in the trees and vines.



Pien’s cut-paper artworks play with silhouette and shadow, creating drama with a strong contrast between positive and negative space. Instead of drawing on paper, try drawing with paper and create your own shadow puppets.

Watch Tiana Roebuck, AGO Associate Curator, Learning & Studio Programs, make paper-cut shadow puppets using recycled materials found at home.


What can I use at home?

Gather recycled cardboard, scissors, tape, a bed sheet and a flashlight or lamp and you're ready to begin.

Use your imagination! You can bring any story to life through the art of paper-cutting and shadow puppets. You’ll need to create characters of course, but also props and objects that help you tell your story. Make a magical gemstone! Add a rocketship! Don’t forget to set the scene, creating puppets that help you explore the mood or environment. Is it raining in your story? Are there shooting stars?

Build your theatre by throwing a bed sheet over two chairs, flick on your flashlight and bring your puppets to life. Experiment with funny voices and sound effects and play the afternoon away.

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