Mahima Jain

Interaction Designer
A designer and storyteller passionate about the creative process of crafting engaging and playful interactive experiences.
A designer and storyteller passionate about the creative process of crafting engaging and playful interactive experiences.
Thesis Faculty
Jesse Harding, John Sharp, Frances Hoepfner, Ethan Silverman

A Crisis in Threads

An Interactive Interpretation of Traditional Indian Puppetry

Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, I weave my tale through the strings of ‘Kathputli’, an ancient and traditional form of puppetry from Rajasthan, India. The audience is invited to engage in an installation where interactivity meets storytelling. Each vignette explores the inner struggles and complexities of the creative process, pulling the audience into the depths of the character’s psyche.

With childhood memories as inspiration, the project blends traditional techniques with modern methods to invite the audience into the magical world of puppetry. The installation aims to expand the art form while maintaining its essence and traditionalism, incorporating 3D scanning, 3D modeling, Roland CNC milling, and physical computation for interactivity and movement.

Within this exploration, the mastery of puppetry transcends conventional boundaries. No longer shaped by the puppeteer’s skillful hands upon mango wood, the metamorphosis unfolds with the aid of a Roland , deftly sculpting my 3D scans upon softwood.

Drawing inspiration from the intricate language of puppetry, capturing its distinctive movements and the essence of the stage setup, I remain dedicated to preserving the traditions. By incorporating the authentic Bandhini fabric from Rajasthan, the timeless heritage continues to weave its enchanting spell. With the infusion of physical computation, interactivity, and movement, a layer of active participation emerges, where the audience becomes part of the narrative.

Multiple users can interact with the installation, creating a kaleidoscope of a creative mind, where time collapses, and chaos reigns supreme. By embracing a new way of presenting traditional puppetry, this project can contribute to the community of practice by expanding the scope of artistic expression while preserving its cultural roots.

Each marionette has its unique essence, symbolizing various moments from a creative process, while drawing inspiration from the rich vocabulary of the traditional puppetry.

Nascent Ideas ///

Behold the delicate form that a new idea takes as it struggles to take shape and hold itself together. It serves to illustrate the importance of approaching undeveloped ideas with care and empathy, for without the necessary support and attention, they are prone to succumb to the perils of overthinking or disregard and turn into a mere shadow of the potential it once held.
Self Talk ///

Observe the duality of the human psyche and the inner monologue that drives our creative practice – it can be both a source of positive motivation and inspiration, as well as an overwhelming force of negativity that hinders our progress.
Creative Blocks ///

Witness the challenging emotions that arise when one feels empty and stuck, struggling to conjure up new ideas. It serves as a reminder of the frustration that can accompany a creative block, and the sense of disconnection that can arise when we feel cut off from our own creativity.
Idealized vision ///

Behold the perfect version of a creation that exists solely in the creator’s imagination, emphasizing the gap between the imagined ideal and the reality of the work. It is the palpable yearning and striving towards the ideal that it embodies, a testament to the creative spirit and the human desire for excellence.

Puppet Artist Pappu Bhat Urges Revival of Traditional Puppetry

During my travels to Rajasthan, I had the rare opportunity to learn about the ancient craft of puppetry from a local family of Bhats. They are a wandering community from Rajasthan who used to perform their shows or ‘Kathputli Ka Khel’ during the dry season and return to their villages to cultivate the fields after the rains. The Nagaur’s Bhat clan is etched in history as the poets’ and puppeteers’ community of Rajasthan. Pappu Bhat, and his family, belong to this clan, and they taught me their ancestral craft. I was fascinated by the intricate process of creating a ‘Kathputli’ puppet by hand, using only wood and traditional fabric.

At the artist’s workspace in Rajasthan
Pappu Bhat demonstrating the fluid movements of the puppet

Pappu Bhat also spoke passionately about his determination to preserve the art of his ancestors and his dedication to keeping this traditional art form alive. It was truly inspiring to see how the tradition of ‘Kathputli’ has thrived for over a thousand years, despite the challenges of modern times. They continue to perform their shows, entertaining audiences with stories of kings and their triumphs, dance performances and folk tales. Their art is a testament to the resilience and creativity of the human spirit.

For complete process documentation, view paper.

Credits: All project images were captured by Zeeshan Khalid