“It is all about telling stories” – Guest Artist Joe Rial

The Enron Raptor Class is delighted to welcome guest artist Joe Rial via Skype. When sharing the concept of this class with my colleagues at the USITT BOD meeting last August, my friend and colleague Tammy Honesty reached out and said, “I know the perfect person for you. Joe can build anything out of foam and tape. He teaches at Cobalt Studios. You have to see his work!” Tammy was right. Joe is a marvel at making all sorts of creatures out commonly found objects like Styrofoam take out boxes, newspaper, dryer venting tubes, plastic laundry baskets, and masking tape to build his creations.

6′ long foam and masking tape headdress.


Joe Rial began teaching and making theatre and art in the 80s on Kauai. He credits the limited resources of island life with the development of his creative instincts to build from whatever he found around him. He became a self-proclaimed “modern-day hunter-gatherer skills and a MacGyver’s eye for combining materials. Harvesting resources from the environment that include industrial as well as jungle material”

Laundry baskets used to create spine and vertebrae structure.

His bio shares: “Mr. Joe” found a niche shaping cardboard and rubbish, and using tape as a universal binder to make scenery and fantastical puppets, props, costumes and environments. “Once you realize you can make anything you can think of, the real task is to think of something good”. He has taught from pre-school to college, (not in that order), and now lives in the Redwoods working with adults with special needs and dementia patients. Joe continues to teach summer scene painting at Cobalt Studios and takes commissions for props, puppets and workshops.

“Ka” Created out of foam, masking tape, cardboard, and dryer venting.


“It is all about telling stories. By understanding and using the “fingerprints” of your materials, and the alchemy of paint and putty, finished objects will tell their own tale.” – Joe Rial

Our class of makers are in the first throws of rapid prototyping each element of these prehistoric creatures. This week I’ve seen video of them creating small scale leg prototypes on their fingers to test the theory of how the legs could work, to strapping pool noodles to their legs at full costume scale with tape and tie line to examine the shape and stride of this creature. They are building moveable finger joints out of bogus paper and tape, employing coffee lids and packing material into their prototypes. “Mr. Joe” is arriving just on time to share his building practices and help these students bring these creatures to life to “tell their own tale.”


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