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How and Why I Built "Henrietta the Eighth": A Full Size Cannabis Character Weed Puppet

Updated on February 14, 2018
Joel Diffendarfer profile image

Joel's most recent projects include Burning Man 2017, Colorado Hemp Expo, Denver Paper Fashion Shows, Arise Music Festival and more.

Hi, I'm Henrietta, Henrietta the Eighth I Am

Henrietta Speaks Her Mind
Henrietta Speaks Her Mind | Source

The Conception

The main purpose of building Henrietta the Eighth was to “reach and teach through play” about this wonderful plant called by many names. Cannabis, Pot, Weed, Hemp, Marijuana, Ganja, Herb and many more. Henrietta loves to talk about all of them, especially Hemp.

Henrietta the Eighth was born from both a frustration and excitement about my first-hand personal experiences with using cannabis for physical conditions that were relieved by regular doses.

As I became more excited, I also became more frustrated in that fact that so many people still don’t realize the already proven potential that this plant, given by the creation of earth, And so, I set off on a mission to educate in unusual ways.

My first project was the 2017 Denver Paper Fashion Show where I would once again, present a fashion made from paper. This time, however, I created a design called The Green Angel which was promoted and partially funded by the Colorado Hemp Paper Company, Denver Maker Faire, and the NOCO Hemp Expo. The Green Angel’s message through the media was voiced many times. This year, Henrietta the Eighth came to life to bring life through voicing her views as a hemp plant that educates, dances, and sometimes even says some eye-raising things!

Living with Henrietta

Henrietta can be a bit demanding sometimes
Henrietta can be a bit demanding sometimes | Source

Parts of Henrietta, Parts of a Plant

Henrietta has five main parts, each is designed to educate not only about growing a hemp or cannabis plant, but how each part is used for medicine and health, paper, cloth, food, etc. This is where I started in my vision. She was designed and built based on the main parts of a hemp plant but can also be used to educate in a fun way, the following parts of a plant:

  1. Flower and trichomes

  2. Stigma

  3. Stem/Branches

  4. Fan Leaves

  5. Roots

Brain to paper

Henrietta practices what she teaches through the help of simple storyboards.  Here, along her path, she meets a church person simply known as "Genesis".
Henrietta practices what she teaches through the help of simple storyboards. Here, along her path, she meets a church person simply known as "Genesis". | Source

Why Henrietta Speaks

To further understand the “why” of her message about cannabis, take a look at some of the many things Henrietta loves to talk about and how cannabis can heal or help for medical purposes, As more research evolves and presents itself, Henrietta continues to add to her list.


Here are just a few of the amazing medical benefits she speaks to:

  • Alcoholism
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Back Pain
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Cancers
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Stroke
  • Muscular Dystrophy

At the current time in history, there are over 25,000 products derived from hemp or cannabis. It will be a long time until Henrietta runs out of things to teach!

  • Clothing
  • Carpet
  • Building Materials
  • Paper
  • Food
  • Biofuel
  • Animal Bedding
  • Paint
  • Bio Composites
  • Industrial Products
  • Body Care
  • Cooking Oil

Starting From Scratch (more of an itch)

The original Henrietta took a bit of time and new approaches other than what I have been used to in many years of puppet and character building. I started with some simple sketches, and then put my sewing machine and shop tools to work. I found myself standing in front of my practice mirror more than normal as Henrietta gradually came to life. Even before the rest of her body and arms were complete, she began to talk..and talk...and talk...

Most of the materials I used for Henrietta, came from local donations of cloth and construction materials. I just want to take a pause here, to thank those in my life who helped any way they could...and they did...sometimes just putting up with some of the things that come out of her mouth! Thanks guys for putting up with my kind of "crazy"!

Building Henrietta's Head Flower

Under different light conditions, Henrietta's flower head effect changes with black light which makes for fun especially when dancing with her.
Under different light conditions, Henrietta's flower head effect changes with black light which makes for fun especially when dancing with her. | Source

Head Start

I started with Henrietta’s head, or more properly, her budding flower, stigma, and mouth. I used a two-part combination of rigid foam: a floral cone and a half round styrofoam ball. Next, I transposed my right-hand control fingers to the back of the foam head base, traced them and then carved a perfect match so that my puppet hand would not be revealed.

After fitting my hand to the head base, the next step was to sew and fit a “bud” shaped hemp cloth covering which I then attached leaves, translucent filament to represent the stigma and dried moss to simulate the flower.

The eyes of Henrietta are made to be interchangeable which can easily change her whole “character”. My first set of eyes make her a bit scary looking. The eyes are made from wooden balls that I insert small dowels that go through her head and are accessible/controllable by the hidden puppet hand.

Magic Branch Arms

I invented a new branch arm made with simple general purpose wire and a used wrapping tube.
I invented a new branch arm made with simple general purpose wire and a used wrapping tube. | Source

Branches sprung to life

The designing and building of Henrietta’s arms/ branches worked out extremely well on my second approach. In my first approach, I used a ¾” rope and then covered them with a sewn sock of sorts. It worked well but I still was looking for a really cooler effect and with that, came a discovery that I will continue to use in designs where I need an amazing amount of lightweight control and flexibility.

Here is what I came up with:

By winding a general purpose wire around a used wrapping paper roll, I was able to form a two-inch spring which replaced the rope. With this design, I was able to reduce the weight of the very articulating and posable branch/arm considerably. I used the same sock type of construction to cover the spring and attach the “leaf” hands too. I also found out by using this method that I was now able to compress or extend the reach which then allowed me to actually pick things up and put them down. The movement that this effect creates is almost spooky and very lifelike. (It also serves well when I want to shake hands or put an arm around a friendly girl or guy).

Henrietta loves to touch things

Henrietta's leaf hands are pose-able and do many unexpected things
Henrietta's leaf hands are pose-able and do many unexpected things | Source

Handy Henrietta

The leaf hands attached to the end of Henrietta’s branch arms are not just for show and tell. I’ve designed them to be posable and have a hidden clip that allows Henrietta to hold and maneuver lightweight objects or even signs. This simple little feature allows her to do things like hold a pointer or a marker and even sign autographs. Be careful, when around her though, she's learned to steal lighters and put them in her mouth.

Henrietta loves to talk about food made from hemp

Henrietta's favorite snack is hemp seed cookies
Henrietta's favorite snack is hemp seed cookies | Source

Henrietta has a secret dress

Henrietta's Dress and Under Dress is interchangeable.
Henrietta's Dress and Under Dress is interchangeable. | Source

Undressing Henrietta

I usually build at least one “secret” into my designs. How many leaves do you think Henrietta has in total? If you guessed 420, you are right! This may not mean much to hemp growers, but when it comes to the medical side of cannabis, this indeed is a hidden message that speaks loudly.

Henrietta’s body is actually what I consider, her main stalk. You don’t really see much of it but the unique thing about her body and stalk base is that just like her branch arms, she can actually grow. I use a prop flower pot that she emerges and grows from especially if she is talking about how a plant grows. Kids especially like when she does this.

Covering her stalk body, Henrietta is wearing a dress and a removable shirt which is also interchangeable. To keep every part of her in motion I designed a wire hoop frame which attaches to my wrist allowing her to “shake” her booty and dance.

Depending on the venue or event she is addressing, her shirt is made to also promote a message or a sponsor logo. Sometimes Henrietta just likes to attach MMJ and Hemp promotional buttons all over it.

As Above So Below, the Roots

Henrietta's roots are pose-able for walking,  dancing, or sitting properly with roots crosses.
Henrietta's roots are pose-able for walking, dancing, or sitting properly with roots crosses. | Source

The root of the roots

For Henrietta’s roots, I used a similar method I used in my Green Angel design at the Denver Paper Fashion Show. I started with bendable wire and created the root structure. At the end of the wire form, I also created another set of loops of wire that also fit over my arm and under Henrietta’s dress.

To cover the wire form, I used strips of hemp cloth and wrapped the frame with the strips soaked in a diluted flexible glue. After drying, I added coloring to mimic the natural color of a cannabis root.

Because of the wireframe design, the roots can easily be posed in many ways and actually separate a bit to make Henrietta appear as if she has legs. Using this method allows me to “walk” her or sit on my lap with her root legs crossed.

Lights, Camera, Action

Practicing with Henrietta is always interesting...on the other hand, she's a lot like me.
Practicing with Henrietta is always interesting...on the other hand, she's a lot like me. | Source

Practice is where the heart is

Even before Henrietta was completed, she became alive. Practicing with all of her features took on a whole adventure in itself. At first, like many of my action puppet designs, Henrietta was a bit shy. She liked to talk in front of the mirror and loved when I would turn on some good music in my studio. But, just like Pinocchio, she wanted to get out and explore the world and meet people she could make laugh and learn at the same time. She is always more than excited to meet new people and new venues.

Thanks for getting to know Henrietta!,

Joel (aka oldawgames)

Truth or Dare

Have you ever tried/used cannabis in any form?

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