The Flea Circus tent was cut from Folia card stock (acid and lignin free.) Pieces were stitched together to make a top then star shapes were cut into it, bringing light into the arena as well as creating a pattern. A paper punch was used to make the impression of polka dots on the semi circular flaps, which cast shadows and patterns when lit. The letters on the Flea Circus sign are cut from paste paper and decorated with gold colored glitter. There are 4 layers of flea performers, some interacting (for example one flea holds a ring that another flea from the next layer is jumping through.) All of the printing was done with handmade rubber stamps. A replica of an early circus poster incorporates the colophon information. Approximately 5.5” x 7.5” (16” circumference)
I am fascinated by Flea Circuses. Although many were bogus, a number through the ages used actual fleas, the human flea. Raised on the trainer’s blood to maturity, requiring intense training and care for a short acting career before its life cycle ended.
The 19th century was the grand era of the flea circus although they were an attraction at least a century earlier. Minute harnesses made of the lightest of gold, silk or hair required the expertise of blacksmiths and watch makers demonstrating their skills. Craftspeople also fashioned tiny circus apparatus such as bicycles, canons, coaches and swings. Natural flea behavior of running, jumping, kicking could be adapted to give the appearance of actual circus acts.