Artistmum: art processes: New and Improved Kachina Dolls (so to speak)!

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I always try to give my students the chance to learn some Native American Indian crafts. Weaving, clay pottery, animal hides, and symbols are some of the typical topics I hit upon but I wanted to add something new. I researched “Kachina” dolls and found some very good images that I thought would be great fun for my students.
A little history first! Kachina dolls were made by the Hopi tribes ( other tribes had their versions but the Hopis took credit, or so I read) . These dolls were hand carved from the cottonwood root and were representations of spirits that assisted in everyday life. They were also considered spiritual messengers that brought special blessings. Kachina dolls were used in ceremonial dances and rituals and so they were not considered ‘toys’ but teaching tools for children.
Most lesson plans available used toilet tissue rolls to make these dolls. Ewwwww! Not my style!
So I decided to take it to another level. Enter Artistmum’s new and improved Kachina doll!

I started by creating a tube type of body that was easy to sew. The pattern I made ended up being 7 1/2″ high and 6″ wide. A half a yard of muslin will make 14 bodies!
BTW, I always use a light cardboard for my craft patterns because it is easier to outline them onto the fabric that way. It doesn’t bend and I can outline many without destroying the pattern.

I cut the required amount of bodies I needed from the muslin fabric and stitched a bunch on my trusty sewing machine. I sew in what I call ‘clothesline style’. The sewing is done without stopping between each piece so you end up with a string or clothesline of little bodies. After cutting them apart, they need to be turned right-side out (8-10 year olds can do this easily).

Kids can draw symbols and different designs on the bodies BEFORE stuffing. Fabric markers or permanent markers are ideal for drawing on the muslin.
Stuff the bodies then tie off the head area with a string. Don’t forget to make a knot so it won’t come undone:)

Stuffing the body is easier with a small tool such as a pop stick or the end of an artist brush.

Inspiration came from images taken from a book on Native American Indians. The library has a plethora of these.
And guess who decided to help me out again? Yep, my trusty ‘constant companion’, Beanie! He does get in the way at times! I think he was sniffing the feathers 🙂

The last steps are easy. Sew the bottom closed, or glue if you choose to. Add feathers, beads, cloth cut as shawls and waistbands. Small strips of felt can be used too.
I had many branches available in my yard from the October 31st storm so I decided to use these as arms for my Kachina dolls. That’s the closest I could get to cottonwood root! I cut them with a pruner to about 2-3″ depending on the size I needed. These can be attached with either hot glue or in the case of kids, use a strong “Tacky” glue. I scooped a bit of glue on the end of the stick and tucked it underneath the shawl and it held really nice.

And that’s how my new and improved Kachina dolls came to be! What do you think?
( No comparison to the originals made by the Native American Indians of course, but they are kind of cute!)

Until next time……………what have you made ‘new and improved’? 🙂


About artistmum

This entry was posted in art advice, art and IPad, art blogging, art processes, artist, drawing,, how-to and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Artistmum: art processes: New and Improved Kachina Dolls (so to speak)!

  1. Robert Bergman says:

    Love them Ruthie….so cute. I would post my Thanksgiving scene…the beading went quite well today…Becky and I took them all in for lunch/recess and most did a great job with their indian jewels…but. I don’t know how to upload pictures. Alison

  2. Beth says:

    I don’t know how I got here. A day off and the time I had planned for cleaning out my tiny art room is sailing by with my Internet surfing/job avoidance. I started with going thru some ceramic artist e-mails and ended up here….and Im so glad I did. Thank you for your time blogging these, thank-you for you fresh I can do whatever inspires me ideas. Now refreshed and slightly embarassed of my room upstairs, I am off to find some room/MAKE some room for my bliss. God ‘s Peace

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