How to Make a Kachina Doll

Kachina (Hopi Kachina, pronounced kah-CHEE-nah) dolls are traditional, hand-carved wooden dolls made by Hopi Indians of the southwestern US. Dolls in general are called tihu (pronounced TEE-hoo) and you can combine them as katsintihu "kachina doll".


Each kachina doll represents a spirit or other deity or natural element. Some typical spirits represented by the Hopi in kachina dolls include the chief, the corn maiden, the ceremonial dancer, the singer, the ogre, the buffalo, the badger, the crow, the hawk, clouds, the sun, and the rainbow.


You can design your kachina doll to represent anything you'd like. You can make it from pieces of wood, paint, fabric, felt, feathers, beads, and other items found around the house.

Steps

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    Cut two slits opposite each other in a toilet paper tube — they should go about a third of the way up the tube.
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    Make two short cuts at the ends of each slit you just made, cutting a "T" shape on each side of the roll (the flaps under the "T"s will be the legs of the doll).
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    Curve each of the two flaps just made into small cylinders — these will be the doll's legs. Make sure that the edges meet exactly. Use tape to secure each cylinder (doll's leg).
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    Use hot glue to attach a Styrofoam ball or a ping-pong ball to the top of the tube (this will be the doll's head). You can use other objects for the head, like modelling clay or a small box.
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    If the ball is a bit too small for the tube, make a series of cuts along the top of the cardboard tube, forming flaps. Then fold the flaps into the tube. Glue the ball to the flaps. Let the glue cool and set.
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    Decide the theme that your doll will represent so that you can decorate and dress your doll properly. Paint the head and let it dry. Then draw in the facial features using markers or paint. To make hair, glue on bits of yarn or felt scraps (or something else).
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    Cover the body and legs with pieces of construction paper, felt and fabric. Glue them to the doll (hot glue works well with felt and fabric — tape or glue is better for construction paper).
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    Decorate the figure by gluing on feathers, beads, buttons, shells, ribbons, or other decorative objects.
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    Make a base (oval, circular, rectangular or another shape) for your doll out of thick cardboard.
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    Use the doll's theme (that you decided on for the clothes) to design a corresponding base. For example, if your doll represents water, you could design a base that looked like a pool of water; if your doll represents the sun, the base could look like a sunburst.
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    Use hot glue to attach the kachina doll to its base. Decorate the base using paint, paper, beads, or anything else that fits the theme of your kachina doll.
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    Take pride, you just made your own kachina doll.

Warnings

  • As with any cultural replication, you'll want help from someone who actually belongs to the culture. But whether or not you know any Hopi people (or even live near the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona) it's best to show respect and not make fun of their culture.
  • Please respect the Hopi Way. To the Hopi, kachina are not toys but sacred objects, and deserve to be handled and treated accordingly. To that end, please do your homework on kachina — see the Sources and Citations section below.
  • If you are a child, please ask for assistance from an adult — hot glue can burn you.

Things You'll Need

  • Toilet paper tube or similar cardboard tube
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Hot glue (and paper glue if you're using construction paper for the clothing)
  • A Styrofoam ball or a ping-pong ball (or other object for the doll's head, like clay or a small box)
  • Tempera paint, acrylic paint and/or markers
  • Brushes
  • Scraps of construction paper, felt and/or fabric
  • Yarn
  • Feathers, beads, buttons, shells, ribbons, or other decorative objects
  • Thick cardboard, cut from a sturdy box (for the doll's base)
  • Ruler (optional to see how long or how much you need to cut)

Sources and Citations

  • Colton, Harold S. Hopi Kachina Dolls With A Key To Their Identification.
  • Greenlee, Donna. Kachina Doll Coloring Book.
  • Teiwes, Helga. Kachina Dolls: The Art Of Hopi Carvers.

Article Info

Categories: Dolls and Doll Houses