Totem Pole Centerpiece Project

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Using a little craft sense and a lot of inspiration, create a centerpiece mirroring the vivid wooden totem poles of the Northwest Coast tribes. When the tribal people first carved cedar logs into colored totems, they were paying homage to their ancestors and mythical figures -- but homespun totem poles may come off as kitschy party decorations with far less meaning. However, you can make more elegant and natural-looking designs with quality supplies, and add meaning by incorporating objects revealing your personal history and beliefs.

Things You'll Need

  • Corrugated cardboard, cedar or scrapbook paper
  • Glue gun
  • Several cylindrical potato chip containers, 9- and 4-inch sizes
  • Totem pole symbols and emblem templates
  • Heavy-duty paper or cardboard
  • Acrylic paint
  • Wood beads
  • Wood or bamboo tray
  • Sheet moss
  • Small silk flowers
  • Dried grass
  • Ornamental stones
  • Family photo
  • Twine
  • Small animal statue
  • Personal ornament or memento
  • Stick-on beads

Decorate Snack Chip Containers

  • Select rustic paper to cover the container. It gives your totem pole a natural look and tribal feel. Choose textural paper, such as corrugated cardboard, cedar grilling wrap paper or scrapbook paper with a wood-look pattern. Try working with a combination of small and large containers so you can display them at different heights. If the containers have bright colors visible through the paper, paint the container first with brown acrylic paint.

  • Measure your containers before cutting and sizing the paper sheets needed to cover them. You’ll need a paper circle to cover the top of the container and a large rectangle to wrap around it. Empty the chip container and wash it out. Hot glue the paper circle to the top of the container, pressing it down like a lid. Next, glue the rectangle of paper around the body of the container.

  • Create the symbols or emblems for the totem poles by printing out templates. Some craft and educational websites offer totem templates you can download for free. Decide how many symbols or images you want on each container. Print out templates; typically four per container is enough when they're sized correctly. If you wish, photocopy your templates, enlarging them the appropriate size for your container, such as a 2-inch sun symbol and a 3-inch bear.

  • Trace the template onto heavy-duty paper, and then carefully cut out the template. Paint the templates using a thin paintbrush dipped in acrylic paint. Select colors appropriate for the animal or emblem you choose. As an alternative, trace the totem templates onto the same style paper as your container but do not paint them. Instead, precisely cut along the template's lines, for example, making holes for the eyes and mouth.

  • Hot glue as many symbols and designs as you can fit vertically along the container. If attaching a bird, glue the wings to the back of the container so the front feathers face outward. Glue wood-style beads in vertical lines down the sides of the container.

Totem Poles as Part of Larger Centerpieces

  • Create as many totem pole containers as you wish, and use two to three as the basis for a tray centerpiece. Before adding the totems, hot glue sheet moss onto the inside bottom of the tray, leaving holes for the containers.

  • Add hot glue to the bottom of a totem, and press it down into a hole in the sheet moss. Glue the rest of the totems the same way, positioned so they face outward.

  • Decorate the tray with silk blooms and sprigs of dried, colored grass glued to the moss.

  • Place decorative rocks and other embellishments on the tray. If you wish, use rocks with inspirational words, such as “power” and “wisdom.” Include a miniature statue of an animal to represent the native belief that everyone has an animal spirit guide -- a cat signifies independence and a bear stands for courage. Tie personal ornaments to the totem poles with twine, such as a family photo and other objects that share your history.

Tips & Warnings

  • Embellish lips and eyes on totem pole symbols with stick-on colored beads.
  • For a more elegant centerpiece, use carved wood instead of containers.
  • To protect your personal keepsakes from damage with glue or tape, place them in small frames around the totem poles.

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References

  • Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
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