Totem poles are a tradition of Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska. The carvings represent a family's heritage, accomplishments and traditions through many generations. Native people created totem poles to honor a deceased elder or upon achieving an important life goal. Commemorate your family's heritage and traditions by making a family totem pole from clay using personal symbolic images. Make one that utilizes traditional Native American symbols like ravens, bears and fish.
Things You'll Need
- Heavy gauge wire
- Sculpting clay
- Clay carving tools
- Acrylic craft paints
- Craft paintbrushes
- Clear acrylic spray
Fold a 12-inch piece of wire in half, and then form the bent end into a one-inch diameter circle. Bend the two ends of the wire upright to form the armature. This will be the base of the totem pole and the armature will support the clay.
Knead a small ball of clay in your hands until it is soft and pliable.
Form a cylinder with the clay that is 1-inch round and about 1.5-inches high.
Carve your designs into the cylinder of clay using clay-carving tools. Use symbolic animals or designs and add details. This is your first family representation and represents the earliest generation or event.
Slide the cylinder of clay onto the wire form and push gently to the bottom of the form.
Create additional clay cylinders for the totem pole, adding one for each generation or event and carving appropriate designs and details.
Bake the totem pole in a 275 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes or until the clay is hardened. Allow to cool before removing.
Paint the totem with acrylic paints and small craft paintbrushes. Allow to dry for at least two hours.
Spray a coat of clear acrylic finish over the entire totem pole and allow drying before handling.
Tips & Warnings
- Cut wings or other embellishments from foam sheets, if desired. Attach the wings or embellishments with a hot glue gun.
- Spray the acrylic finish on the completed totem pole in a well-ventilated, outdoor area.
- Use care when handling a hot glue gun.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
How to Make a Totem Pole out of Paper Towel Rolls
Totem poles are beautiful works of art created by the Indians of the Pacific Northwest coast. Each totem pole represents a story...
How to Make a Mini Totem Pole Out of Wood
Totem poles are wooden pillars on which totems and familial crests and/or animals associated with spirits and mythical creatures are engraved or...
How to Make Polymer Clay Beads
Making basic beads with polymer clay is a project to do with children or any age group. The process for making a...
How to Create a Totem Pole to Represent Your Family
Explore your family history and craft a Native American-style totem pole. Originally carved from cedar trees, the totem pole is derived from...
How to Make a Homemade Totem Pole
Totem poles were traditionally made by the tribes of the Pacific Northwest and some southern Alaskan tribes. Totem poles represent a range...
Ideas for Making a Totem Pole
Totem poles are traditionally made by Native Americans of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest, Washington state in the U.S. and British...
How to Make a Totem Pole for a School Project
Totem poles are one of the best-known symbols of Native American culture. Each one represents a Native American's family history and spiritual...