How to Make a 3-D Totem Pole

Written by angela neal | 13/05/2017
How to Make a 3-D Totem Pole
Children can learn about recycling, Native American culture and family history with homemade totem poles. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Make a three-dimensional totem pole, instead of just a drawn cut-out, and tell a family story using items that you otherwise would have thrown away. Totem poles are a tradition of the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest United States and were made as status symbols and to tell other people of a family history. Collect a few disposable items to build the 3D totem pole and find other inexpensive items where craft supplies are sold.

Draw a rough sketch to plan out the look of your three-dimensional totem pole. Use basic shapes to make up the look of the faces of the animals or people so that it will be easier to build.

Wrap paper and masking tape around a coffee can for each animal or person you will stack to create the totem pole. Look at the sketch you made and lightly draw the bases of the shapes for the facial features on one side of each coffee can.

Cut out the individual egg cups from an egg carton and tape them to the lines you drew on the paper-covered coffee cans. For example, make eyebrows by positioning two eggs cups horizontally over the places where you'll paint each eye. Affix one egg cup vertically between the eyes for a nose and another horizontally below the nose for a mouth.

Stack the coffee cans on top of each other in the order you put them in your sketch, and tape them together with masking tape.

Mix 2 cups flour with 2 cups water to make papier-mache. Cut up strips of newspaper or scrap paper and dip each strip into the mixture. Place each strip over the facial features, and the paper and masking tape bases on the coffee cans. Apply one layer, let it dry overnight and lay down a second layer. Wait 12 hours for the second layer to dry completely.

Paint the whole totem pole with a layer of golden yellow or light beige acrylic paint and wait 1 hour for it to dry. Apply a second coat of the paint if you can still see through to the paper underneath. Paint the outlines of the eyes with black acrylic paint and colour in the eyes with white. Paint the other facial features in the colours you want and wait two hours for the paint to dry before displaying your 3-D totem pole.

Things you need

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Coffee cans
  • Paper
  • Masking tape
  • Egg cartons
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Acrylic paints

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