Not Just Another Pretty Face: Make an Applehead Doll

Image from www.appledolls.org

Dolls have a long, rich history across the cultures. In prehistoric times, primitive puppets were often used in ceremonies. Tribal healers in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, sometimes utilized dolls in medicinal rituals. And, of course, most people are familiar with the idea of cursing enemies through the use of voodoo dolls (but we won’t go there right now…)

A few month ago, we looked at the tradition of corn dollies, which were believed to keep the spirits of the grain alive through the long winters, and to help ensure a good harvest the following year. But speaking of fruit faces (as we did in our earlier post about Guiseppe Arcimboldo’s unique portraits, here’s another way to use another common natural material (apples) to create the wonderful, wizened faces of applehead dolls. The Seneca Indians may have been the first to make dolls from apples, but the craft was later adopted by the mountain people in Appalachia. Today, they remain a popular folk art of the region.

I’m just going to give you the basics here, because there are several sites out there (www.appledolls.org in particular) that already do a far better job than I with the specifics.¬† Look for the resource list at the end of the post.

Materials:

Apples (large is better as they will shrink substantially when drying)

Lemon Juice

Kitchen knife

Cotton balls or other fiber for hair (raw cotton can be dyed in strong coffee or tea, if desired)

Red watercolor paint

Beads or apple seeds for eyes

Wire (such as from a coat hangar) to form the basic body

Rags to give shape to the body

Rubber bands or tape to secure the rags on the wire form

Fabric for clothes (or use existing doll clothes if you have them)

To Make the Applehead:

  1. Carefully peel the apple and then carve out the eyes, nose, mouth and ears (here is a great step-by-step for this procedure)
  2. Insert beads or seeds for the eyes.
  3. If desired, you can also cut small hands and feet from pieces of apple
  4. Dip the carved apple in a lemon juice bath for a minute or two, followed by a generous sprinkling of salt (this serves as a preservative)
  5. Dry your applehead. Depending upon the humidity, this can take several weeks. It’s best to hang your applehead during this process. You can speed things up by using a food dehydrator or putting it in your oven at a low temperature. When the head is completely dried it will be about half its original size and the face will have “aged.” One of the fun things about this craft is that you can never predict exactly what the dried face will look like!
  6. Dilute red watercolor paint with a little water and paint the mouth. Further dilute the paint for give the cheeks a rosy glow.
  7. Give your applehead a thin coat of clear shellac or varnish to protect it.
  8. Using¬† the cotton balls or other fiber, glue hair on your doll’s head.

Assemble Your Doll:

  1. Use pliars to twist the wire into a simple stick figure.
  2. Wrap strips of rags around the wire to give form to the body. Use rubber bands or tape to secure the rags to the wire form.
  3. Make clothes (or use existing doll clothes) to dress your doll.
  4. Attach the head by skewering it firmly on the protruding wire “neck” of the wire stick figure.
  5. Attach your apple hands and feet to the wire stick figure, if desired

And there you have it! Making applehead dolls is a fun craft for fall.

For more detailed explanations and inspiration, check out these sites:

Apple Dolls

Make Applehead Dollsfrom Mother Earth News

“Apple Head Dolls” from Drying Times

 

 

 

 

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