Get your inspiration from Native Americans, Aborigines and more. Totems are no longer limited to cultural designs. You can create totemic sculptures from natural, purchased or even recycled materials.
Before starting your own totemic sculpture or totem pole, start brainstorming. Do you want to create a piece based on traditional meanings or your own unique modern artwork? Will it be a single large design or incorporate smaller designs?
For inspiration, check out the Enrichment Project badge program “Explore Totemic Sculptures.”
2. Vertical design.
Totemic sculptures are free-standing and vertical. Creating a larger bottom can help stabilize the tall structure, but if you’re looking for a more traditional design, the sides tend to rise straight up. As you’re working on your piece, you may need to find a way to stabilize your creation by attaching poles to put into the ground, pieces that come off to help provide stability or an attached base to help hold it up. Keep this in mind as you create your own sculpture.
3. Visual stacking.
Traditional totems go straight up. Modern art allows you to be free flowing. Explore ways to visually stack items without necessarily being in a vertical line.
4. Classroom exploration.
Classes for creating your own totem pole or totemic sculpture are available online for kids from kindergarten and up. Look through some of these to see if you can find ways share these sculptures with kids and young adults.
5. Natural materials.
The easiest totems to create are from natural materials. Stacked rocks, collaged trunks or branches and more can be easily made. Decorating it with natural flowers and plants adds an even more organic feel. Try making a totem from natural materials.
6. Wood and carving.
Native Americans used wood for their totem poles. After exploring traditional totems, explore ways you can “carve” totems. Be sure to check out chainsaw carvings as a possible way to “carve.”
7. Ceramic and glass.
Ceramic and glass totemic sculptures are often highlights in a garden. Recycled glassware and stoneware may need to be drilled for a post to go through them or glued together. Explore this type of totemic sculpture. Try stacking some of your kitchen items. Is this something you’d like to use for decoration?
8. Recycled materials.
Recycling materials into a totemic sculpture can be a challenge. Start with the recycled materials supplement that goes with this badge program. Do you have anything on-hand to start stacking? Do you have any resources for obtaining recycled materials?
9. Found materials.
Perhaps you like to visit the junkyard or recycled shops. Walking along a highway can allow you the opportunity to not only find materials, but to pick up trash as well. Found material might include everything from car parts to discarded bottles. Check out the found materials list. Start in your home and see what you have available.
10. Other materials.
Explore other materials you might be able to make sculptures from. A starting point is the “Other Materials” supplement for this badge program.
11. Check before you take.
Before you take natural, found or recycled items, be sure to check them. Cracks might make your sculpture week. Termites or ants might be a bad idea for the wood you intend to carve or decorate. Water damage might not be evident at first glance. Always check the materials before taking them.
12. Personal totems.
Don’t just stack items and claim it is art. Make it personal to you. Is there a story behind the materials you’re using? Does the shape have special meaning? Incorporate yourself into your totem.
13. Statement totems.
Can you make a statement with your totem? It might be a reflection of your environment. It might be a statement against cruelty to animals or improper garbage disposal. Find a statement and incorporate it into your totem.
14. Size doesn’t matter.
Your totem doesn’t have to be a free-standing piece of artwork. A small piece might be incorporated into a piece of jewelry. Explore ways to express totemic sculpture by moving outside of the expected design.
- List of found items to use in your totemic sculptures
- List of natural items to use in your totemic sculptures
- List of recyclable items to use in your totemic sculptures
Sites to Explore
To download a PDF of this badge program, click here: EP_Create Totemic Sculptures