Ideas for Making a Totem Pole

By Angela Neal
Use recycled materials to make mini totem poles.

Totem poles are associated with Native Americans from tribes of the Pacific Northwest, including Washington State in the U.S. and British Columbia in Canada. Traditionally carved carved from wood, they symbolize the maker's tribe, family or animal guide. Some totem poles tell the story of a person's life. You don't need to use a whole tree to make a totem pole; you can design and make your own with inexpensive craft materials.

Toilet Paper Roll Totem Pole

Draw three totem pole animal faces on a piece of light brown craft paper that are about 2-inches high and 1-1/2-to-2 inches wide. You can get ideas about how the faces should look and make them as authentic as possible by studying images of totem poles. You can also draw the faces of animals that you like, including a winged animal such as an eagle or crow, which is usually at the top of the totem pole. Identify it by drawing a set of wings that are each 2-1/2 inches wide and 1-1/2 inches high. Cut out the faces and wings and glue them to a toilet paper roll.

Coffee Can Totem Pole

Coffee cans can also be the raw material for a totem pole. Stack three empty ones on top of each other and duct tape them together. Wrap brown craft paper all the way around the outside and glue or tape the edges together in the back. You can then paint totem pole animals or human faces on the front of the craft paper tower with acrylic paints. Bright colors such as yellow, turquoise and red look best highlighted with black edges. You can cut wings out of two pieces of craft paper and paint them, or you can paint a pair of bear paws and glue them to the sides of the totem pole.

A Totem Pole Candle Holder

A totem pole candle holder is easy to make. Start by wrapping a piece of red or yellow cellophane around a tall clear glass cylinder vase that is about 3-to-4 inches in diameter and at least 6-inches tall. The totem faces go on a piece of thin poster board cut to the height and circumference of the vase. Cut out the eyes and mouths of the totem pole animals and paint the rest of the faces with acrylic paints, then wrap the poster board around the vase and glue it in the back. Finish off by putting a tea light in the top of the vase.

Soap Totem Pole

Sketch the animal faces that you want to include in your totem pole on a piece of paper. Since you are going to carve each face on a bar of soap and and then stack the bars, make four or five faces maximum. Carve the outline of each face on the bar of soap first with the sharp tip of a knife and then cut away the larger pieces of soap around the face. Stack each bar of soap and glue the top and bottom together with epoxy. Wait 24 for the glue to dry and paint the faces with acrylic paint.

About the Author

Angela Neal is a writer for various websites, specializing in published articles ranging from the categories of art and design to beauty and DIY fashion. Neal received her Associate of Arts in administrative assisting from Bohecker College.