Earth-Centered Practices for Everyday Mystics, Healers, & Creatives

How to Make A Spirit Doll: Step 1 (Intention, Theme, Supplies)

in Art Tutorial, Classes & Workshops, Creativity

Last summer when I was planning a sacred art practice for my Gaian Soul Retreat, I stumbled upon the idea of making Spirit Dolls. I’m not sure how the idea came to me, as I’ve never made one before. Through trial and error, I came up with the process I’m going to share with you in blog posts over the next seven days. I expect this to be only a guideline for you, as I know what can happen when creative energy runs wild!  I’m sure you’ll improve on my technique, and come up with ideas of your own. The women at the retreat in September sure did! I was astounded at the beauty of the dolls they created, and how each one was unique to its creator. (You’ll see photos of the women making the dolls at the retreat in these posts.)

Step 1: Set Your Intention, Choose a Theme, Gather Your Supplies

Consider setting an intention for this doll. Self-love? Healing? Prosperity? To deepen your intuition? To mark the current season?

Think of a quality that you want to bring into your life.

This doll will hold that energy for you. As you make her, you will be meditating on your intention and listening for guidance.

You could also choose a theme for the doll that resonates with your intention. For example, you might want to honor the Crone, the Wise Old Woman, as the season of All Hallows approaches, and get in touch with your inner Wise Woman at the same time. You might want to honor one of your ancestors. Or perhaps you love the sea, and you want to make a doll that expresses how you feel about Mama Ocean. You might want the doll to embody the Full Moon (or the Dark or the New). Maybe you need a Wild Woman doll to shake a few things loose in your life! Or maybe you want to connect deeply with a specific Goddess, like Brigid, Kwan Yin, or Yemaya.

Then choose a color scheme that matches your theme or intention — blue, purple and green for mermaids; black, silver and white for a Wise Woman (perhaps with a splash of red and purple!)

Or — you can just let her develop organically, and choose fabrics and embellishments in an intuitive way, without making any conscious choices ahead of time. That might be the best way of all.

Then gather your supplies.

From outside:

Gather a nice pile of sticks for the body, from 8″ to 18″ long. I gathered mostly cedar and alder sticks, because that’s what is easily available around my house. You can also gather seedpods, leaves, moss, herbs, stones, shells, feathers and anything that seems magical and might make its way into your doll.

If you don’t live in an area where sticks and other natural materials are readily available, make a material-gathering pilgrimage to a city or regional park. Make this adventure part of your creative process.

From your altar or jewelry box:

Odd pieces of old jewelry, charms from a charm bracelet, crystals, essential oils, anything you might want to incorporate into the doll.

From your own stash of craft supplies, a craft store or a garage sale: 

Fabric, ribbon, yarn, twine, sisal, thread, beads, gemstones, buttons, silk or dried flowers, corn husks, etc.

You will also need cotton balls or cotton batting for the body; and Pearl-Ex powders and clear shoe polish (or metallic paints) for the face. If you decide to sculpt your own face out of Sculpey or Fimo, you’ll need those supplies, plus sculpting tools.

Tools:

Scissors, needle & thread, glue gun, snipper for cutting sticks. Wet Ones are helpful after working with the Pearl-Ex and shoe polish.

Face:

I like to use the terra cotta faces I purchase from San Antonio artist Lyn Belisle in her Etsy shop, EarthShards. If she doesn’t have any in her shop when you look, be sure to email her and ask about them. Tell her I sent you. (Nope, not an affiliate link, I just love her stuff.)

As you can tell, Step 1 might take some time. You won’t necessarily be able to do all this in one day. 

Have fun! Tomorrow we’ll decorate the face. 

A complimentary PDF of the whole process of making a Spirit Doll can be downloaded here.

Thoughtful, sparkling comments. . .

  • Anna Sun - Oct 14th 2012 10:09 pm

    Well my Spirit Goddess will definitely take more than a week to create! If nothing else that I really want to order those beutiful terracotta faces!

    But I allready know the theme of my doll: Very 9 of Air! “She who Releases to Mother Earth!” I want her to be my worry doll of a sort. However, I have to ponder some good qualities that she can bring into my life as well as remove!

    Reply

    • Joanna Mon - Oct 15th 2012 9:09 am

      I love the theme of your doll, Anna. And I have no doubt that the “good qualities” will emerge and make themselves known to you in the process of making the doll. Blessings!

      Reply

  • Susan Mon - Oct 15th 2012 10:29 am

    Fabulous. Can’t wait to watch the process unfold as you share the instructions over the next week. I want to share this exploration in some form at my daughter’s junior high school. Thank you for your generosity.

    Reply

    • Joanna Mon - Oct 15th 2012 10:33 am

      You are so welcome, Susan! I’m excited to hear about you making Spirit Dolls with your daughter & her friends.

      Reply

  • Phyllis Mon - Oct 15th 2012 9:43 pm

    Hi, just found your site. I love your spirit dolls. I have been receiving gentle nudges to begin my own for over a month. I’ve dreaming about them as well. So, I’ve started a few but I wanted more of an usual or artsy face. Thanks so much for the ideas for the terra cotta faces. I love them! Can’t wait to see what’s next. blessings

    Reply

    • Joanna Tue - Oct 16th 2012 7:24 am

      Hi Phyllis, so glad you found us here, and glad to inspire you a bit. I know you’ll love Lyn’s terra cotta faces. Have fun!

      Reply

  • Witch of Stitches Wed - Oct 17th 2012 10:15 am

    A few years ago, with a needlework group I belonged to, and then earlier this year, in my Divine Feminine Discussion group, we made Spirit Dolls almost identical to yours. The dolls are beautiful, but, more than that, there is a very real magick that happens while making them. They come alive and we can make a spiritual connection. Perhaps they become a sort of spirit home.

    Reply

    • Joanna Wed - Oct 17th 2012 10:19 am

      Oh I absolutely do agree with you there, on the magical/spiritual connection! Would love to see your dolls. Blessings.

      Reply

  • Karen Wed - Oct 17th 2012 12:03 pm

    Sounds like a trip to the beach!

    My spirit doll will be “She Who Flows Like Water” to remind me to “go with the flow” and make new pathways when there are obstacles in my way.

    Reply

    • Joanna Wed - Oct 17th 2012 3:13 pm

      Oh I love her already, Karen!

      Reply

  • SUSAN Thu - Dec 12th 2013 1:24 pm

    Our circle of five crone women were to gather and start making spirit dolls about 3 months ago…but our creative juices are stymied by the cancer and impending death of the one of us who was to lead us. I am hoping that your site and wonderful e-book will help us through. Is your book available any other way? I can certainly print 5 copies but thought you might have other sources. Thanks for creating this site…

    Reply

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Thu - Dec 12th 2013 2:40 pm

      Susan, maybe you can all read the ebook on your computers, or share a couple of printed copies . . . I think you know you can download it for free here: http://www.gaiansoul.com/shop/ebooks/ I’m really sorry it is not available as a printed book. Love & BLessings to you all.

      Reply

  • Griselda Tello Mon - Sep 05th 2016 6:29 pm

    Dearest Joanna, I keep on sending this page to my clients because I consider this one of the very best ways to grow, creating art dolls and you have done such a great job!
    I don’t know if you remember me, I am a friend of Cari Ferraro.
    I hope one day I can attend one of your workshops.
    For now, I just want to say thanks for being you and sharing of your gifts.
    Bright Blessingns.
    Griselda

    Reply

    • Joanna Powell Colbert Wed - Sep 07th 2016 9:41 am

      I do remember you, Griselda, of course. Thank you for sharing and thank you for all the beautiful work you do!

      Reply

  • Carmen Wed - Sep 14th 2016 5:12 pm

    Wow i can belive it i love to collet ribbon shell sone crystal and old jewery and love doll same my are spiritual i can wait to to learn how make one thank for sbowing your workin and teaching your crafat

    Reply

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