Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Trout's Kachinas

"Broadface" kachina
 When we first moved to Arizona, less than one year ago, we started going to the wonderful museums in the area. I was immediately impressed with the Hopi Indian art of carving Kachina dolls.  I had long admired the works of many carvers of animals, birds and fish but Kachina dolls was my first attempt at the art (some say it's just a craft!) of wood carving.

From Wikipedia,"kachina are known to  be the spirits of deities, natural elements or animals or deceased ancestors of the Hopi."  The men of the villages carved these figures from the cottonwood root to be used at ceremonies and to pass on to their daughters as toys and for educating the children as to important spirits. There are hundreds of examples of kachinas from simple to very intricate figures.  The Hopi of today are real masters for making Hopi figures largely the old fashioned way, with a well sharpened knife and natural paints.

Thanks to our Carving Club here at Pebble Creek, I was introduced to the fascinating craft of wood carving and after doing two classes for learning  the tools of wood carving, I received three "roughed out" dolls to finish with the router, sand and then paint.  Many thanks to Al, Chris, Gordon, Jim, Gerald and many more members of the club for their patience and willingness to help a beginner!

It takes many hours of going from a roughed out figure to the finished doll with hopefully few mistakes through the process of using knifes, power carving machines, sanding, sealing,  wood burning (my nemesis) and painting.  I've made 62 feathers which takes the most time and patience to achieve a natural look.  We largely use basswood and acrylic paints and sealers.
This guy, known as "Corn Dancer" was my first attempt.  Also known as "Rugan" for the Hopi word for "rasp" which is a musical instruments for playing along side of the procession of Corn Maidens and Corn Dancers.  This dance is to ask for a good harvest of corn.  A four feather headpiece along with a speaking tube and ear tabs are common to this  stereotypical kachina along with the kilt and sash.

This picture shows a side view of "Corn Dancer" along with a smaller version of "Broadface" for the detail of the skirt and and arms and head. I used natural pods and seeds from our Arizona plants for the mounting along with carved types of cactus.

Next came "Hochani"!  He represents a chief or headman of the  tribe.  I added the hatchet and rattle along with carving the small cactus.

I hope to get some wood and tools  sent to Montana for roughing out for further "Corn Dancer" kachinas to be painted once we return to our wonderful setting here in Pebble Creek in Goodyear, AZ.  The way the water conditions look like now in Montana, my fishing may be curtailed greatly, unfortunately, so my new hobby will come in handy.

A couple of good books for further information on Kachinas is "Carving Traditional Style Kachina Dolls" by Tom Moore and "Kachina Doll Carving" by Eric Bromberg.  Both are available at Schiffer Books.

STAY TUNED!  There is another hobby I also found here which is a lot of fun also!!



  1. You two have such talent! I'm so impressed with how you have embraced the culture of your new home.

  2. Fascinating! Also, very cool. You did a super nice job on the dolls.


  3. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Keep up the good work, Trout! You have really progressed! Can't wait to see the new ones you will create in the future!!!

  4. Very cool dad. We'd love to display one of these. Were very proud of you and glad that you have finally found a place to call home. (by the way your corn dancer has four nipples...and they look kinda like cow utters...any significance) :) just joking.. love ya-Angie

    1. Anonymous2:37 PM

      I thought these were strange too but other dolls have them also!! at least they were above the belt!!

  5. The Carving Club sounds like great fun! We've been to Arizona many times, and I have a couple of the dolls. Very cool that you can make your own!

  6. These are wonderful!!! can you make one that does a rain dance? lol It has been so hot here, and unseasonal record breaking hot June. Enjoy Montana and some fishing. Love to you both

  7. Your baskets and kachina are wonderful, Susan! It takes a lot of skill and patience to create such wonderful pieces. Can't wait to see what's next ;)