Monday, August 10, 2009

Tsantsa; from clay to shrunken head

I love shrunken heads. I really do. These little guys are creepy, look great, and have that mysterious tribal vibe to them. And let's face it, they are damn cute. And after reading my 1925 copy of Up de Graff's Head Hunters of the Amazon, I decided I just HAD to have one.

Of course, buying a real shrunken head is out of my price range, but I wanted my own little tsantsa, and there is no better way to get something than to make it yourself.

Using sulfur-free oil based clay, I had a blast sculpting this little guy over a few hours. I won't go into details with the sculpting process; with a little bit of artistic talent, it's quite easy to do. The sculpture done, a mold must be made. It shalt be made out of plaster, said I!

I made a dividing wall with thin aluminum pieces (the bottom of a pie plate), and covered the head with plaster and strips of burlap. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of this process, so you'll have to imagine. I then sloshed some liquid latex inside the mold, following by the lengthy process of letting it cure, then removed and powdered the latex cast with baby powder.

I gave back a little color and tackiness to the skin using brown and orange grease makeup (applied thinly so that the wrinkles and pores aren't filled out), and following the information I had about the methods used to make shrunken heads, I blackened the head with charcoal.

I then applied a good layer of fixative. I personally like to use ultra-strong TRESemmé hairpsray. Following this, I sewed the lips and the back of the head shut with thin cotton rope, which I dyed a yellowish brown with coffee earlier.

I still have to decorate it a bit more and find a way to put hair on it (punching hair into slip latex is quite difficult; I'll have to find another solution)

However, I'm quite happy with how it looks like right now! It was quite a simple process, with plenty of info that can be found online, but if you want to try something similar and need any help, advice is just a comment or an email away!

Here is a great website about shrunken heads

and on here you'll find a friendly community willing to answer most of your questions about molding and casting latex props

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much! I´m going to try make my own shrunken head from clay.
    Did you use real or synthetic hair? Thank you.