Friday, April 22, 2011

Homemade Figures for the Passion of Jesus

We spent a few days during Holy Week making some of our own figures to use to re-enact the Passion. I had seen several different sets used in the Montessori-style Catechisis of the Good Shepherd program, and honestly, the cost on them is just insane - because they are beautifully hand-carved and probably very durable, which is a plus when using them in a group classroom setting. But, we need something affordable, and I think it was fun to be able to customize them to our own liking. Also, it will be fun to continue to add a few new figures every Lent over the years!

We began by making the most crucial people in the story: Jesus, Mary, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene, Simon of Cyrene, and Veronica. The initial plan was to make one "weeping woman" and then add more over the years, but we ended up making two of them. In retrospect, we should have also made John, since he was the only apostle to remain near throughout the whole ordeal. How could I have forgotten to make my favorite Gospel writer? Oh, well - he's first on the list for the next time we make additional figures! The possibilities are plentiful for who else to add to the story: all the apostles and a table for the Last Supper, Barabbas, Joseph of Arimathea, several soldiers, the Jewish high priests, Pilate's wife, Simon's sons, the servant whose ear gets cut off by Peter (Cecilia is fascinated by this, ha ha!)...

Here is a basic how-to on making these figures.

The supplies you need:
craft clothespins
pipe cleaners
small wooden beads (for hands)
felt in assorted colors
yarn in hair colors
embroidery floss in assorted colors
glue gun and glue
fine-tip marker (for drawing faces)
thin wire
scrapbooking brads (metal)
craft sticks
papier mache
large rock
whatever else you can think of!

Here is how to form the body. It is very basic: just cut a pipe cleaner to the desired length for two arms and glue it to the back of the clothespin so that they arms stick out evenly on each side. Then glue small wooden beads on each end to serve as hands.

You can cut whatever color felt you wish in a long rectangular shape - you can measure first to make sure it is the desired length. I just hold the clothespin up to it and figure it out before cutting it freehand, but I am a freehand kind of crafter. Then cut a small hole for the head. If you want a more snug fit around the neck, then cutting an X works well, and you can snip off any extra bits of fabric around the neck after putting it over the doll's head.

Here is how it looks at this point. You can make it into a boy or girl outfit now.

For the girls, I usually taper it at the ends when cutting so that it is sort of dress-shaped... they just end up looking a bit more feminine this way. Again, I just cut freehand, holding the fabric together front and back, and making sure that the clothespin will have plenty of "breathing room" inside the garment. Then I glue up the sides with the glue gun. You could stitch them up if you wanted then to look really snazzy!

I use embroidery floss to tie the garments, especially those that I know will not be removed. This doll's clothes will not come off because the sides of the dress have been glued together. When I made Jesus's tunic, I wanted it to be removable, so I did not glue up the sides at all and tied it with yarn, which is easier for little hands to tie and untie. A this point, hair can be added to the head using the yarn and glue gun.

Here's how the mantle/veil is formed: I cut a small piece of felt into a rectangle and then put glue over the hair just above her forehead and then over the back of her head, and then I pressed the felt in place. You can add more glue underneath if the veil is looking like it will try to fly away... try to shape it to the head somewhat and it will look more natural.

Then you can draw a face. This is a weeping woman, obviously. Some people don't want to put faces on them, and it makes sense so that Mary Magdalen can be crying at the crucifixion and then be overjoyed when she finds out Jesus has risen, but honestly, they kinda creep me out when they have no faces. It disturbed Caroline when I made out model of a priest to dress in different colored vestments throughout the Liturgical year, and she insisted on a face. he really does look more normal with two eyes and a smile! So, some of my Passion Play figures here might have inappropriate facial expressions for some scenes... oh well. At least they don't look spooky to me.

Here is the variation for a boy's clothing. Sometimes I also just leave it straight on the sides and maybe cut the felt a bit skinnier, if I am going to not glue it and have it be removable. This is a permanent garment, so the sides were glued up.

This one ended up being Simon. His hair is embroidery floss (seems to work better for short hair), and his belt was made by braiding some brown yarn.

Here is the basic figure for Jesus. You can see that I failed to line his legs up with his arms correctly, and so his feet are turned off to the side... oh, well. I also had some thin linen-type cloth and used it for his undergarments, and for any other undergarments, the burial cloths, swaddling cloths for babies, whatever.

I wanted the Jesus figure to be able to have his clothing removed and changed... he needed the above look for the crucifixion, a tunic that he could be stripped of for while he was carrying the cross, a purple cloak for when the soldiers mocked him, and a dazzling white "resurrection robe."

Here is his white robe for Easter Sunday, the resurrection. I have since added some gold rick-rack to the bottom of the robe. It is open on the sides for easy removal.

Here are some other figures up close:

another weeping woman holding her baby

Mary and Mary Magdalen at the foot of the cross - I found the little green styrofoam "hill" in the floral section of a craft store.

Here is how the cross works: it is two jumbo craft sticks glued together, and then two small scrapbooking brads are placed where the nails for the hands would be. I made holes in the craft stick carefully with a serrated knife before inserting the brads. Then I wound some thin wire around the brads. These wires are tucked behind the cross when Jesus carries it, and then they can be pulled around to the front and wrapped around his pipe-cleaner wrists, twist-tie style, to secure him to the cross.

Here is Jesus in his seamless tunic and crown of thorns, standing before Pontius Pilate (who Caroline wanted to wear green). His little headband thing is supposed to look like those leaves that Romans are often depicted wearing on the sides of their heads... do those have an official name?? I trimmed his robes in gold to make him look more official. A seashell is used for the bowl in which he washed his hands to show he was not wanted to be seen as responsible.... you can really get creative with what you use for each item! Acorn caps glued to heads could be helmets for soldiers, for instance.

Simon helping Jesus carry the cross

Jesus meeting Veronica, who holds the cloth with the image of his face on it

both weeping women

Here is Jesus when they are mocking him, with a purple robe that just ties around his neck. The reed in his hand is made of a pipe cleaner with leaves cut out of felt glued on. His crown of thorns is made from thin wire would around several times, and I glued a few scrapbooking brads in it to resemble thorns.

Here is what we are storing them in for now... a wooden rounded bowl. When turned over, it makes a good hill for Golgotha! Extra felt can be used for grass, dirt, the road...

And here is the tomb. I used a basic papier mache recipe of flour, water, and salt. Then I covered a small bowl with plastic wrap. We laid strips of paper dipped in the papier mache across the bowl until we had several layers and then let it dry. It took a few days.

It was not quite dry in this photo, but once it was, I cut an opening in it with scissors. A large stone can be placed in front of the opening for when Jesus is laid in the tomb.

What I love about this project is that you can really be creative and use a variety of materials to create the desired outcomes! Caroline had fun choosing colors of the clothing... it is not exactly a kid-friendly project (other than the papier mache), but maybe a ten year old could do some of it without help.


Tiny Actions said...

This is so cute! What a neat idea. I'm bookmarking this for next year. Thanks for sharing and Happy Easter!

Carrie said...

Awesome project!

Anonymous said...

Great idea as usual. The story of the world calls the head thing for pontius pilate a laurel but I am not sure if that is just the type of leaf. It is something I am preparing for next year so I haven't read through it all yet. I would love to do more of your ideas and can't ever get my act together. Maybe one day... The kids have a cold but we'll have to get together again soon.

Erin said...

Thanks, all! This is where I got the idea:
It is a book of activities that my brother gave to me a few years ago for Christmas, and I have been wanting to work on it at some point - this seemed like a good year to start!

mel said...

Awesome! I was just lusting over those expensive wooden sets...I'm so glad when someone posts a homemade alternative. I'll make almost anything, but rarely can come up with the idea on my own! lol..