Friday, October 02, 2009

Applehead dolls

Two weeks ago Norman and I got the bright idea to carve applehead dolls. We were in one of those seasonal Halloween stores, and a display of withered little shrunken heads (fake, I assume) reminded me of the appleheads my sisters and I used to carve when we were kids. We must have picked the technique up in school somewhere along the way: You peel an apple and carve a little face into it. Then you sprinkle it with salt (to help draw out the moisture, I guess) and leave it in a warm, dry place for a couple of weeks to dry out and shrink. Voila! An applehead. My sisters and I never did anything with ours beyond admire the finished product, though many people out there on the internets have made some pretty cool complete dolls. Norman was surprisingly enthusiastic about getting crafty -- perhaps it was the prospect of wielding a knife -- so we decided to throw a little carving party. Amazingly, everyone we invited accepted the invitation, and last weekend we gathered at The Shambles to work on our dolls. It seemed like the perfect way to kick off the advent of fall; never mind that it was 95 degrees outside and we had to work indoors with the air conditioner running full blast.

Here's Curtis, peeling his apple.

Lucy is taking a mighty big slice out of her apple with that knife. Dig that look of intensity on her face!

Norman attacked his apple with a vegetable peeler and several of Sean's woodcarving tools. The hand on the left belongs to my sister Karen, who didn't carve any apples but instead wanted to watch the rest of us work on ours.

My two finished appleheads. I used a paring knife and some kind of wood gouger to create mine. I had no illusions about my skills as a carver -- I was primarily pleased because the finished products looked very different from one another. (In case you're wondering, I used Red Delicious and Gala variety apples. The Gala was particularly juicy.)

Norman's finished applehead. It had a decidedly skull-like appearance to it.

Sean, hiding behind his finished applehead. He created really impressive 3D features; I particularly liked the nose.

Curtis' finished applehead. His looked like an owl.

Lucy's finished appleheads. The one on the left looked really simian and kind of unnerved me.

Both Lucy and Curtis took their appleheads home to dry. I popped mine, Sean's and Norman's into our oven and let the pilot light do the drying work for me. I was pretty good about checking on our little guys at first, but then I kind of forgot about them and went a couple of days without opening the oven door to regulate their status. Tonight after dinner I finally checked on them, and lo and behold, they're done. Completely shriveled and dried out, they're ready for whatever decorative touches we decide to apply to them.

They look kind of like they're carved out of wood. The two on the left are mine. The third one is Sean's -- it's the only one that still feels slightly springy, though I think it has mummified adequately. Norman's is on the right. The withered brain-like thing in the center is an extra peeled apple that we dried out in case we want to make some hands or feet for our dolls.

Lucy and Curtis, how are your appleheads coming along? We need to plan a dollmaking session soon!

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