DIY a Folk Art Halloween Totem that’s frightfully fun

I adore Rebekah Meier’s folk art figures, and her Halloween Totem is no exception. This playful, paper clay Halloween craft combines Halloween favorites — a black cat, grinning jack-‘o-lantern and green gourd. Thanks to Rebekah’s clear, step-step instruction, recreating these characters won’t require incantations or other magic spells. Even if you’ve not worked with clay since your Play-Doh® days, these techniques will be familiar to you. This Folk Art Halloween Totem is a keepsake Halloween craft, so I hope you’ll give it a try.

You really can make this Folk Art Halloween Totem. It's made with paperclay and shapes of Styrofoam brand foam. If you worked with Play-Doh as a kid, you can do it!

Folk Art Halloween Totem by Rebekah Meier

To make a Folk Art Halloween Totem, you’ll need:

  • STYROFOAM™ Brand Foam: One each 2”, 3” and 4” balls
  • Air-dry clay, one package (Rebekah used Creative Paperclay®)
  • Acrylic craft paint: Black, Light Buttermilk, Canyon Orange, Tuscan Red, Cadmium Yellow, Hauser Light Green
  • Gel stain in oak
  • Spray Varnish, satin finish
  • Gesso
  • Felt: Scraps of orange
  • Rickrack in black
  • Crepe paper in black, 12” length
  • Button thread in black and needle
  • Candlestick, glass, wood, or other substrate (you can often find these in a dollar store)
  • Toothpicks, six or so
  • E-6000 Adhesive
  • Thick, white craft glue
  • Tools needed: Scissors; fine sandpaper; paper towels; water basin; ½” flat and liner paintbrushes; clay tools: acrylic clay roller, cutter blade, smoothing tools

To make a Folk Art Halloween Totem:

1. Using toothpicks, stack balls together, smallest to largest size. Secure with a small amount of craft glue. Let dry

2. Using acrylic clay roller, roll Paperclay to a 1/8” thickness.

3. Apply clay to balls, completely covering them. Smooth out all lines and seams with wet fingers and clay tools.

4. While clay is still wet, apply facial features:

  • Cat head: Add two very small, flattened balls for eyes, and carefully outline a triangle for the nose.
  • Green gourd: Use fingers to make circle impressions for eyes and nose, and a curved line for grin.
  • Jack-o-lantern: Add two small triangles for eyes, and a third triangle for the nose. Carefully outline a smiling mouth.

5. If cracks appear as clay dries, patch with more clay, smooth out, and let dry.

6. When dry, sand figure with fine sandpaper till smooth. Wipe off dust with paper towel.

7. Using flat paintbrush, apply one coat of gesso. Let dry.

8. Using flat paintbrush paint as follows:

  • 2” ball: Black (cat)
  • 3” ball: Light green (gourd)
  • 4” ball: Canyon orange (jack-‘o-lantern)

9. Paint facial features with liner brush. Refer to photo as you paint:

What's Halloween without a black cat? DIY this folk art cat with Paperclay and Styrofoam.

Cat detail.

  • Cat: Mouth and nose, Tuscan Red; eyes and mouth trim, Cadmium Yellow; eye highlights, Canyon Orange; teeth, Light Buttermilk; eye dots, Black.

    Pumpkins aren't always orange! Here's a grinning, green gourd from a Folk Art Halloween Totem

    Gourd detail.

  • Gourd: Eyes, Cadmium Yellow; nose, mouth and eye lines, Tuscan Red; mouth, Light Buttermilk; eye pupil and highlights, Black; mouth outline, Canyon Orange.

    A grinning Jack in a folk art style. He's part of a folk-art style Halloween Totem. Tutorial on

    Jack-‘o-lantern detail.

  • Jack-‘O-Lantern: Eyes, Black; mouth, Cadmium Yellow; mouth lines, Tuscan Red; mouth outline, Light Green; eye highlight, Light Buttermilk.

10. Paint candlestick Black and let dry. Spray with varnish.

11. Glue totem to candlestick with E-6000 adhesive. Let dry.

12. Apply gel stain to the totem. Immediately wipe off excess with paper towel. Let dry. Spray with one coat of varnish. Let dry.

13. From orange felt, cut one 6” x 1-½” strip and a quarter-size circle. Roll strip into cylinder shape, secure with craft glue. Glue cylinder to circle to create hat. Trace top of cylinder onto felt, cut out circle and glue to top of hat. Glue hat to the head of Cat with craft glue.

14. Fold 12” piece of black crepe paper in half, and trim approximately ¼” from open side. Gather folded edge with black button thread. Pull gathers slightly and place around neck of cat. Pull gathers tight and knot thread.

15. Glue rickrack around the hat.

For more of Rebekah’s folk art crafts, check out the Folk Art Patriotic Bird she shared with Crafts ‘n Coffee readers earlier this year.

Do you have plans for this long, holiday weekend? Enjoy, and stay safe.

Happy crafting.


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4 Responses to DIY a Folk Art Halloween Totem that’s frightfully fun

  1. LisaM says:

    Those are a great totem. What a great way to make halloween fun. 🙂

  2. Nancy D says:

    I love Rebekah Meier’s creations! And this one is on my “to do” list! And I’m going to have to make two if my daughter sees it, ha! Love it! By the way, I pinned the cute spooky house and it has already been repinned several times. This one is going on my Halloween board too. Can’t wait to see what else you share as the autumn season gets closer 🙂

    • Sharon says:

      Why, thank you so much, Nancy, and I appreciate your sweet comments. I’m so glad you’re inspired by Crafts ‘n Coffee! And I agree with you — Rebekah Meier is an amazingly talented designer. I plan to feature another one of her folk art characters in the coming weeks, so be sure to stop in again. Sharon

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