Inspired yet again by Ozark Pagan Mamma’s blog, I decided to try making some things out of salt dough. I’d actually never heard of salt dough before reading her blog, but I’ve since learned it’s something that mothers like to make with children as it’s really simple, cheap and harmless if swallowed (but pretty foul tasting – believe me, I tried!). I loved the idea of crafting with something so easy to make and environmentally-friendly, not to mention that it’s a combination of basic, sacred ingredients in Paganism (water, flour, salt) so I thought I’d give it a go!
I was surprised at how easy it is to make the dough to the right consistency. It’s similar to working with clay, but it’s more brittle and small-scale fine detail is hard to achieve. It also tends to collapse under its own weight a bit, hence most salt dough ornaments you see are flat. Yet it’s easier than you would think to shape and smooth. And it took less time than I thought for them to harden as well; baking them on a low heat, I’d say about 2 hours is sufficient (but I left them in for two hours longer for good measure). Again, I was surprised at how well the figures fared in the oven – they didn’t develop any cracks, but they did lose their shape a little.
I’d had the idea of making some little salt dough kodama figurines from Princess Mononoke (one of my favourite Pagan-friendly movies!) as they’re so cute and appealing, plus my husband really likes them as well. Not to mention that their design is really simple! The above photo shows my attempt – they were really fiddly to make with the right proportions and still sit upright without crushing themselves under their own weight. None of them turned out looking brilliant, but for a first attempt I’m fairly satisfied with them; I learned a lot about how to use the dough in the process.
I also made this little statue of Jizo which I thought would be good to place in our spare room – Jizo is the guardian of travellers, which seems appropriate for a room used for guests. Unfortunately, he fell over in the baking process which now means he can’t stand up on his own (he’s being propped up in the photo!) I could give him a base, or try and make a better one next time.
I finally made a miniature mask of Otafuku, a figure representing luck at Setsubun, the Japanese “bean throwing” festival held about the same time as Imbolc. I haven’t featured a photo because she won’t look anything like Otafuku until I paint her. I plan to display her on my altar during Setsubun/Imbolc.
I’ve found working with salt dough really enjoyable and I definitely want to try again! It’s a bit of a shame that it seems generally considered something for kids, as I can see so much potential for adults to enjoy working with it as a serious craft tool. And seeing as you only need three common ingredients that most people usually always have in the house, there’s no reason to just start making some salt dough right now!
Finally, seeing as the kodama are tree spirits, I thought they’d look great on our Christmas tree! So here they are enjoying their new home…