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Become a Santeras

July 23, 2013

I’m constantly trying to make this blog interesting for as many creative individuals as possible, that’s why I have to regularly come up with new topics that would cover all kinds of Arts. It’s not that easy… that’s why I sometimes migh need your help. What do you think to guest blog posts? Would you like to have a go at writing about something you love creating? If so, please don’t be shy and drop me a line: decorartuk@gmail.com

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Meanwhile, I’d like you all to meet Kathie Vezzani, who has kindly agreed to share her knowledge and ideas on how to make Santos dolls! (Have you ever heard of them?) This is the first ever guest blog post and before you can read on, I’d like to say THANK YOU, Kathie! Learning something new is always a pleasure and if someone is providing good advice… well, it’s even better.

Anyway, Santos dolls. I saw them on the internet, I think it was an acident, i.e. I accidentally stumbled upon some images of caged dolls (you’ll soon find out what I mean by caged) that looked old and somehow mysterious. I looked for some information about them and soon found out the historic background and some inspiring ideas, the main one being – you can make a Santos doll yourself. How? Let’s ask Kathie.

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SANTOS DOLLS

St. Agnes, Santos Doll

St. Agnes, Santos Doll (image provided by Kathie Vezzani)

“The beauty of Facebook is sometimes you are directed to someone or to a class that you would not have known otherwise.  The Santos Caged class on Jeanne Oliver’s site is taught by Jennifer Rizzo was just a lark for me because it cost only $19, is up for a year, and I thought why not I had always been intrigued by these dolls. I watched all the videos in one day, bought the supplies the next day and have been happily creating Santos dolls for the last few weeks. Be warned, they are addicting to make. Each one’s personalities develops as you fashion her face, add her clothes and then her adornments. It’s a bit like playing with your dolls, which I never really did as a young girl.

Here is my first group of Santos Dolls:

Santos Dolls made by Kathie (image provided by Kathie

Santos Dolls made by Kathie (image provided by Kathie Vezzani)

Santos Dolls were originally created by Santeros,  or priests in the seventeenth century for small villages who were without a church or during war times when people could not travel. They were used as home altars and represented the image of Christ, the Virgin Mary, Patron Saints and other notables in biblical history. Many were brought to the Americas during the Colonial invasion by the Spaniards and used to “convert” the indigenous people to Catholicism. As you can imagine, not many survived their arduous journeys and that is why there are so few originals available. I have traveled throughout Mexico for the past 16 years as part of my “other job” and have seen some very beautiful and extremely expensive original Santos dolls.

As a Santeras, I create a more rustic version of Santos dolls using found objects for their arms such as wooden rulers, pieces of wood, miniature bowling pins, metal objects and even curtain rods.

Rosita's Friends - Caged and standing Santos dolls, mixed media assemblage (

Rosita’s Friends – Caged and standing Santos dolls, mixed media assemblage (image provided by Kathie Vezzani)

Genivive and St. Elizabeth

Genivive and St. Elizabeth (image provided by Kathie Vezzani)

The bodies are made out of paper maché dress forms as are the heads. I used paper clay to mold the heads, necks, shoulders and to cover the seam where the small torsos are connected to a cone. Jennifer offers kits in her online store. I found the forms at a local art store called Artco. You can check your local Michael’s or Hobby Lobby stores.

Catalina Close up

Catalina Close up (image provided by Kathie Vezzani)

I am also an assemblage artist so I tweaked Jennifer’s lesson on adding the cages to some of the dolls. You can see that two were added to bird cages and I used table legs for Catalina and pieces of metal for Genivive’s cage.

Not only did I get to make their bodies, but I was able to adorn them, too. This was fun because I don’t really use jewelry very often so I found a bunch of junk pieces and repurposed them, adding my own touches and creating crowns out of wire and Rosita’s out of a napkin ring. There are so many possibilities!

I urge you to become a Santeras and develop your own Santos with their unique personalities, it’s very rewarding.

For more examples of Santos dolls you can go to Santos Cage Doll’s website. They also carry products.”

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Kathie is a mixed media artist from Gig Harbor, WA. You can read more about Kathie on her website, facebook, or see more Santos pictures on her Bits and Pieces Pinterest board.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2013 7:00 pm

    Kristina, I didn’t realize I was your first guest blogger. What an honor. Thank you!

  2. July 25, 2013 6:27 pm

    I love their expressions and their dress. There is something mysterious about them, like figureheads on ships or old madigra puppets.

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