My parents always had a Kitchen Witch hanging in their house. She was paper mache and made by Sarah Kaufmann. That witch now hangs in our kitchen at Bedlam Hollow. I’ve had her for almost twenty years and my parents had her for at least that many, and as you can see, she’s held up beautifully.
I can’t say for sure, but I’m fairly positive she was the beginning of my love of all things Witchy. For those who don’t know, the Kitchen Witch is meant to bring good luck to your home and kitchen. While she may appear to be a doll, these witches are considered poppets; small figures resembling a human and used in witchcraft. Now, before you think having a kitchen witch will suddenly give you the urge to cook children, remember, these are good witches. They’re meant to help and bring luck. Although, if you find yourself looking at your child and then ordering a much larger cooking pot off Amazon, may I recommend the following:
There’s some debate on where these ladies originated from. Germany and Scandinavia (Norway, specifically) are the most popular origins, although I did read a blog from German Girl In America that said the first written documentation of a kitchen witch was found in a British will. Whoever died left their kitchen witch to someone else. As germangirlinamerica noted, there must have been some amazing food coming out of that kitchen! Regardless of where they came from, it’s believed people had them hanging in their kitchens as early as the sixteenth century.
These very early versions were most likely made from straw, clay, and old cloth, and pretty simple. I’m not sure how many people are interested in having a kitchen witch in their home these days, but I’ve been eyeing our witch for years, trying to figure out how I would go about making one. I knew I wanted to use paper mache, and lean towards the look of our witch. But I wanted to give her my own weird artsiness.
I started them in November and finished mid-January. And here they are – The Kitchen Witches from Bedlam Hollow.
I figured five was a good number to play with, and started by making heads and hands, and then creating the very basic ‘skeletal structure’, and then building out the body. This was done with foil, masking tape, and scrap wire from our electric fence.
Next was laying a foundation of strip paper mache. I made mine super basic with just glue and water and used strips of newspaper.
I made a paper mache clay and thickened the bodies with it, and also created the smaller features of the heads (including ears! I love their ears!!), hands, and footwear.
I played with different options for ‘brooms’ and then started painting. Hair was created with yarn and embroidery floss. The traditional witch hats were made from felt, and the clothes were all created using fabric I found at thrift stores. Figuring out the clothing was the trickiest part for me, but once I did, it went pretty fast.
And here are the finished witches… The flowers, frogs, fish, and little spoon were all made from polymer clay.
More recent witches (within the last fifty or sixty years) usually have a saying that goes with them. I found the sayings and poems quite charming, but I didn’t want to use something someone else wrote without permission. Again, trying to stay with a similar vibe, these girls all have cards with ‘The Kitchen Witch – From Bedlam Hollow’ on one side and on the other side, the poem I wrote. “She’ll keep your pot from over-stewing, and help you stop the over-doing. Food you make will be superb, as she guides your use of spice and herb. Your home will be free from harm, if your witch lives there as a good-luck charm.”
These ladies were sent out and are hopefully bringing good luck (and not weird cravings) to their new homes. I’ve received several inquiries on if I’ll be selling kitchen witches in the future. I’ll be honest, I’ve had that thought. I had a lot of fun making them and, much to Tracy’s delight, I already have a new batch of heads on the kitchen counter. I want to make another five or ten and fix some of the issues from the original five. I really need to make more clay and get it smoother. But I’m also incredibly fickle when it comes to art, so I won’t be terrible surprised if I finish this batch and then I’m ready to move on to something else. Like a nice mummified mermaid.