homemade shrunken head
Homemade Shrunken Head

There are several ways to model a shrunken head. For example, you can craft a nice little replica if you are handy with papier-mache. Or you can do it the classic way, using an apple. This isn't the most realistic version, but it will make a nice little gnarled head, and has the advantage of actually shrinking in the process, adding a random factor to the creation. In the 1960's, there was a kit sold, featuring actor Vincent Price, that provided hair, beads, feathers, etc. to use with apples to make shrunken heads.
Start with an apple. The larger the better. It will shrink quite a bit. Then remove most of the peel using a vegetable peeler. You can leave a little at the top and bottom. Now take a small knife and carve a face. It will take some practice getting it right, but after several attempts you should get a feel for it. Here are some tips:


Make the features (nose, mouth) big. Shrinkage will reduce them more than you will realize.
Use toothpicks for the details.
Round and smooth the surface of the "head" using a rag or paper towel.
Try not to gouge too deeply with the knife as cuts left in the surface may be magnified after shrinking.
Once carved, you must "pickle" your apple/head. Immerse it in a solution of cup of salt mixed with about 4 cups of water. Let it soak for 24 hours. Remove it from the water. Straighten out a paper clip or stiff wire and form a small loop in one end. This will be used to pass a string through. Stick the clip through the top of the apple and down through the bottom. Bend the clip at the bottom to hold it in place. The apple/head is then hung from a string by the clip. You will need to hang it where it will stay dry. After about 2 or 3 weeks, it should be ready.
If you live in a very humid place and your apple shrunken head tends to rot instead of drying, try speeding things up a bit by placing it on the center rack of a warm oven (200 deg. F) until dry.

You can try blackening it with charcoal if you wish. Coat it with a clear matte finish such as polyurethane or shellac to keep moisture from damaging it. If you want it to look more like a "real" Tsantsa, the lips can be sewn with cotton strings, and fake hair can be attached.