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How to Make a Santos Cage Doll

Do you love Santos Cage Dolls, or have you ever wanted to learn to make a Santos Cage Doll? I recently taught this workshop at the shop, and I’ve also taught the technique previously to make a Santos Cage Doll online, and I wanted to share the technique with you here. You can sign up below to take an online e-course I’ve taught. There is a basic class and I also offer an expanded art doll workshop too. There’s also a video of this post you can watch of a bit of the process of making a cage doll.

Jennifer Rizozo santos cage doll class

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I have made and sold Santos Cage Dolls since 2009. I wanted one for myself and couldn’t afford one, so I decided to teach myself how to make one, which let me to creating the e-course for Making Santos Cage Dolls! If you’ve never made one, don’t worry if you don’t have any experience! And if you liked this brief tutorial and want to know more, you can take the Santos Cage Doll Workshop here. My first dolls were very rustic, and then overtime they’ve evolved with my own personal touches.

Handmde Santos Cage Doll by Jennifer Rizzo

What are Santos Dolls?

Santos Dolls are a genre of dolls as icons meant to represent the saints. Originally believed to originate around the 13th century as rustic carvings, they were created to use at in home altars in small villages, especially when there were no priests around, in times of war or when churches weren’t close. they have a deep religious history. Santos Cage dolls have been used in many Western European cultures such as France, Italy and Spain as well as the Latin Americas. Some places they are simple wood carvings, and in other countries they wear ornate religious garb, golden crowns and necklaces. European santos dolls have become art unto themselves and original dolls are very collectible art pieces fetching high prices on Ebay and Etsy. Produced heavily in the 1700’s and 1800’s, Now you can find reasonable reproductions out of resin, or make your own. As someone who was raised Catholic, I admire the beauty, symbolism and craftmanship of the dolls which is why I wanted to try to find a way to make the cage version. A Santos Cage Doll has spaced out wood slats for it’s base instead of a full skirt or legs.

Creative Paper Clay 16 oz.
Paper Mache Craft Eggs
Paper Mache Craft Cone 10.63 x 4 inch
Paper Mache Mannequin (Darice) 13″
24 Gauge Black Wire
6″ Round Wood Base or Embroidery Hoop
Hot Glue
Acrylic Paint
Clay Tools
Needle Nose Pliers and Round Nose Jewelry Pliers

You can purchase supplies here in my Amazon Store.

Let’s get started creating a Santos Cage Doll!

While this is something that is really hard to give a good pictorial step by step for, I will give you an overview of each step. When creating a Santos Cage Doll, the first thing that needs to be made is the armature. This is what holds the clay together. I prefer to use a cardboard mannequin body, a cardboard egg shape, and a square dowel rod glued together to assemble the base of the doll.

Santos Cage Doll Armature Supplies

Once the doll is assembled, add clay to the neck and body and let it dry. This will support the head and body. Paperclay re-wets easily, so don’t worry about it being too dry unlike conventional clay.

Paperclay covered Santos art doll and clay sculpting supplies

After the neck is dry, it’s a good time to cover the entire structure in paper clay. I like paper clay the best because it’s really responsive to not only touch, but water. it also holds it’s shape well too.

Sculpting a Santos Cage Doll face with clay

Once that’s dry you can start sculpting the face. Faces seem intimidating, but really they are just a mix of shapes like circles and half-moons, or as I like to call them, bananas. If you would like more in-depth instruction, register here for the online workshop.

Hands Adding cheeks to a Santos Doll

I always think the lips are the trickiest part. That’s why I love the clay tool used in the image. It has a flat end and a scooped end which really help give the lips a more delicate shape.

Sculpt the  lips on the Santos Doll Face

Once you finish the face, create the arm holes if you are going to add free hanging arms with wire. For static arms, shape those and add them and the very last step. Then add the hair and let your doll dry a full day before painting.

The face and arm holes of a Santos Doll Sculpture

Once your doll is dry, I recommend painting the hair and body first and then tinkering with he features last.

Sculpting Santos Cage Doll Arms

While your doll is drying, it’s a great time to shape and form the dolls appendages. Make sure to make small holes in the joint where they secure together.

Painting hair on a Santos Art Doll

Practice your eyes on a separate piece of paper first. It makes it so much easier to then paint them on the dolls face.

Practicing painting an eye

Once your skin and features are painted, the the dolls fry a fill 24 hours before adding the base.

Painting the face of an Art Doll

To add the base, glue the wood slats and embroidery hoop together and then add it to the doll. It helps with spacing and support of your art form.

Ready to assemble Santos Doll

After your base is added, if you are doing movable arms, add these last with wire, or leave your doll armless!

Assembled santos cage doll

Join the arms together with twine or wire and enjoy your gorgeous art piece! I hope you love creating a true artistic doll that are beautiful and rustic as much as I do. As you gain more experience you can try even modeling them after French, Italian or Spanish versions.

Jennifer Rizzo Art doll

Where to buy a Santos Cage Doll?

If you aren’t into making your own , you can buy Santos Cage Dolls on Etsy, Ebay or some main stream retailers such as Ballard Designs carry a version.

You can also register for my second cage doll workshop Santos Cage Dolls II, Inspired Figures. You can go directly to Jeanne’s  website (the fastest and easiest way to register) HERE

If you are reading this post at any other sites or blogs besides Jenniferrizzo.com, your rss feed,e-mail or in your reader this is stolen content.

*This was posted Via Jennifer Rizzo. com


  1. L
    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them!! I really want to take this class and would love to win a spot! Thanks so much for the opportunity!

  2. I love this! Jeanne (and you too, Jen) has an awesome way of adding beauty to this world one class at a time! I would love to win a place in the class!

  3. How amazing! I’m so excited about this class, which I will take for sure, I always wanted one of these dolls! If we have a question abou them, can we leave a coment on your blog?

    Have a great day!


  4. These dolls are beautiful…I will defiantly be taking this class. Thanks for the chance to win it.

  5. I completely stumbled onto the information about this class and now I’m counting down the days to May 27th! Woo Hoo!

  6. Oh this would be a wonderful way to forget what a rotten month April was for us as a family and go forth into May with creativity. Your work is beautiful and thank you for the opportunity to win a class spot.


  7. HOORAY!!
    I am very excited by this craft and inspired by your skills for art doll making… absolutely “STUNNING!” :]
    Love the opportunity, thank you for this thoughtful gesture ~xx

  8. Hi Jen,

    I’m the proud owner of Bird Molly, I just love her. While I know that I am not as talented as you I would love to give your class a try.

  9. I would love a free chance to take this class! Thanks for the chance, but secretly I’ll buy a spot if I don’t win lol. Thanks again!!

  10. I love your Santos dolls Jennifer!! Would love a chance to win the class, please put me in!! Hope things are looking a little better for you at your house. Prayers for you friend. Linda

  11. $19. for the course! That in itself is a giveaway. Now, I will go to check out the supply list and the cost, as well as shipping to west coast Canada.
    Thankyou for the opportunity to be able to learn how to make them.

  12. Would LOVE to learn to make these! I have admired these for so long and thought I would never be able to have one – let alone make one.

  13. I am in love with Santos Dolls and would love to make one, I recently bought one. I have drawn one I would like to do, but maybe this would get me going on it. I would love to win a spot in your class. Donna

  14. Hi Jenny

    I really love these dolls ever since I first saw you make one in one of Jeanne’s class. They are so unique. This class will be really amazing. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.

    Kind Regards
    Wendy Wainwright from Aus

  15. This would be such a cool project to do with my daughter this summer. We’re both very artsy-craftsy, but haven’t ever done anything like these before. And they’d look great with the decor in my house. I’m off to pin this, user name is Jennifer Bussey.


  16. Очень хочется научиться делать такие куклы! Буду надеяться на удачу!

  17. I would love to win this class! Don’t see many of these in Indiana and the dolls are so serene and peaceful:)
    Thanks for the chance!!

  18. I’m trying to sign up for class but I need to get in the group site first and haven’t heard anything back?
    Guess I will wait until I can, looking forward to the class!

  19. I am a big fan of these dolls and have seen them in France. It would be fun to make one, but it seems complicated for a non artistic soul!

  20. Hi. I’m excited to be able to make a Santos doll. I would like to know if you have some of the supplies available…like the body forms? Living in Odessa, TX…well, there is slim pickins for art supplies. Thanks so much.

    1. You can take the Santos cage doll class through Jeanneoliver.ning and I get a lot of the supplies at Hobby lobby or micheal’s

  21. HI, Jennifer
    I so enjoyed taking this workshop on Jeannie Oliver’s site. My year has expired, and wish it could have been an indefinite amount of time to be able to view and take the course. I did take lots of notes and did sketches so I have all of your instructions down on paper. Wish you could put it onto a DVD which you could sell to those of us who took your course.
    Thanks again!

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