Handmade Day of the Dead Art before Dia de los Muertos

The leaves are turning in Minnesota, the yellow mums and purple asters are blooming, the weather is getting cooler, and the wind is whisking in a new season. In Mexico the month of October is a time to begin preparations to entice the departed spirits to return for a brief visit during Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. It’s a time to start thinking about the home altar, made by many Mexican families, to honor and remember the dead. It’s a time to start preparing the special foods, making the sugar skulls, conceiving of and creating the marigold decorations for the gravesite and the ofrenda, and for the candlemakers to make the gorgeous candles that will decorate the cemetery and the home. It’s both a private time and a public time.

Someone once likened Dia de los Muertos to a combination of Memorial Day and Thanksgiving. November 1 and 2 are a public acknowledgement of the important people in our lives who have passed on much like what we do for Memorial Day. And it’s similar to Thanksgiving in that families prepare traditional foods and follow familiar rituals like so many American families do for Thanksgiving. The traditional colors of yellow and purple are always associated with Muertos in Mexico and the smells of the flowers and the burning copal cannot be mistaken for any other time of the year.  It’s a very spiritual time–derived from the ancient rituals of the Aztec mixed with some of the teachings of the Catholic church–a time when people express their love for those who’ve died through storytelling and building ofrendas or altars.

So, what about the folk art? Lots of skeletons, large and small, made of a variety of media, skulls made of everything including sugar and lots of embellishments like papel picado, candles, and flowers. The folk art is used to decorate the ofrendas and to remind everyone that death is part of life. It also can provide a little humor. We are thrilled to  have a lovely rotating ofrenda in the front window created by a local artist, Liz Pangerl of Casa Valencia, LLC which incorporates many of the traditional Day of the Dead motifs and items. Stop in!

25" Clay Catrina from Capula

Paper Mache Chefs for Day of the Dead

Paper Mache maracas for Day of the Dead

Lucano Ceramic Vase, Signed

Paper Mache Matador Skeleton

Mexican Skull Beads

Some of these things are in the online shop and some are not. Click on the photo to take you to the online shop.

Let me know if you’re interested in a price or purchasing something via this handy form….Happy Dia de los Muertos!


Here’s a Peek

Hi Everyone! Here’s what you’ll see when you walk in the door at GUILD starting tomorrow morning at 11 am. Yep, those are sugar skulls with amazing flower head pieces–every one is different. Sugar skulls can last for 10-15 years if you store them in a cool and dry place when you’re done displaying. They are a little fragile so it would make sense to keep it in a small box. And this year, we have sugar skulls in a medium and small size. The small ones have magnets on the back. Very clever.

The black catrinas are made by the Perez family from the most well known catrina-making city in Mexico, Capula. Both catrinas are stunning, capturing movement and detail like very few I’ve seen. To your left of this photo is the Zinnia Folk Arts corner, FILLED to the max with tons of skeletons, catrinas, masks, retablos, jewelry and tons more I can’t even remember. Be sure to check it out…the event goes from tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct 11) through Saturday, October 22. Come early for the best selection!

What’s a Catrina?

Day of the dead art, day of the dead skulls, dia de los muertos art

This is a catrina. It’s a figure of a woman skeleton usually dressed in a nice dress with a large plumed hat. A male skeleton is called a “catrin.” And why are they so prevalent during the Days of the Dead? To understand this we have to go back to the turn of the 20th century when a well known Mexican newspaper cartoonist named Jose Guadalupe Posada, satirized rich people (remember women were wearing plumed hats at the time?) who implied that death wasn’t for them–just for the little people. He mocked the perception that the rich could somehow avoid death in his black and white engravings. These cartoons were very popular with the masses and gradually his images–skeletons dressed up in clothing and doing things that the living do–spread to many corners of Mexico, became recognizable and associated with the ancient traditions of those two days in November,  “Dias de los Muertos.” Now, artists use all kinds of media (clay, paper mache, paint, wood, you name it) to make small, medium and large catrinas. They are used primarily for decorative purposes and can be humorous or stunningly beautiful.

We’ll have lots of catrinas and catrins at our upcoming Day of the Dead Pop Up Sale, October 11-22. Or check some of them out on the website!