Build a Day of the Dead Ofrenda to Honor your Departed Loved Ones

I wrote this last year but it’s still current! The only thing I want to add is:
1. We’re building a community ofrenda in the shop this year. Bring or email your photos of loved ones (or pets) to to be included in the ofrenda.
2. We’re offering some fun craft projects on Saturday, October 26, 2013 for adults and kids to decorate the ofrenda–make paper flowers & terracotta skulls that are similar to sugar skulls
3. I’m doing my “What is Day of the Dead” presentation on Friday, November 1 from 6-7:30 at the shop, 826 West 50th. Space is limited so you must register at

Zinnia Folk Arts


Day of the Dead Art Ofrenda

Are you unsure about how to build an ofrenda for the upcoming Days of the Dead? Here are a couple of examples from one of my trips to Mexico during Dia de los Muertos. Every ofrenda is unique and personal so don’t worry about whether you are doing it correctly or not. The main idea is to make an inviting altar that will entice the spirits of your departed loved ones to return to enjoy a few hours with you over November 1 and 2.  Mexicans believe  the smells of the flowers, food and copal incense are especially  enticing. And the color of orange and magenta is traditional throughout Mexico. So here are a few ideas of what to include:

1. Marigolds: the color and smell of marigolds is believed to attract the spirits. But if you live in a northern climate, like I do, the marigolds are long…

View original post 380 more words


Folk Art Surprises Every Day in Rural Mexico

Fiesta Patronal de Santiago, Cuanajo

On Wednesday, while driving to Patzcuaro,my friend and I decided to take a side road to look for interesting new folk art. We happened on the Fiesta Patronal de Santiago in the tiny town of Cuanajo, Michoacan. Santiago is the Patron Saint of this little town. We parked the car just in time to see the parade of charros (cowboys) on their horses riding down the main street. We followed everyone to the sounds of the band,  to the church grounds where the Padre was giving an outdoor mass right next to this beautiful overhead display of papel picado.

Margarita Fick’s Paper Cut Outs

I’ve talked about these before but they are so amazing, that I want to show you a few examples. These are gorgeous pictures cut out of black paper. The first one is large (38.5″ by 24″) and the other two are smaller (24″ by 16″).  They are cut by hand, with a small fingernail scissors, by a master designer and paper-cutter, Margarita Fick. She grew up in a family that made papel picado, the cut out tissue paper flags, so she learned early about paper and its ways. She now is the only person I know in Mexico who creates these beautiful (and limited) designs.  Most of her designs are women skeletons dressed in fancy cutout dresses, but she does do some Frida Kahlo designs and a few non-skeleton designs. The backgrounds are filled with insects, butterflies, lizards, dogs, pigs or a variety of animals, plants and leaves.  The composition of the piece is always incredible.

Notice the asymmetry of the last photo. The symmetrical pieces are folded in half and then cut, but the asymmetrical ones are more difficult to make because they are not folded before cutting.

Contact us if you are interested in purchasing or have any additional questions!

Papel Picado & Fiestas


These delicate tissue paper flags are known as “papel picado” or “cut paper/ picked paper” and are handmade in Mexico. They are another of the fabulous handmade traditional arts that flourish all year but particularly around times of important holidays, Christmas, Easter and Day of the Dead. If you’ve been to Mexico, you may have seen streets draped with these flags before and during holidays or special occasions.

They are made with a chisel and a stencil and “picked” in stacks of 30-40 pieces then strung on string in a long line, mixing colors and loveliness together. It is one of the ephemeral arts of Latin America–made for a temporary time, left to evaporate in the wind and rain after the holiday. A nice reflection of a cultural belief that we can’t hold on to anything, all aspects of our lives are temporary, even beauty.

Here’s a photo I took on my last trip to Oaxaca. Just walking down the street and turned the corner onto this exhuberance.

We carry packages of papel picado at GUILD.

Paper Cut Outs of Margarita Fick

This is an example of a paper cut-out by Margarita Fick, the one and only person in Mexico doing these amazing paper pieces. She comes from a family that made “papel picado” or the cut out tissue paper flags that are strung across streets for fiestas & celebrations. Every piece is unique and all are cut with fingernail scissors, not the usual paper chiseling of the traditional papel. Some are symmetrical and have been folded to cut and others are asymmetrical and are entirely cut by hand. Many of the pieces feature catrinas with flowers, insects, animals, different skirt designs and blouse designs. They are super cool.

Margarita Fick’s small paper cutouts can be seen at GUILD. If you’d like to see what selection we have available, please click here!

Photo by Mike Welckle