Decorating sugar skulls at CraftHack this time last year prompted me to learn more about Día de los Muertos and the handmade elements of this tradition.
“Day of the Dead, or Día de los muertos, is a time for commemorating the dead, celebrating with family— both living and dead—and appreciating the cycle of life and death.”
When you lose someone you love, they don’t stop being part of your life. They remain in your heart and your memories. There’s something beautiful about recognizing and honoring this presence.
La Ofrenda / Altar
One way to do this is by making a small altar (ofrenda) for the October 31 – November 2 celebration.
“Making a Day of the Dead Altar is about memories and traditions and the most important part is that you enjoy the process … add [your] own special touches … add the four elements, water, wind, earth and fire in some way, the picture of your beloved one, food, flowers and candles.”
The ofrenda can take many forms. Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo has even made them inside foam pumpkins!
Calaveras / Skulls
“The calavera is an important symbol in Mexican culture, representing ancestors and the celebration of the continuity of life through generations.”
Sugar skull project inspiration:
Colorful sugar skulls are probably the most iconic element in Day of the Dead celebrations, and they take many forms in art and craft.
Decorated candy – For CraftHack, Shanlyn made the candy skulls ahead of time in molds she had at home. Then we decorated them with frosting, sprinkles, and sanding sugar. The skulls she made were the mostly straight-up sugar kind, but some people make them from white chocolate instead.
Tip: You can also use sugar skull molds with plaster of Paris!
Tip: If you don’t have a skull bead on hand, you can make your own with polymer clay!
Coloring pages to print off or color online.
Quilt – Berene Campbell also made this awesome Sugar Skull Quilt using a variety of techniques (piecing, appliqué, reverse appliqué, stuffed hand appliqué, etc.)!
“Delicately decorated tissue paper represents wind and the fragility of life.”
Colorful papel picado banners 3 ways:
Tip: Sketch your own design or use a printable template.
“The ofrenda (the altar), traditionally includes the yellow marigolds (cempasuchitl) the sweet scent that leads the departed home toward their altar…”
What traditions are meaningful to you as you remember your loved ones?
– More Día de los Muertos Projects + Resources –
- Instructions for sugar skulls
- Ofrendas e-book of recipes and crafts
- Crafty Chica Día de los Muertos project list
- Live Colorful fall projects
- Mexican Day of the Dead folk art
- Día de los Muertos events will be on the Happenings List posting next week. Subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox!
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