November 1st and 2nd is a Mexican holiday known as “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead”….. an no, it isn’t “Mexican Halloween”! It’s not meant to be scary, spooky, or morbid, but rather a colorful tradition of honoring loved ones who have passed. I’m blessed to live in an area of the U.S. with a large hispanic population, so this holiday is big here. And the more I learn about it, the more I love it.
Day of the Dead is a time when families decorate colorful altars, or “ofrendas”, in their homes with brightly colored marigolds, photos, and things the deceased loved during their lifetime, like their favorite foods and hobbies. Colorful folk art papel picado, sugar skulls, and small skeletons also adorn these altars. Where Halloween focuses on our fear of death and the “unknown”, Day of the Dead focuses on remembering deceased loved ones and celebrating their lives.
Students of all ages are naturally drawn to the colorful folk of Mexico, and anything with sugar skulls is sure to be a hit. You can make this ceramic sugar skull plate using a plastic or styrofoam plate as a mold and add textural designs with just a popsicle stick, toilet paper tube, and the handle end of a fettling knife, as I did here. Just follow the same directions for creating the design that we used to make our sugar skull planters.
If you don’t have a kiln, you can make a plate like this using air dry clay…. you won’t be able to serve food on it, but it would make a festive decoration to display on a plate holder or hang on the wall!