In the United States, All Hallows Eve (or Halloween) is what we call the holiday that falls on October 31 and is historically associated with the celebration of All Saints and all Souls days. In Mexico this celebration is called the “Dia de los Muertos” or Day of the Dead and in some parts of Latin America is actually called “Dia de los natitas” or Day of the Skulls.
Pumpkins (or Jack O’ Lanterns) are probably the most notable symbol of the US holiday, while in Mexico Dia de Muertos is tightly associated with brightly decorated skulls and orange marigold flowers. I decided to create my own version of a Day of the Dead skull on behalf of Plaid crafts, Apple Barrel Paints, and Stiffy fabric stiffener** as a fun Halloween alternative.
This project is actually super easy and fun, since you get to express yourself completely and it takes nothing more than a little paint (I used Apple Barrel Multi-Surface), some fabric and fabric stiffener (I used Stiffy). You could also use plastic or silk flowers, but it is pretty cool to make my own!
It started with this $1 plastic skull I found at the dollar store.
Since it was slightly glossy, I knew I could use Apple Barrel’s multi-surface paint since it adheres to almost any surface, plus it is suitable for indoor or outdoor use (and I wasn’t sure where I was going to display my little fellow!) I started by covering the entire thing in two coats of white, and it covered pretty well considering how dark some areas of the skull originally were.
Then using a fine brush, I decorated the skull with flowers and dots and swirls. (For inspiration just google “Day of the Dead Skull” and you can can copy one of the thousands of patterns online.)
To make the pattern really sand I out (and for areas that were too tight to paint) I used a fine tip maker to outline everything. You want to use a soft flexible tipped marker so you don’t scratch the freshly painted surface!
You could stop here.. since traditional sugar skulls are completely covered in painted motifs, but I wanted to also incorporate the traditional Dia de los Muertos’ flower, the orange marigold, into my design:
I could have used fake marigolds, but I couldn’t find any, and I had a gorgeous collection of hand dyed cottons that I knew would make beautiful flower petals.
The first thing I did was trace a bunch of 2 inch circles out of the fabric (I use a bottle lid as my template)
Then I cut them out with pinking shears to give the ‘ruffled’ look of a marigold petal.
Next I painted on Stiffy fabric stiffener (I wanted my fabric flowers to hold their shape permanantly)
I folded the circle into quarters and used a small alligator clip to hold it closed.
Next I ‘fluffed’ up the folded circle to create an “S” shape with the fabric inside the fold.
I hung the fluffed up wet ‘petals’ on a skewer to let them dry
Here you can get a better idea of the “S” shape the fold creates:
When they were dry I removed them from the clip and you can see how well they hold their shape:
I used a hot glue gun to attach them to the crown of my skull, forming a flower ‘crown'
I was so pleased with out how it came out. It totally looks like flower petals:
And the orange contrasts so beautifully against the rest of the skull:
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