Tuesday, November 11, 2008

day of the dead party post

Finally taking a few minutes to post some pictures from the big Halloween/Day of the Dead party this year. I ended up not having much time, so the majority of projects I had planned had to be dropped. But it all turned out fine. I sort of broke the bank buying little calacas and retablos, and maybe got carried away with the prayer candles. But they look so cool!

The Altar
I suppose it's more traditional to honor one person with the altar, but I figured since this was probably the only time I'd be doing this, I picked three. From right to left, my dad who passed way back in 1984, my step father Jack who passed away in 2005, and my (maternal) grandmother Gladys who passed in 2006.

I really enjoyed putting this together. It was fun to try to find and think of things that would be representative of each person, and a few of their favorite things. No real craft projects involved, just stacked boxes and shelves on a folding table, and covered everything with table cloths.

Sugar Skulls
The vast majority of people I know have kids, and since I don't want people to be stressed about getting babysitters, or deal with bored kids, I try to have some fun project for the kids. This year I had the standard craft room in the back of the house, plus Sugar Skulls! My mom came to town for the party, and between the two of us, we made 90 skulls. I think it ended up being about 50 lbs of sugar.

The skulls were a big hit. I ended up with a dozen left, which my brother took to indulge his new-found sugar skull decorating skills. I didn't get a chance to decorate one myself, but the bottom pic is of one my brother made for me. I got the molds from mexicansugarskull.com

It seems my chandelier plans never work out how I originally planned, but are just as good. I was going to paper mache and paint some folk art style skulls, but never had the time. So I went with the nice chrome spraypaint. Fast and shiny! I had had the skulls from last year - always nice to repurpose. I won't go into how I ended up with not just one, but two skull-shaped disco balls, but they were pretty awesome.

Front Room
This room is definitely more Halloween than Day of the Dead. The frame around the tv didn't quite work out. It was not the right size, and I had wanted it to sit flush inside the frame, but the tilty brace thing made the tv stick out too far. I also didn't have a chance to chop up and resize the frame, so hung it as is. It's alright, but a project for another day. The big fancy gilded frames come from hotel liquidation places down in Vegas. Except for the Giraffe frame - from an antique shop in Salt Lake.

On Halloween I had my Hallowindow dvd playing on a loop - next year I'll try to get it set up so I can project it on a window. It was a big hit with the trick or treaters. During the party I had Three Amigos playing, and in the back room I had Nacho Libre on my other tv. Nonstop fun at my house!

Last year's mad science lab stuff got relegated to the secretary. It was fun to fill the apothecary jars with candy. I'm surprised there's still so much left. The wax bottles in the squat jar went pretty fast though.

The treasure chest was something I'd picked up unfinished from a craft store a few years ago. When they were filming the Imagine Island tv show at work this summer, they needed a treasure chest for one episode, so I offered mine. I used lots of layers of different colors of stain, really rough grit sandpaper, wacked it a few times with a chisel and a hammer. Then I dragged it through the dirt in the back yard, ground some more dirt into it, and basically bashed the thing all over. Lots of fun!

Haunted Mirror
This is a project from last year, but I was never happy with the lights inside, so this year I replaced the lights with some LEDs, and now it's so bright you can see where I glued the skull to the shadowbox. So another step to fix up next year...

It's a super easy project. I picked up the frame on clearance at the local craft store, took out the original mirror, and replaced it with a two-way mirror. Then I made a box out of black foam core, glued a plastic skull to the back of the box, attached some lights to the bottom of the box, and attached all that to the back of the frame. I have a motion sensor, but haven't been able to get it to work yet.

And the rest are just some miscellaneous photos. I never manage to take pictures during the party, so sorry there aren't really many pictures with people, but you get to see the decorations better. This year I had the bulk of the food brought in from Bajios Mexican Grill. If you live anywhere near one, go now and try it out. Tasty tasty stuff.

We quickly ran out of room inside, so the rest of the food ended up outside. So lucky it didn't rain that night. Also outside I had white pumpkins and markers on all the tables for people to draw on. Some fun pumpkins by the end of the night.

All in all the party was a grand success. Over 100 people came, and it sounds like everyone had a great time. The final answer for the Skull Count Contest (count all the three dimensional skulls in the house - printed skulls don't count) was 189. And finally here's a close-up of one of my favorite acquisitions: Hell is not Hell.

Until next year - Adios!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

13 o'clock

I've been so busy with work and freelance, that I haven't been able to do much Halloween preparation. The party is this weekend, so it will be a busy week. So here's a project I've been meaning to do since the first party four years ago: a 13 hour clock. Earlier this summer I stumbled across an old broken grandfather clock, and I figured I could do something with it. I haven't fixed it yet, looks like it will need a whole new clock mechanism, but in the meantime it's perfect for a halloween prop. I took the old face off and replaced it with a simple print-out of a file I put together in Photoshop. I had a little skeleton (which used to be in an old rusty birdcage) which happens to fit perfectly inside, with the chain wrapped around its neck all noose-like.

Btw, that's a real cuckoo bird sitting on top - another thing I'm not quite sure what to do with yet. Next up: spray painting skulls silver!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

lotsa lotta calacas

I suppose recognizing you have a problem is the first step, but I just really really need more of these little skeletons dudes. I've been having fun scouring the internet for them. I found a lot of them (and all my sugar skull supplies) at

I've at least tried to keep to some sort of budget, which has precluded some of the really great things I've found. I would really love a large Peruvian retablo (like example above) - but I figure it might be nice to save some money for food at the party.
Great retablos by the Jimenez Family
I would also love a giant arbol de la vida (tree of life). There are some pretty amazing ones out there. If I have time, I might try making a simple one.
The Soteno Trees of Life

Friday, September 5, 2008

Halloween 2008, or rather, Dia de los Muertos 2008

I'm a little late getting started with the planning for this year's big Halloween party. I wasn't sure I was even going to have a party this year - too many things going on. But when a friend pointed out that I should have the party on Nov 1, I realized it could be a Day of the Dead party instead. That was pretty much all the inspiration I needed and for the past couple weeks have been having a great time searching for all things Day of the Dead.

Top picture - Started to pick up misc decorations. Gotta have lots of marigolds and calacas (those cool little skeleton dudes). I'll be building a huge ofrenda (altar), and my philosophy there is more is more.

2nd picture - I dug deep into the depths of my storage shed to find an old puppet theater I built maybe 10 or so years ago. Depending on my time, I want to turn it into a big eleaborate nicho, and fill it with happy calacas. It's actually in better shape than I thought it would be. I didn't remember the curtain. Probably have to take that out.

Last picture - Results of failed craft experiment. I had some of these foam skulls, so I painted two with gesso and started putting patterns on one. I think instead I'm going to cover the skulls with paper mache. I want to fill in the eye and nose holes a bit, and make the shape a little more stylized.

So that's the start. I'll post here and there over the next two months as I manage to squeeze in a little craft time.