Monday, 10 October 2016

Catrina and her Beau - Day of the Dead ornament by Julie Ann

The leaves have turned to red and gold and the autumn is well and truly here in the UK. Soon Jack O'Lantern pumpkins will be appearing in windows and the scent of wood smoke will be wafting through the twilight air. Calico Craft Parts have some fantastic Halloween and Autumn themed products on offer to prepare you for when the Trick-or-Treaters come to call so do check them out! I've always been fascinated by the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, which takes place around Halloween time too. As we move into October, I decided to create an ornament to celebrate this tradition.

My 'Skellie' couple, Catrina and her beau, dangle beside Frida and a little tin ex-voto heart on my Day of the Dead branches.

For this project, I mixed and matched my Calico parts! I used sharp crafting scissors to snip a couple of mini skeletons styles 1 and 2, so that I could combine the different arm positions. I also wanted to fashion a cobweb into a stylish hat for Catrina. The front of a house shrine kit would provide a frame for my aristocratic couple.

Now it was time to play around with positioning my 'skellies'. The large skulls with the tiny bodies gave the caricature look I was seeking. What I love about the Mexican Day of the Dead shrines and ornaments is their wonderful characterisation. I wanted to make my couple unique and fun. The Calico skeletons are already expressive, but with a little playing, the addition of quirky detail and some hand-drawn eyes, I reckoned I could create something that evoked the exuberance and humour of Dia de Muertos. I really hope I did.

It's said that 'the eyes are the windows of the soul', so I used pigment pens and water-colour to give Catrina a sultry look and her beau a cheeky wink! For Catrina's torso, I chose a mini art doll body with some designer paper and a scrap of lace to add elegance. The front of the shrine has been gesso'd and stenciled with some 3D Gloss Gel.

I painted both sides of the eyes so that when my ornament turned in a draught, the back would be as interesting and expressive to look at as the front - that was my plan, anyway!

I wanted the reverse side of my 'skellie' couple to appear to be wearing masks, while the other side appeared to have eyes gleaming within.

Here is the early plan for the reverse of my couple. I stuck some black lace to the Spider's web with Heavy Gel Medium and accented it with blobs of pearl pen to create Catrina's hat.

And here's an early arrangement of them from the front. I had lots of fun playing with alternative placings before I finally decided on a pose!

Eventually, I came up with this! My couple were now glued into place; their faces doodled in pigment pen and their shrine frame painted and gilded with a tiny hole drilled in the top so that they could dangle. They just needed some final detail to make them come fully alive!

Catrina's regal beau with his golden crown definitely needed to be holding something! While Catrina herself looked as if she was reaching to pluck another red paper-clay rose to add to that one on her hat!

What a handsome couple! I hope you can see the tobacco pipe from the sheet of Mini MDF Steam Punk Motifs King Skellie holds against the purple background. It is more visible when he's dangling,,,

Here is a glimpse of the couple as they dance off into the moonlight together to the tune of Danse Macabre!

What I like about both Halloween and The Day of the Dead is that these holidays encourage us to dance in the shadows, to confront our fears or our sense of loss as summer slips into winter. This is a season when we can remember those who have gone before us with joy, thanks and humour before we look forward to Christmas festivities. I've had so much fun creating this ornament. It reminds me of the fun and laughter at the Halloween parties when our children were young. Soon I'll be listening out for the sound of giggles and rustlings at my front door as another troupe of tiny skeletons, werewolves and witches with Mums and Dads in tow come calling.

Calico Craft Parts used in this project
Skull MDF Wood Shape
Skeleton MDF Wood Shape Style 1
Skeleton MDF Wood Shape Style 2
Sheet of MDF Crowns Style 3
Plain MDF House Shrine Kit tall
Sheet of MDF mini feathers
Art Doll Kit small
 Spider's web corner
Sheet of Steam Punk motifs Style 1


  1. what a great display, Julie Ann!

  2. Haha, Julie Ann, these two are so cute!
    I love the idea behind the Mexican Dia de los Muertos and your couple really has the feel of it - celebrating the return of loved ones that are never forgotten.
    How clever to combine the Calico Parts this way - especially her hat made me chuckle. Just genius!

    Claudia x

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Claudia. I had so much fun creating this little couple! xx

  3. What a fabulous little scene Julie Ann! Chrisx

  4. Julie Ann!! These are fab skellies and I just love how you made their eyes!!Great idea using both sides as well! xx

  5. Oh wow these are fantastic!

    Lucy x

  6. What a handsome couple! Love how you did the eyes. Gorgeous details. Lx

  7. Oh Julie Ann!
    Your Dia de los Muertos couple is fabulous.
    Skulls and skellies are some of my favorite Halloween images.

  8. Stunning! What a treat to see all those fabulous Craft Parts come to life in your storytelling artist's hands. Brilliant! Love the eyes in the skulls - so clever and so unnerving!
    Alison x