Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday for remembering and honoring loved ones, is just around the corner. Many of us may know this holiday for the artistry and imagery surrounding its celebration — the sugar skulls, altars, candles, offerings, and marigolds. For this week’s How-Tuesday project, paper artist Yreina Flores Ortiz has created a papel picado project in honor of Dia de los Muertos. Yreina makes beautiful paper-cut work that can be found in her Etsy shop and on her website.
She recently completed a large-scale artwork for the central panel of an altar to honor victims of breast cancer for a Dia de los Muertos exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art. (More on that here and at the bottom of this article.)
The Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos, is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. Here in the U.S., it is often confused with Halloween due to the prominent use of playful skeleton imagery in the decorations. Some people think it is insensitive to depict death as a silly thing, but that is not the intention. Dia de los Muertos is a time to acknowledge the loss of our loved ones by celebrating their lives. There are many ways to do this; some families go to the cemetery and eat, drink and play music. Some families light candles and say prayers. Others make an altar or ofrenda in their home.
I lost my grandfather this year and we will be making an altar in his memory to honor his life. We will put out offerings of his favorite foods. We will bring water from the well on his ranch. We will gather fruit from his orchard. Among other things, an altar is a place where the spirit of the deceased can come to be fed and rest.
Papel picado is a common decoration for this holiday’s festivities. Papel picado is cut or punched paper, made from stacks of tissue paper with the use of chisels, punches, hammer and blade. This original design is a depiction of my grandpa. A former barber, for many years he had a dashing pompadour hairstyle. The phrase Nada Es Imposible, Nothing Is Impossible, was one of the last things he said to his daughter, my mother. Go, Grandpa! This is a positive message that is good for everybody to live by. That is how I know he won’t mind me sharing a little bit about him with the world.
You will need:
X-Acto knife, blade #11 or #16 (as pictured)
About 6 sheets of tissue paper
Surface to cut on (a self-healing mat works very well)
1. Download and print out the design template.
2. Stack the sheets of tissue paper with the printed template on top. Leave room (about an inch) above the top of the design for a flap. It may help to staple everything together to prevent shifting as you cut. Just carefully remove the staples when you are done.
3. Cut out the white areas of the template. Hold the knife firmly. Press hard. Make smooth, continuous cuts. Be brave! Use the non-cutting hand to hold your paper down around your cut.
4. Trim edges of your flags.
5. To string your banner:
- Fold the top edge of a flag.
- Open the fold and apply glue stick gently to the flap.
- Lay your string in the flap.
- Close the fold and press it closed.
6. Pick a spot to hang up your work!
If you make your own papel picado project, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.