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Students make skeletons inspired by Day of the Dead celebrations

Students make skeletons inspired by Day of the Dead celebrations
Some of the models with one of the design sketches visible in the background.
Students make skeletons inspired by Day of the Dead celebrations
Examples of traditional Mexican calacas.
Tuesday 24th January 2012 by C. Freeman

Students are making and decorating skeletons gaining inspiration from the flamboyant Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. The young artists have also been looking at the work of Niki de Saint Phalle who produced distinctive and colourful sculptures of the human form.

The Year 10 students are currently midway through the project, researching, designing and making the little figures, known as calacas, that will be decorated and clothed. Some are using traditional Day of the Dead motifs while others are drawing inspiration from films such as Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride.

Students have constructed skulls from newspaper and the bodies from a combination of art straws, wire and modroc, a modelling clay that is similar to plaster of Paris. Teacher Miss Cockroft has shown them how to make the individual components which will then be assembled and embellished.

She said: ‘The models are designed to be celebratory not sinister. The students will decorate and clothe them however they want, that is what is going to make them individual. It is very fiddly but they are getting a new skill set that they never had before.

‘We have previously tackled a number of tasks including making a ceramic pot using colours and patterns influenced by the Day of the Dead and the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. The students will be making clothes out of fabric laid over wire, papier mache or a new resource, Paverpol, that sets material into solid shapes. These models are part of the students’ coursework as by the end of this year they need to have completed both 2D and 3D projects before they decide what to specialise in. Therefore we are giving them as broad a range of skills and opportunities as we can.’

Student Gabriella Buizza said: ‘It has been quite a creative project as you have to make and design the garments as well as the skeleton. The ribs were probably the hardest bit to construct so far as they kept falling apart!’

Elliott Deards added: ‘My design features a headdress from a mix of different cultures such as Indian and native American and I will use bright colours that are traditionally associated with the Day of the Dead customs.’

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