Calaveras Jersey Style.

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Nicholas, 9

When you think of Mexico you think of bright clothes, spicy food and unusual art. They are able to make extraordinary out of simple things and celebrate the uncelebrated. The Day of the Dead, for example, is one of the most exuberant and lavish holidays in Mexico with lots of festivities, treats and decorations. Being about 2000 miles away from this wonderful country did not stop us from joining the tradition if only by making the sugar skulls which are traditionally made there for the fiesta.

They started making Calaveras (this is what sugar skulls are called in Mexico) back in 17th century. Kids sure loved them because they were made out of sugar, handcrafted and sold everywhere. Now, traditionally made sugar skulls are not to be eaten but to admire. The Day of the Dead probably changed the meaning too, but still is one of the most expensive holidays in Mexico. It is believed that during the first couple of days in November dead souls come back to earth and it is in the power of people to make them happy and welcomed.

Courtesy of
Chocolate skulls. Courtesy of

I could not dare to offer the kids so much sugar to make the skulls and we went the simpler route with clay and all surface acrylic paints. You will need:

  • polymer clay. I get mine here
  • rolling pin to make the surface smooth. We did not use any molds to make the works completely original.
  •  oven
  • acrylic paints to paint them after they harden


Once you form the skulls, put them in the warmed up to 275 degrees oven and bake for 15 minutes.

They get pretty hot obviously, so let enough time for them to cool down. I know, kids become too impatient and want to decorate right away.

Firstly, we did the schematic pencil drawings and then worked with acrylics. But you can let the younger  students  start using acrylic immediately because they are  impressively eager to decorate the clay objects and symmetry is very optional at that stage.

Ready? Here they are:

Victoria, 4
Anna, 5
Emma, 8
Maria, 10
Ali, 6

Oh, and I am 100% certain that you will be thrilled  by our choice of music for the class. In order to reflect the somber theme of the project, we listened to the Dead Can Dance album. I’ve loved them since High School, believe it or not, and they still rock.

If you would like to read more about the Mexican tradition you can find the information here.

Have a great class!



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