"The artist is a receptacle for the emotions that come from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web."
|My sister Juliette makes paper flowers in preparation to decorate |
the community altar in celebration of El Día de los Muertos.
This time of year, during the month of October, many arts and crafts projects are steeped in Mexican tradition, that directly connect to remembering and celebrating our ancestors. We anticipate taking part in private and community revelry associated with November 1st, the Latin American holy day of El Día los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). It is the day when we look at Death in the proverbial eye and laugh. We remember our loved ones that have passed, and we share our stories to keep them part of our conversations—to keep their memories alive.
In past years, to celebrate and remember, my daughter Maddie made sugar skulls for a school project, and then we hosted a sugar skull decorating party at our house. Last year we made Calacas-shaped cookies. We've assembled altars to remember our friends and family that have passed. As George Eliot wrote, "Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them." Setting aside time every year to remember our departed loved ones, ensures that they will not be forgotten from one generation to the next.
My sisters and I and our collective families take part in community celebrations in Tucson and Petaluma, including the annual All Souls Procession and Candlelight Procession. And, everywhere we go during this time of year, we will surely see profusions of colorful paper flowers decorating everything from up-do's ( à la Frido Kahlo), to decorative arrangements on dining room tables, to mechanical floats at the Processions, to personal and community altars.
While I am an admirer of paper flowers, those bright profusion of blooms that please the eye, I had only learned to make tissue paper poppies once upon a time, and a very long time ago it was. I have always been an ardent devotee of the big free form crepe flowers that Juliette learned to make from a friend after moving to Bisbee nearly 25 years ago.
While I was excited to see Juliette in action, Juliette in turn was enthused to learn how to make paper roses from Maria, the President of the Bisbee Woman's Club. Maria shared with me that paper flowers are not only for celebrating El Día de los Muertos, but for all celebrations of life that call for flowers, including quinceañeras, weddings and funerals.
If the paper flowers will be displayed in the outdoors, Maria informed me that each flower can be dipped in melted parafin wax and hung upside down until dry, which will add a layer of protection against the elements. This is typically done if the flowers will be displayed at a grave or for an outdoor event.
|Vanessa is a quick study and learns how to make florets on her first attempt.|
|A floret is surrounded by yellow petals to dramatic effect.|
As I photographed the process of making crepe flowers, I noticed how quickly the ladies learned from each other and riffed on each other's ideas. Once you have the basics down, which hardly takes any time at all, an endless variety of flowers can be made. The creation of the flowers is neither tedious or boring because each flower is open to interpretation whether it is made from a pattern or is a free form cut from layered crepe paper. As the volunteers made an abundance of flowers, chatter and laughter filled the air. Clearly everyone was enjoying herself as the hours melted away in a flowing stream of creativity.
|A floret is surrounded by multiple layers of free form petals (no template required).|
|For multiple layers of petals, begin with the shorter petals and end with longer petals.|
|Unfurl the cut crepe paper and use a glue stick (as shown) before twirling |
onto the floret and floral wire.
|Secure the petals on the floral wire with the aid of green floral tape.|
|Maria's captivating rose gives the newbies in the group something to aspire to.|
|Roses are made by using both a tear drop and heart shaped patterns.|
Make several petals at once by tracing the pattern on to stacked layers of crepe paper.
|The cut "petals" are curled along the top with the help of a pencil. |
Then, using your fingers, pull gently to mold the crepe paper decoratively into a rounded shape.
|Twist scrap pieces of crepe paper into an elongated shape, which will be the unfurled petals |
in the middle of the rose. Secure with 18-gauge by 18-inch green floral wire.
|Instead of using a floret, Renata shapes pipe brushes into stamen for a tropical-style flower.|
|Renata uses a glue stick on the petals to help hold the flower together and |
then she finishes by using green floral tape for a professional look.
|The tropical flowers give a pleasing architectural dimension to the bouquet.|
|Handmade dead birds with a heart by Renata González captured my fancy.|
|The birds will be available for purchase at El Día de los Muertos Art and |
Altarpiece Show Opening Celebration in Bisbee and at Pop-Cycle in Tucson.
|My sister Juliette keeps everything to make paper flowers stored neatly in an old suitcase.|
Afterwards, Juliette and I had a quick and delicious dinner at High Desert Market before I headed back to Tucson. We ate on the quiet patio where we could feel the first touches of fall floating on the air. The on-going conversations that I have with my sisters keep me sane in a crazy world. On my way home, I felt refreshed and ready for a new work week ahead. Art and companionship do that for me. Add great food to the mix, and I'm about as happy as I can be.
It is critical to buy crepe paper and not tissue paper.
Tissue paper is flimsy, whereas crepe paper can be shaped, stretched and curled.
Crepe Paper in a variety of colors
18 Guage Wire
Pipe Cleaners in a variety of colors
Green Florist Tape
parafin, optional - visit the Bittersweet link below for more information on waxing the flowers for extended life
History of crepe flowers, plus step-by-step instructions, including patterns... at Bittersweet
Super easy flowers, made fan style with tissue paper and ribbon, at Spanglish Baby
No crepe paper? No tissue paper? No problem! You just need construction paper and a stapler... at Latinaish
"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." ~Pablo Picasso