Craft, glitter, drama and Dias de los Muertos with Kathy Cano-Murillo.
Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Crafty Chica is known for her fabulous glittery projects. Here we talked a little about her newly opened exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix and how she celebrates both Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
After the sugar coma and over the top campiness of Halloween comes a time to honor your departed loved ones. Day of the Dead is a traditional Mexican holiday where family and friends gather to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. The celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November, in connection with the Catholic holy days of All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day which take place on those days.
Crafty Chica has lots of fantastic projects up on her website now: how to make a sugar skull mask, zombie dolls and a Dia de los Muertos charm bracelet. I have always had a small altar where I burn a candle for my deceased loved ones on their birthday or anniversary of death but I have never really celebrated the Day of the Dead. After speaking with Kathy I am inspired to try her sugar skull recipe and prepare a small celebration for my friends and family who have passed on. Traditionally the celebration is prepared for all year, but thanks to Crafty Chica and all of her fabulous DIY projects I think I still have time to put something together!
First of all, congratulations on your show at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, it looks great. The basic concept is that it is a fantasy version of your home is that right? Everything is artsy and glittery and over the top, no "regular stuff" that people might be disappointed to find at the Crafty Chica's house - homework on the table, Downey balls, etc. Can you expand on that and/or correct me if I have the concept wrong?
Over the years that my husband and I have been making our Chicano Pop Art (bright and glittery home decor items with a Latino-flair), people have always asked the same question after seeing our work - "Wow! Does your house look like this?" They imagine our home to be this magical wonderland of glittered art pieces and hand-stitched bedding of glorious Mexican icons. In reality, our home is our workplace. Our living room and family room are studios, plus we have two kids, so there are always sneakers on the floor, and cups of paint water by the sink. Not glamorous at all!
The concept of La Casa Murillo is the fantasy house that people think we live in - and the one we dream of! The good thing is that now Patrick and I are inspired to fix up our humble abode to match the exhibit. It is one of the unforeseen side effects!
Halloween and Day of the Dead is rapidly approaching. Do you celebrate both and if so how do you prepare for each?
Yes, we do celebrate both. One is the playful, Tim Burton side of us, and the other is the holiday that we honor our loved ones who have passed away.
Is this something you grew up with or celebrations you adopted as an adult?
Halloween was always celebrated as kids. My favorite costume was when I rented a huge banana suit and then wore wax lips, cat eye glasses, pearls and high heels!
Our interest in Dia de los Muertos came after we were married and started our art business. We had customers ask for it. We had heard of it, and did a lot of research and it really changed our lives. It is a way to train your mind and heart to celebrating life instead of fearing death. Our life on Earth as we know it has a beginning and an end and then we go on to a new journey. Dia de los Muertos is when we invite the spirits to come back to Earth for one day to be with us. It is a time to let them know that they will never be forgotten. The skeletons represent death, but the bright colors and sugary treats represent the sweetness of life. When we lose a loved one, whether from old age, an illness or something unexpected, Dia de los Muertos is a way to cope with the loss, we know that our loved ones are never really gone, they will comeback once a year to be with us. Therefore we make ofrendas of all their favorite things and foods. We have copal incense and marigold flowers to help them smell their way home from their long journey from the after life.
I know you have kids, are they crafty too? Do they make their own costumes or do they like to buy pre-made costumes?
They say they are not crafty but they really are! They like to buy pieces from the store and then embellish and tweak them to make them their own!
Are there any crafty projects you're working on for Day of the Dead that you'd like to share?
Every year, my husband and I make several ofrendas. Some are personal and others are for galleries. In La Casa Murillo, we created a nine foot tall "cake"-like altar that is filled with flowers, sugar skulls and paintings. We put a stack of index cards so people can write messages to loved ones who have passed away. They also put pictures. At this point, there are thousands of cards! We are working on another altar in honor of my husband's aunt Socorro who passed away last March. The whole family was so devastated because it happened so fast. We are all coming together to make her a beautiful altar in her honor - complete with cans of Coors Light (her favorite beer!).
What has been your most memorable year so far? Any costumes or celebrations that were your favorites?
Every year is special to me because there has always been someone significant to create an altar for. We try to come up with different messages for our personal and public altars. Sometimes it is Frida Kahlo, themed around art. In the past it has been about the women of Juarez, Mexico, who are murdered; children, victims of violence - once we made an altar to strong women like Selena, Maria Felix, Carmen Miranda, Celia Cruz, mother Teresa and Princess Diana. I think my favorite was the altar we made to our grandparents. People saw it and adopted it for their own grandparents! I love something so personal can become uplifting and universal.
Anything else you'd like to add about the Day of the Dead or any projects you have going on?
I really want people to recognize what the holiday is all about. Sometimes it is hard when I see how commercial the imagery has become. I wonder if the people designing/selling it think about the message and the history behind the skulls. I like to always give people the benefit of the doubt. I would like to ask that those people make an altar to honor the departed, it can be big or small. My husband and I have always made sure to include educational informational about the holiday with the things we make and sell. We even made a teacher/student program that people can print off and use to teach or learn about it!
As far as projects I have going on, I just got done releasing a new Crafty Chica product line! You can see the items on my web site! I also have my seventh book coming out in Feb - Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing" by Potter Craft. Last - I have the 3rd annual Crafty Chica ARt Cruise coming up in March! We still have spots available!
You can find out more about Kathy and see some of her wonderful projects on her website, the Crafty Chica.