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How to Make Calacas Figures

Skulls are a central part of Mexico's Day of the Dead.
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Calacas figures are the depictions of human skeletons. They are most often associated with Mexican culture's Dia de los Muertos. The figures are often made from clay or paper mache. Although they represent the dead, calacas figures are normally seen wearing clothes, doing everyday activities or celebrating like regular living people. Calaca is the Spanish word for skeleton. These lively skeletal depictions stem from Aztec artwork and the cultural belief that the souls of the deceased do not like to be remembered, sadly.

Things You'll Need:

  • Fine-Tip Paintbrush
  • Scissors
  • Scrap Fabric
  • Needle
  • Black Polymer Modeling Clay
  • Wire Or Aluminum Foil
  • Baking Sheet
  • Craft Glue (Optional)
  • Pliers (Optional)
  • Sealant (Optional)
  • Felt
  • Thread
  • White Acrylic Paint

Use wire or scrunched aluminum foil to create an armature or frame of a person. Bend the pieces to create simple legs, arms, a torso and a head. Wrap the limbs around the torso to keep them in place. Use pliers to bend and cut the frame if you need to.

Use the black polymer clay to mold a human body around the armature. This sculpture should be thick with rounded edges. Make sure you will have enough space to paint on a skeleton. The figure does not need to be anatomically accurate. The body only has have the simplest and most basic human figures. Do not make a face on the head. Place the finished sculpture on a baking sheet. Follow the direction on the clay's packaging to bake the clay to harden it.

Paint a skeleton on the front of the body using the white acrylic paint and paint brush after the clay has hardened and cooled. Use a picture of a skeleton as a reference. You do not need to include every individual bone of the human body. Paint on the main bones that will make your calacas recognizable. Allow the paint to dry. You can spray the paint with a sealant to protect the paint if you wish.

Cut out clothes for your calacas figure from felt and scrap fabric. Sew the clothes together using your needle and thread, making sure they can fit over the figure's hard body. You can cut out shapes of the accessories or items you want your figure to hold from felt. Use a dab of craft glue to paste the accessories onto the body.

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