Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day of the Dead Totem Pole

Are you ready for the Day of the Dead? Will you celebrate it?

I have been making "sugar" (clay) skulls as pendants, rings, hair clips, wedding dress accessories, cake toppers, etc, for all my clients who come to me with very cool skull ideas and requests, for as long as I've had my etsy store. I have loved making each one of them, believe me, they are as fun to make as they are to wear!, Yet, I must confess that this colorful tradition is sort of new for me. I am originally from Venezuela and over there we don't celebrate it.

As you can imagine, over the years I've grown curious about it, and needed to find about its origins and meanings. I researched, read, sketched, read some more, wrote some notes, continued working on my sketches, until I was satisfied and ready to create my latest sculpture: A "Day of the Dead Totem Pole" that would share my take on its origins.

A Day of the Dead Totem Pole? someone asked. Yes, I said, a Day of the Dead Totem pole.

Totem poles were originally carved out of wood, their meaning depended on who made them. They could recount legends, tribes lineages, or tell a story, and even when neither the Aztecs nor Mayans made them, it was the perfect way for me to show what I had learned about the Day of the Dead origins.

With my sketch ready, I began the clay process. As a base I used a bottle and attached it to the wood base. From then on, it was a matter of bringing my sketch to life. Piece by piece, taking care of all the little details.

In my totem pole, you can see from the top down, the Sun God, giver of life and light, represented with a skull face, underneath it, you can see the Eagle that for the Aztecs was the transformed Sun God that would fly to catch the stars, flying from east to west, always vigilant and victorious. Stone gods, with powerful expressions. Mighty warriors of the Aztec & Mayan empire, with many skulls among them, symbolizing all the human sacrifices. Temples, nopales, and more symbols of the mesoamerican culture. To the sugar skulls, placed among fruits and flowers of the traditional Day of the Dead altars.

My design made my heart smile, but in this sculpture, I wanted to share part of the mystery of  the dead through sound too.... So, after much thinking, I decided that bones was the perfect way to do so...  no, dont worry, I didnt put bones in it, I used rice, sand and rocks... but the idea behind it is kind of creepy-cool dont you think? 

My "Day of the Dead Totem pole" is my small tribute to this tradition, my art expression of its legacy.



  1. Truly a wonderful creation! I love your whole process, thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thank you Jackie! Very happy you like it! It was a fun process, from the beginning with my research to its completion. :)