Day of the Dead at Boundary Wharf

In Mexico, November 1st and 2nd are traditionally spent honouring lost loved ones with the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebrations. Colourful decorations are strung about the streets and shrines with marigold flowers, candles, memorabilia and sugar skulls are built to commemorate those who have died. Coming the day after Halloween, there’s a bit of a cross over with jack-o-lantern imagery, spooky masks and skulls, but this is a celebration focused on gatherings of family and friends rather than mischief and trick or treat.

So for Family Arts week, we’ve decided to bring Day of the Dead to Boundary Wharf, and you can try out some of the beautiful crafts seen across Mexico. Everyone can get involved, making, printing, decorating, painting, shopping, looking, remembering and taking part in the celebrations. The activities run from 1pm to 7pm both days, with a party afterwards to relax admire everyone’s creations on the Friday night. Saturday night coincides with the big fireworks display on the Great Lines at 7.30pm.

papel picado - mexican paper cut banners hanging in the sunPapel Picado
Paper cut banners are traditionally made from tissue paper in Mexico. We’ve noticed how much plastic bags feel like tissue paper once cut into squares, so we’ll be recycling these into patterned banners to fill the courtyard with fluttering colour. They’re fun and quick to make. Free

Shrine with photo of a man and paper cut banners

Mexican shrines often include photos or mementos of the person being commemorated, candles, marigolds and other flowers, food offerings, decorated sugar skulls (we’ll have some of these to sell), paper cut and tin decorations, beads, ribbons and anything colourful. They’ll be made throughout the two days and we’ll light them all up as it gets dark. There will be lots of things to create them with, we’ll supply glittery things, card, glues, wax and LED candles, glow sticks, old jewellery etc., but bring along any photographs and memorabilia, beads, flowers, jam jars for candles, fruit/vegetables or anything else that you might like to use or add to the shrines.
Donations for materials.

papel picado skull design for a tote bagGocco printed tote bags
Print a papel picado (paper cut) skull design onto a dinky mini tote or a shopping bag in a choice of colour combinations. You’ll be using Gocco / thermofax screens, an easy screen printing method using lightweight plastic frames and a simple squeegee similar to a credit card.
£3.50 (mini), £5 (large)

Screen printed skeletons
Screen print a big mexican style skeleton onto card, cut it out and join the bones together to make a dancing puppet, (see image below). £4

painted clay skull beadsJewellery
Craft and paint little skull beads from clay, or draw colourful designs onto clear plastic and shrink them down to a fraction of the size with a heat tool. Add to earring parts, hang them from recycled chains, stick them to badges to make a brooch, string them on bracelets or use them to make little figurines as an element of a shrine.
£3 – £5

painted tin decorations in the shap of skulls, hearts, stars etc.Tin ornaments
Cut out a shape from a recycled printing plate. Make shaped dents in the tin with various tools, then paint the tin in bright colours. £3

We’ll also be lighting up the courtyard in the evening with lanterns, customising spooky masks with stickers, making silhouette pictures and you can contribute to a zine that will become a souvenir of the event.

On sale will be hand made sugar skulls and Day of the Dead crafts.

No need to book – just drop in. There are activities for all ages but some using sharp or heavy tools are for adults only. Young children need to be supervised for all activities.

Friday 1st Nov 2013, 1pm – 10pm (activities until 7pm – then a party!)
Saturday 2nd Nov 2013, 1pm – 7pm (maybe watch fireworks on the Great Lines afterwards!)

Check the Visit page for information on how to find us.

Invite your friends to come too via our Facebook event page.

Dancing screen printed skeleton puppet

Dancing screen printed skeleton puppet

Jane Furst: intaglio techniques

We’re lucky to have been joined by Jane Furst, a printmaker who specialises in intaglio techniques and creates beautiful prints that draw inspiration from deep sea creatures. Jane has been helping us during Wednesday Club, assisting users with drypoint work. She kindly took us through her techniques recently, showing plates, prints and her lovely notebooks, documenting the methods she uses and details of processes applied to specific plates.

Jane Furst – mezzotint print, plate and notebook

Mezzotint plates take weeks to work, first roughening the copper plate with a rocker that makes tiny impressions to create the beautiful soft blacks and halftones. The rocker is moved over the plate in a precise pattern, and Jane documents where she has got to with the process in her notebooks. Once the plate has achieved a velvety black print, it can be burnished to bring it back to lighter tones and white.

Jane Furst - Mamie Machine

Jane showed us examples of her photo etching plates. These come coated in a photo-sensitive resist. Once exposed to UV light, the resist hardens. A transparency with solid black and white artwork is placed on the plate before exposure to the UV light, so that areas of the resist remain soft and can be washed away with a special solution after exposure. Once prepared the plate is etched in acid, with the metal only affected in the areas where the resist was removed. Very detailed work can be created with this method.

Jane Furst - photo etching print, transparency and plate

Jane Furst – photo etching print, transparency and plate

Jane also works with aquatint and hard and soft ground etching methods. She has combined these to great effect with drypoint for her series of prints based on microscopic marine life forms ‘animal and plant’. Taking inspiration from nineteenth century biologist Ernst Haeckel, but also using metaphor. Jane places the thin aluminium drypoint plates on top of the etching plates and runs them through the etching press together, using a technique she has developed herself.

Jane Furst - Treasures of the Deep, drypoint and etching

Jane Furst – Treasures of the Deep, drypoint and etching