DIY Dia de los Muertos Ofrenda

By: Liv Bjorgum

Every year in my art class we make ofrendas for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos is a holiday for people to honor and celebrate the lives of people they were close to or admired. The Mexican holiday is celebrated November 1 and November 2 of every year. Something unique about the holiday is the happiness of it; instead of it being a grim holiday, it is a festive time to keep the memories of those who have passed alive.

Many people enjoy the tradition of making ofrendas, or altars to honor loved ones. You can make one for a pet, a family member, or a favorite artist that is no longer here. I think this is a great project for all times of the year, so here’s a way to make your very own mini ofrenda:

 

Materials:

  • Empty Altoid tin
  • Spray paint
  • white glue
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Paint
  • Sandpaper
  • Hot glue gun
  • Ephemera or memorabilia: Photos of person to honored; 3-D and flat objects that connect to that person.

Instructions:

  1. Spray paint your Altoid box. Spray paint sticks to the material of the tin, so it's an easy way to get rid of distinctive branding.

  2. Decorate the inside with scrapbook paper or paint. Since the Altoid logo is embossed, scrapbook paper is the way to cover up the letters. Adhere this with liquid white glue. If you want to paint, though, make sure you sand the surface first.

  3. Begin to decorate box with ephemera. You can make objects with clay or buy miniatures. There are no rules from here on, just a few tips:

    1. If you want your box to close, be conscious of where you place objects.

    2. Keep the importance of negative space in mind, too.

    3. Choose things that represent the person’s personality.

    4. Hot glue is your friend. But be careful!

    5. Play with texture and light: add ribbons, fabric, or even glitter.

  4. Add a small note to the person you honored on the side of your box.

  5. Display your ofrenda and see if there are any Dia de los Muertos celebrations going on near your town!

This year I chose to honor the artist Frida Kahlo, whose artwork and strength have always inspired me. Here’s my box:

Since many people traditionally honor the dead with altars, I created a small one inside my box, complete with candles and fruit.

This is an incredibly fun project that can be as simple or as complicated as you like, so give it a try!