Photography by Charlotte Pridding, 2013
On the day of my birthday, I received two small gifts from an authentic day of the dead store in Melbourne called Amor Y Locura. On the 22nd of September, I received two beaded skulls that feature intricate patterns and designs, the skulls were imported from Mexico and there were only two left in Australia, how how lucky is that?!
While visiting the Day of the Dead store in Melbourne, I was amazed by the two large beaded skulls on the very bottom shelf, the level of craftsmanship is remarkable! A customer within the store had advised me that these colourful beaded ornaments are also known as the huichol skull, I must admit I was intrigued by the name so I decided to undertake some online research.
According to Lynne Bairstow, Huichol Art derives from many ancient traditions and rituals that were commonly practised amongst the aztecs. Bairstow explains that the patterns and the designs found in Huichol Art represent nature, these beaded sculptures often contain a strong association to various animals and plants.
In comparison Harald Prins and Dana Walrath in Cultural Anthroplogy: The Human Challenge also comment on the extraordinary designs found within Huichol art that also refer to the values and beliefs practised amongst the indigenous communities within Mexico. Prins and Walrath refer to Schaeffer & Furst in People of the Peyote : Huichol Indian History, Religion and Survival, both authors explain that these particular designs refer to a “sacred plant” in Mexico also known as the “peyote”.
The indigenous communities in Mexico also associated this particular plant with a deer that would deliver important messages to many of the “gods and goddesses”. It’s quite fascinating to actually discover that all of these designs have such a strong meaning / signification; these beaded sculptures certainly reflect Mexico’s cultural and spiritual heritage!
So what else did I discover? Well, I also discovered the works of Catherine Martin who was also inspired by Huichol art during her trip to Mexico, Martin has also spoken directly to some of the tribes who create these exquisite sculptures. According to LN-CC, Martin collaborates with these ancient tribes in order to produce colourful, vibrant and remarkable designs! This is a very unique idea as I’ve never really seen too many artists or designers appropriate the Huichol beaded sculptures, in fact I’ve never even heard of Huichol art until I visited the Day of the Dead store in Melbourne.
I decided to take some photographs of the beaded skulls out in the backyard; I do find the patterns and designs particularly fascinating! The beads create a gradient around the eye sockets, the nose and the mouth, this also creates quite an interesting effect. Some of the patterns do resemble plants, animals and even flames that are located around the edge of the skull.
In a way the patterns remind me of an abstract landscape painting as strange as it sounds! The skull to the right has green along the bottom and the blue around the eye sockets reminds me of a river streaming along a field or a mountain; on the other hand, the white, orange and yellow remind me of a rising sunset. I suppose there would be various meanings and interpretations in relation to the beaded skulls, I must admit these sculptures do appear bright and colourful in the front living room, in fact they make fantastic ornaments for the house!
So if you haven’t seen one of these beaded skulls before, I would definitely recommend visiting Amor Y Locura in Melbourne, Fitzory. It’s definitely worth the visit, especially if you would like to see these exquisite Huichol Skulls in the flesh!
Schaeffer. S.B & Furst P.T, People of the Peyote: Huichol Indian History, Religion and Survival in Harold Prins and Diane Walrath’s,
Cultural Anthropology : The Human Experience (California: Thomson Higher Education, 2008 – 2005, http://books.google.com.au/booksid=8WMGAAAAQBAJ&pg=PA331&dq=huichol+beaded
Baird, David & Bairstow, Lynne, Frommer’s Mexico (New Jersey: Wiley Publishing Inc, 2006)
LN-CC, Interview with Catherine Martin, LN-CC, undated (accessed 4/10/13)