Category Archives: Day of the Dead Festival

Skullavera showcases unique ceramic skulls at Melbourne’s Day of the Dead Festival

All the skulls in the photographs are produced by Skullavera

Last Saturday, I attended a Day of the Dead Celebration in Melbourne that featured a range of hand crafted skulls, printed t-shirts, altars, traditional Aztec dancing, Mexican street food and face painting! The event was located at the Trust Bar and Restaurant in Flinders street that was full of visitors with their faces painted as the Mexican sugar skulls, it was fascinating as there were so many different patterns and designs!

It was interesting to see how each person had interpreted the Mexican sugar skulls, some had used colourful face paint while others had decided to go with a  minimalist approach. Furthermore, I did find the event particularly fascinating as I have never been to a Day of the Dead festival in Melbourne and the event was quite different to what I was expecting! At first the venue was rather crowded, although I throughly enjoyed watching visitors passing by with their sugar skull face paint!


As I was walking through the venue, there was one stall that had captured my attention. There were a range of colourful and illustrative skulls that were displayed onto a wooden surface along with a selection of skeletal figurines including Frida Kahlo and Marlyin Monroe. These hand crafted skulls featured elaborate and decorative designs that are quite unique compared to the other ceramic skulls that I have seen throughout the city of Melbourne.

These incredible hand crafted skulls are produced by a company known as Skullavera that is currently based in Sydney, Australia. BME Melbourne have conducted an interview with the artist who explains that the skulls are inspired by Chicano / latino tattoo designs as well as “the Mexican Drug Cartels.” 1 Each skull features a completely different style, there were so many different patterns, designs and illustrations, in fact the stall at the Day of the Dead celebration was definitely vibrant and decorative.


In a way, the artist applies a unique and distinctive style to the ceramic skulls, the level of detail and craftsmanship is incredible! The illustrations provides each skull with a unique characteristic, these models appear to have an individual personality, a personal style!

While there were bright and colourful designs available, there were other skulls that featured a range of black and while illustrations, the stall at the Day of the Dead Celebration in Melbourne featured some extraordinary ceramic skulls in all different shapes and sizes, I was seriously tempted to buy one for myself!

The official Skullavera blog does mention that the hand crafted skulls are inspired by the Day of the Dead celebration; from a personal perspective the ceramic skulls do feature both Mexican and European influences, there are various designs that do remind me of Western popular culture. 2 The way the skulls were displayed do feature similarities to a traditional Mexican altar that is usually installed during the Day of the Dead in order to welcome spirits to the celebration, as referenced by Maria Herrera Sobek. 3


In fact the display in general was creative and inspiring, it was seriously hard to walk past the stall without taking a dozen photos, I was in awe for at least 30 minutes, I just could not take my eyes off these hand crafted skulls! I f you haven’t seen Skullavera’s work, then I would strongly suggest to visit the Facebook page or the blog, there is some incredible work displayed online.

For those who have never even heard of this Day of the Dead Celebration in Melbourne, I would recommend buying a ticket for next year! As if you can go wrong with beer, tequila, nachos and ceramic skulls all in the same venue? While the event itself was crowded to begin with, the works on display were definitely worth seeing!

1. BME Melbourne, “Skullavera Interview”, June 28th 2013, (accessed 5/11/13)
2.  Skullavera Official Blog, (accessed 5/11/13)
3. Sobek, Maria Herrera (ed) “Altars” in Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions, Volume 1 (California: ABC – CLIO, 2012)

Other References:

Ceramic Handcrafted Skulls from Amor Y Locura


Photography by Charlotte Pridding

A couple of weeks ago, I received a small graduation gift from a local Day of the Dead Store in Melbourne, Gertrude Street that sells a range of hand crafted items from Mexico. I received four ceramic skulls with colourful and decorative designs that have been painted onto the front and the back; I soon realised that the hand crafted skulls could be used as a necklace.

There are two small holes on the left and the right hand side of the skull that would allow you to create a bracelet or a necklace, I must admit the thought is rather exciting as the skulls are rather vibrant and colourful, they would compliment all my grey and black t-shirts that are hanging in my wardrobe. At the moment, I have placed the ceramic skulls on top of the television cabinet, I must admit all the different patterns and designs compliments the furniture within the lounge room, in fact the colours are so bright I just can’t seem to take my eyes off them!


The ceramic skulls are very small, they’re minuscule to be precise, although it is the actual size that provides these hand crafted skulls with some interesting characteristics. I have to hold the skull with my fingers in order to closely examine the various patterns and designs, when I am holding the ceramic skulls, I always find something different, something I haven’t noticed before. The base of the ceramic skull features quite a high level of detail for something so small; I also noticed that the hand crafted skulls also feature lively and animated expressions, all four of them seem to be grimacing or smirking.

So I’m not exactly sure who has designed these ceramic skulls, although I do know that the skulls were purchased from Amor Y Locura, a local boutique store that sells a range of Day of the Dead merchandise. The skulls are associated with the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration, a celebratory event that reunites the living with the deceased. The hand crafted skulls are often used for parades, markets, altars and other activities that symbolise Mexico’s cultural and spiritual connection with the deceased, as referenced by Regina. M. Marchi.


A couple of weeks ago, I decided to browse through a magazine known as “Latin Flavours”, the publication features various articles and reviews in relation to   authentic latin cuisine as well as small local businesses around the city of Melbourne. At the very front of the magazine, I discovered Amor Y Locura (Love & Madness) that is currently owned by Mandy Patron who is inspired by traditional and contemporary Mexican art. Patron ensures all artists receive a profit for their delicate hand crafted items that are imported from Mexico to Melbourne, Australia.

What I truly love about this store is the fact that nothing stays the same, every time I walk into Amor Y Locura, I always find a new selection of wooden, ceramic and papier-mache skulls. The store does sell a range of unique hand crafted products that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else within the city. Another thing I find particularly fascinating is the name of the business, Love & Madness reflects Patron’s own fascination with Mexico’s cultural and spiritual heritage.


Latin Flavours features a monthly magazine that is often found within restaurants, cafes and boutique stores around Melbourne, if you ever find yourself wondering around the city, I would suggest taking a copy to read, the magazine often features some very interesting articles and recipes. Don’t forget to visit Amor Y Locura the next time you are in Gertrude Street, they have a wide selection of Mexican hand crafted antiques! Please click on the link below for further information.

David James (Ed) Latin Flavours, Autumn Winter Edition 2013, published by Insubstantial Pageant p. 7-8

Regina.M. Marchi, The Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenan.  New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

Sugar Skull Wallpaper Designed by Emily Evans


The other day, I discovered another interesting photograph on Facebook that features Day of the Dead, Sugar Skull wallpaper designed by Emily Evans. I was rather intrigued by the pattern and the design, as soon as I signed into Facebook, I instantly clicked onto the photograph and I just could not take my eyes off the golden sugar skulls.

The pattern does feature a unique style and the dark background effectively contrasts with the sugar skulls, especially the detail around the eye sockets, the nose and the jaw line. What I do find particularly fascinating about the sugar skulls are the eye sockets, when I view the photograph for an extended period of time, the different shapes and patterns appear to rotate.


After ten to fifteen minutes, I actually believed that the eye sockets were rotating, in a way the wallpaper does create an illusion. Every time I view the photograph, I always find a different pattern or design that I haven’t noticed before, there’s always something new to discover. The wallpaper is rather elegant, the design isn’t too overpowering and the sugar skulls do feature a very creative and decorative style.

When I discovered this particular photograph, I just imagined myself using the wallpaper within my own bedroom or bathroom, it would just complement my collection of sugar skulls that I have produced over the past six months. In fact I’m so impressed with the design, I would even use the wallpaper in my lounge room!


So who has actually designed the sugar skull wallpaper? Emily Evans is a “medical illustrator” based in London who combines her own medical knowledge with creative and imaginative designs. There is limited information in regards to Emily Evans designs, although I have wondered whether Evans has combined both her artistic and scientific knowledge in order to create the sugar skull wallpaper.

The sugar skulls are a unique choice and I have wondered whether Emily Evans has simply recreated the skull due to it current popularity within the contemporary visual culture. I have also questioned whether the wallpaper has any connection to Mexico’s cultural or historical heritage, where sugar skulls are often decorated especially for the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration that reunites the living with the deceased.

At the moment, I just have so many different questions and I am determined to find the answers, stay tuned for the second half of the post! For more information please visit Emily Evans official website for further information. All photographs are sourced from Emily Evans Website.

Black & Yellow Skull Continued…

7/2/13 – Long Lost Photographs of Skulls are Found at Long Last! 

For the past few days, I’ve been trying to make room on my SD card; while I was flicking through the files on my camera, I found photographs of the yellow and black sugar skull I had decorated last month. I then realised that I had completely forgotten to save the photographs to my computer so I quickly transported the files into a another file so I wouldn’t loose them forever! I didn’t even realise I had photographs from last month, but I am glad I now have the files so I can now upload them onto Black Calavera. In one of my previous posts, I explained how I accidentally made black icing sugar instead of purple; I seriously wasn’t going to let this mistake ruin my opportunity to decorate some sugar skulls. I decided to go along with it, at first I was seriously doubting the consistency of the icing sugar, although I was pleased with the composition between the black and the yellow.


Most of the time I just create random designs, I often create the first thing that enters my head. Every time I try to plan or organise a design for the sugar skulls, the icing sugar explodes everywhere and I am then forced to seek other alternatives. It all has to do with the temperature and the consistency of the icing sugar, if those to aren’t right, then there’s always a lot of cleaning up to do. Runny icing sugar is just a disaster, once it pours from the zip lock bag, it doesn’t stop, seriously, you sit down expecting to decorate a sugar skull, instead you find yourself in a pool of icing sugar.


If you are prepared to get messy, decorating the sugar skulls is really fun! The sugar skulls have become a canvas for me, if I have an idea I just applying them to the sugar skull. It’s not too easy either, you must a steady hand in order to control the icing sugar otherwise you could end up with a skull that looks like a Jackson Pollock painting. Actually come to think of it, that would be rather interesting!

Sugar Skulls Online Store / Facebook Page


All Images displayed on the Sugar Skulls Facebook Page

6/2/13 – Recent Online Discovery leads to more skull Printed T-Shirts, Dresses and other Visual Merchandise. 

 A few weeks ago, I discovered a new Facebook page that sells a range of skull printed t-shirts, dresses, skirts and other fashion accessories. Sugar Skulls is an online store that often features images and photographs of their recent collections; the updates do make my Facebook rather interesting. The site also features a range of skull printed dresses and skirts; the colourful patterns and designs are visually interesting and they also remind me of tattoo art. The dresses feature a vintage style, something you would normally see from the 1950’s; I am just in love with all the different designs, they are just so stylish!


Sugar Skulls also sells skull printed t-shirts in men’s sizes, the level of detail is just incredible! Almost every single photograph features a skull; it’s interesting to see how the skull is used in fashion, advertising and product design. In a way the skull has become a fashion accessory; I don’t normally think about death when i’m wearing all my skull printed t-shirts; it’s become another commodity, another necessity just like the new ipad or the latest xbox game.

There isn’t a great deal of information about the company on the website; I’m assuming the skull has been used as product branding, who can blame them really, the skull does make a fantastic logo! I have also noticed the site also features a range of products and fashion accessories that are inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead and the sugar skulls that also feature some fantastic patterns and illustrations. If you are interested in skulls, tattoo art and vintage style clothing, I would recommend viewing the Sugar Skulls Facebook Page.

For more information please click on the link below.


Posters and Billboards for the Future Music Festival

4/2/13 – Skulls used to Promote one of Melbourne’s Most Popular Music Festival. 

Over the past few weeks I have recognised advertisements around Melbourne, promoting the Future Music Festival at Flemington Race Course. I have noticed banners, posters and billboards around the city, where the skull has been used as the logo. The festival will feature a Day of the Dead theme; most of the advertisements do feature bright, bold and vibrant colours that also compliment the skulls and the skeletons that reappear within the advertisements.Every year there is a different theme for the Future Music Festival; this is a very clever marketing strategy as you wouldn’t attend the same old festival every year.

Even the website is visually interesting, there are skulls left right and centre! The website is certainly up to date with the recent trends and styles, as the skull is very popular at the moment. A few months ago, I noticed a few A4 sized posters attached to lamp posts and now I’m beginning to see giant billboards all over the city, where the skull has become completely unavoidable. So I have been to one music festival before and you can visit various bands playing at different stages; it is fairly interesting as you can quickly move from one band to the other without waiting for an extended period of time.

It’s interesting to see how the festival use certain elements from the Day of the Dead Festival; the various colours patterns and designs do remind me of this particular celebration. The Day of the Dead theme definitely works well with the music festival and the event usually contains lots of drinking, singing and dancing. I do have one question in mind when I view the advertisements; has the skull lost it’s symbolic meaning? In a way yes, in these particular advertisements the typography actually distorts the shape of the skull to the extent where you could misinterpret the skull as something completely different. Needless to say, the skull does compliment the Day of the Dead theme; the typography also adds an interesting effect to the shape of the skull and the advertisements definitely captures my attention from the opposite side of the road.

It’s hard not to notice the advertisements, all the different colours immediately jump out at you! The advertisements are very well designed, although you need innovative designs in order to promote such a good lineup! There’s Ellie Golding, Dizzee Rascal, The Prodigy, Rudimental and many more!

For more information please click on the link below.

Soya 365: Quantas Spirit Youth Awards

25 – 31 / 1/ 13 – Entry into Soya’s Photography Competition 

A few days ago I entered an online photography competition via the SOYA (Quantas Spirit Youth Awards). I decided to enter the black and white photographs I have created through the Black Calavera research project that explored the Mexican sugar skulls and the Day of the Dead Festival.

The entry features a series of photographs I have produced over the past 12 months including the photographs that I have distorted through the use of water, paint and cellotape. These particular processes present a level of decay and destruction through the distressed appearance of the photograph; this idea presents a juxtaposition between Western and Mexican perspectives of death.

While the Day of the Dead is a colourful and joyous celebration that honors the deceased, the Western culture is often fearful or anxious of death. Death is often portrayed through the absence of colour, something that is usually wiped under carpet, where families continue on with their every day life like nothing happened. The Day of the Dead on the hand hand embraces and celebrates death, families reunite to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away. In my own photographic project, I hope to combine these two different interpretations of death.

I will ask for a huge favour though, if you would please be able to click the like button on my site that would be much appreciated, the link is attached below. If you would please be able to help promote my entry page that would also be a huge help! At the moment I am trying to promote my work and the Black Calavera research project.

Thanks for all your help and support, stay tuned for further updates. Please click on the link below to preview the entry page on SOYA.