One of my favorite Dia de los Muertos traditions is the nicho. Follow these instructions to create your own nicho for your Dia de los Muertos celebrations.
A nicho is a decorative display box for a calavera, a whimsical handmade skeleton character. Calaveras are meant to be fun, not somber, and may represent a general personality, occupation or theme -- or they may represent real people.
A nicho of a real person who has died can double as a miniature shrine, or ofrinda. Surround it with flowers, candles and other offerings such as pan de muerto for the holiday.
Make nichos for your Dia de Los Muertos party, or set out the materials and allow guests to make their own.
Wooden shadowbox frame
Hot glue or adhesive dots
Cut an 18-inch piece of floral wire. Twist a small loop in the middle -- this will be the head of your calavera. Shape the ends of the wire into a figure shape.
Knead a small piece of polymer clay until it's soft and pliable. Cover the wire figure, starting with the head, a small piece at a time. You can make your calavera fully clothed, "naked," or in-between.
Place your calavera on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it doesn't brown. Allow the calavera to cool completely.
Paint your calavera as desired.
Disassemble the shadowbox. Paint the frame as desired with acrylic paints - it can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Coat with clear coat (I used glossy glitter glue) to seal the paint.
Paint the back panel of the shadowbox as a background for your calavera.
Attach the calavera to the inside of the shadowbox with hot glue or other strong adhesive (I used 3-D Glue Dots). For my figure, I just glued the feet to keep it in place; you may need to glue the calavera to the back panel as well.
Put the back panel in place and secure it as directed.
Note: In addition to paint, you can add all kinds of embellishments, including plastic gems, beads, and glitter.
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