Autumn Inspiration: Dia de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead, as celebrated in Mexico and some parts of the US and Central America, comes from the Aztec tradition. The Aztecs believed that life as we know it is merely a dream, and one does not truly awaken until death. They celebrated a month in late summer when they believed those who had moved on could return to visit their family members. When the Spaniards arrived on the scene they attempted to quash the practice, but failed. Instead, they predictable tied the celebration to a Catholic holiday, All Saints Day on November 1st.

The holiday is celebrated (key work celebrated, not mourned or commemorated) by remembering and honoring the beloved deceased by decorating grave sites, creating opulent altars in their honor, and like any self-respecting holiday, by preparing and devouring special foods.

Altars can take many forms, indoors or out, ornate or simple, although most have photos, mementos, religious idolatry, and ofertas such as clothing, sweets, food, alcohol or cigarettes and marigolds, whose scent is believed to attract the souls and draw them back.

Decorated sugar skulls are devoured to symbolize an acceptance of death as are pan de muerto – a slightly sweet bread baked into the shapes of bones.

The main symbol of the celebration is the skull and the skeleton, which is baked, bought, made, and embodied as men and women don costumes and pain their faces and dance and sing into the night. They are joyful, not frightening, and the holiday is one that embraces life and death through music, food, and objects intended to enhance the connection to the spirit world.

This year I intent to celebrate Die de los Muertos alongside my Halloween revelers. The following art are bits pf costume inspirations I wanted to share if anyone else wants to get on board :) Let’s celebrate life and death by eating sugared skulls, by creating altars for our beloved deceased and getting gussied up in one killer costume. No pun intended.




To live it to sleep, to die is to wake.

Old world weaving, new world threads

Guatemala as been popping up all over my thought threads lately, not least of which is because I’m enthralled with super sweet textiles that come from the area.

Women in Guatemala and Mexico have been using brocade loom and hand embroidery techniques to create their incredibly intricate huipils – traditional squarish tops – in basically the same way their ancient Mayan ancestors did years ago. Much of the weaving is died using the ikat technique, a complex process which breeds beautiful results.

Mayans used the design and color of  huipil to distinguish themselves from other tribes or people, the same way that fashion functions today to assert individuality (or an alliance with a “tribe” of people, as the case may be).

I’ve been inspired lately by combining traditional Guatemalan textiles with more modern styles.

My favorite new find is Osborn Design shoes; their oxfords, loafers and flats are made using cloth from regions all over Guatemala and each shoe is as unique as the cloth it’s cut from. Osborn supports 30+ Guatemalan artisans who hand-make the one-of-a-kind shoes in humane conditions.

This dress by Mara Hoffman is a perfect example of the best of both worlds. The tailored cut is super flattering and balances the eye-catching design of the cloth perfectly.

Proenza Schouler’s Pre-Fall Collection borrowed the bold colors and stripes from Guatemalan textiles in the creation of slouchy sweaters, high-colored blouses and wide-legged shorts for the Pre-Fall 2011 collection.

And Gwen Stefani used Guatemalan-inspired embellishments in her L.A.M.B. 2011 collection.

Loving how old-world cloth meets new-world clothing, especially when the look is achieved by supporting Guatemalan artisans. Looking forward to visit to the country in question in the near future for more reasons than fashion.

Amon Tobin @ Decibel Festival

I just had the pleasure of witnessing the spectacle that is Amon Tobin’s album ISAM performed live at Seattle’s [gorgeous] Paramount Theater. I say ‘witnessing’ because unlike other electronic acts where the show emphasizes dance to the point that the attendee becomes an active participant in the show, this performance was all about the visual experience, brought to life by the ethereal music of Tobin’s newest album.

The Brazilian-born artist didn’t just take it up a notch, he took it to next level. For ISAM live he worked with artists and engineers to construct a massive (24’x14’x8′) multi-dimensional installation of cubes surrounding Tobin. With the DJ being hidden from view, the spectator can absorb the onslaught of imagery projected upon the structure, in-time with the ambient sounds of the ISAM album in its entirety. The creation of crystals, blue flames, clock gears, robots and outer space were all abstracted onto the blocks in an awe-inspiring audio and visual experience.

Get a glimpse of what he has created by checking out this video:

Well done Decibel – Seattle’s successful electronic music – festival for hosting Tobin for his US debut of ISAM live.  Definitely make it a point to see this guy if he comes anywhere near you, and keep an eye out for what he has coming next. Cuz the only way to go is up, uP, UP. There’s no going back to a projector screen. Other DJ’s please take note.