One of our best-selling items from Mexico has to be our colourful, ceramic skulls. When we opened the shop four years ago, there was only a niche interest in Mexican art and traditions, but even in those few short years the fascination with these creations has skyrocketed. Pop culture has embraced the "Day of the Dead" celebrations, with films like "The Book of Life" and "Spectre" all increasing the buzz. We always try to bring some skulls back from Mexico, and these are among the best we've ever had.
They were made by Reynaldo, an artist working in Cuernavaca. We have bought skulls from Reynaldo before, although they were glazed whereas this batch has a matt finish. He moulds the skulls from balls of clay, fires them, and then hand paints them.
We sell the skulls as ornaments and curiosities, though it's important to note they are not really a "touristy" item - they are definitely the kind of thing you would see in a Mexican home. Mexicans have (in general) a different attitude to mortality than we do here in the UK - life is seen as more ephemeral, but definitely something to be enjoyed and celebrated. When death comes, the focus is on positive, uplifting events rather than gloomy, downbeat funerals. This can be jarring to our eyes, but there's certainly an argument it's a healthier way of looking at life.
We always love to see the skulls going to a new home. Each one is unique, and we always sell out quickly. We'll be trying to source another batch in time for the autumn.
We love Mexico - as anyone who has been in the shop will testify! It's an incredibly friendly country with amazing food, jaw-dropping scenery and just slightly better weather than here in the UK. Of course, it has its problems - corruption, issues with drugs, and levels of poverty we're not used to here in the UK. But it's a place we have visited again and again and never grown tired of. November sees one of our favourite Mexican festivals - the Day of the Dead.
Day of the Dead takes place on the 1st and 2nd November, and all over Mexico families will go to clean up graveyards, tidy up memorials to their ancestors, and generally celebrate the lives of their forefathers. It's a hugely upbeat festival - without any of the morbidity or sadness we associate with death or funerals. It's also very moving to see people who feel connected to the past - not shutting off their feelings or emotions. We think it's a healthy thing!
Every year we get a selection of skulls from Mexico, and I have to say this year's batch are the best yet. Our contact Alberto runs a project called Mexican Fine Arts, and he hand-picks the items from artisans across the country. This year he was in Cuernavaca, a city we lived in for a while on 2005, and where Malcolm Lowry set his masterpiece "Under the Volcano." The skulls capture the colour, passion and humour of Mexico perfectly.
We've taken the difficult decision not to sell the skulls online this year - they are difficult to post, and to be honest sell so quickly in the shop that by the time we've done the photography they'd be gone! But if you simply must have one - drop us a line and we can discuss :)
We also have a fantastic "Day of the Dead" party coming up in Hay - Friday 4th November at Hay Castle!
One item which we get a lot of comments on in the shop is our range of "Papel Picado" banners. These paper decorations from Mexico look like traditional banners or streamers until you look a little closer and notice that they feature depictions of skulls, skeletons and other spooky stuff! They are a hugely popular decoration around the Mexican Day of the Dead festival or Dia de los Muertos which takes place at the start of November. However they make an interesting and unusual decoration at any time of the year. The 5m long string features 16 multicoloured panes in each pack.