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Today is Day of the Dead but what’s it all about?

As I’m sure you’re aware by now I’m a huge fan of sugar skulls and they heavily influence my jewellery. By why and what are they all about? Read on for more information about this fascinating culture!

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead, or Dia De Los Muertos, is a holiday celebrated in central and southern Mexico on 1st and 2nd November to honour deceased loved ones in a similar way to Halloween in this country. The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and to remember friends and family members who have died. It is commonly portrayed as a day of celebration rather than mourning.

When we went to America for our Honeymoon Disneyland had a whole section dedicated to Day of the Dead and their amazing film Coco. Here’s me and my husband enjoying the festivities!

Disneyworld California Day of the Dead
Getting a Sugar Skull Tattoo
My Sugar Skull Tattoo
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Decorating the home with an Ofrenda

This year I’ve decided to have my own ofrenda (Spanish for “offering”) which is a home altar with a collection of objects placed on a ritual display during Día de Muertos. In Mexico these altars can contain the favourite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls so they will hear the prayers and the remembrance of them.

I have pictures of my Mum, brother and my maternal grandparents. I also have some sugar skulls and we have lit candles. I’ve even bought a Pan de muerto which is a type of sweet roll shaped like a bun, topped with sugar, and decorated with bone-shaped pieces of the same pastry. I got mine from Sweet Nibble bakery. I also bought these sugar cute crochet sugar skulls which are made by Art_Mkt!

Sugar Skulls

One of the most iconic and colourful items seen during the festivities is the sugar skull or calavera. These skulls, which can come in different sizes, are traditionally made of sugar and are decorated with icing to be fun and colourful. Some even have feathers, glitter, hats, or other objects attached to make them more personal.

Sugar skulls are sometimes eaten, but their main function is to adorn the altars and tombs with a sugary delight for the visiting spirits. I have several sugar skulls as you might expect, and I won’t be eating mine mainly because they’re not actually edible ones!

But why SUGAR skulls? In Mexico, a country abundant in sugar production and perhaps too poor to buy fancy imported European church decorations, people learned quickly how to make sugar art for their religious festivals. Clay moulded sugar figures of angels, sheep and sugar skulls go back to the 18th century. Sugar skulls represented a departed soul and often had names written on their foreheads and placed on the home “ofrenda” or gravestone to honour the return of a particular spirit. Sugar skull art reflects the folk-art style of big happy smiles, colourful icing and sparkly tin and glittery adornments.

You might think that the sugar skulls can look a bit scary but they are meant to be happy, colourful and are meant to capture the joy and happy memories associated with lost loved ones which is why I am particularly fond of them and include them in my jewellery.

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How making my skull jewellery improves my wellbeing

Hello again!

As it’s World Wellbeing Week (22 June – 26 June) I thought I’d ask how are you coping with everything that’s happened worldwide over the past few months? How do you improve your wellbeing? Personally, I have been struggling with my mental health recently so I thought it might help others if I talked about my depression. I know I often feel comforted by others sharing their story.

I find this time of year difficult as it would have been my brother’s birthday last week. You may have seen my social media post last Thursday about my brother Andrew and why I support Cancer Research UK by selling skull jewellery to raise funds for Race for Life.

I was officially diagnosed with depression in July 2011 and put on medication by my Doctor. This was partly triggered by a mentally abusive, duplicitous relationship. I was initially hesitant as I didn’t want to “rely” on tablets. I also didn’t like the sound of the side effects! I did it though and they really do help me.

For me the strangest thing about depression is the timing of it seem to make no sense! Even during the loss of my Mum (2005) and my Brother (2008) to cancer I was able to cope with my (undiagnosed) depression but in 2011 something I considered less stressful triggered it. 

Since then I have been prescribed tablets twice. The second time I could think of no reason why I should be feeling that way! I had a loving fiancé, a lovely home, a great job and what I considered to be a happy life. This is why I find depression so confusing and difficult. It can hit you when you least expect it.

I also realised that tablets alone couldn’t help me, and I sort professional help from a wonderful counsellor. She really helped me delve into my feelings and understand why I reacted the way I do to many things.

I also began to realise that idleness made it worse. I’m not the sort of person who can sit still all day every day and feel like I haven’t achieved anything. I realised the need to set myself daily goals even if they are small ones like “do the laundry”, “read a book” or “practise yoga”.

I also discovered crafting was great for me, especially making my skull jewellery. The feeling of creating something gave me all the feels! You know my skull jewellery journey from my first blog but I also learnt how to use my Mum’s old sewing machine and now I can sew my own clothes. I’ve also recently discovered a love of embroidery.

I recently found a great article from the Craft Council about why crafting is good for your mental health. I also saw this fantastic post from The Sad Ghost Club who regularly put helpful ideas on coping with depression and anxiety on their social media channels. It really resonated with me.

Other things that work for me are yoga, crime podcasts, running and watching re-runs of classic TV programmes.

Finally, I’m in no way saying that what works for me will work for you or anyone else. I’m not an expert and I don’t have the silver bullet for depression. Don’t we wish we did! I just want you to know that when you feel blue/sad/down please don’t beat yourself up. Maybe talk to someone about it, go for a walk, try something creative or simply allow yourself to go with that feeling and be safe in the knowledge that “this too shall pass.”

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Introducing my ‘Self Made’ Skull Jewellery

Hi! Welcome to my new blog. I’m so pleased you’ve popped by! Pull up a comfy chair and let me tell you more about myself so you get to know the name and face behind the skull jewellery. My name is Sam Self and I am the creator of “Self Made”.  I live in Warrington with my husband. I am a Southerner by birth but love it up North . Please don’t ask me to choose between them though! 

 

For a while now I knew I wanted to have a business called “Self Made” which incorporated my love of making things and my surname. My skull jewellery started because I just couldn’t find the sort of items I wanted to buy in shops. I would regularly visit a fashion website and type “skull” into the search engine and often see “no search results” pop up. So frustrating!

 

Periodically , skulls appear in fashion again so as you can imagine I collect lots of skull jewellery during those times! I have loved skulls since I was 18 when I started listening to metal music. All my outfits regularly have skulls on them and when I did my Masters my friends started associating skulls with me and it stuck!

 

I decided if I couldn’t find the skull jewellery I wanted I’d make my own. I took premade jewellery and started customising it by adding a skull bead or two. Then I naturally started to make my own skull jewellery from scratch by  learning and honing my skills.  Once I’d got an idea of the sort of items I wanted to create I just did it!

 

I created so much skull jewellery I thought “I can’t possibly wear all this!” so decided to start selling it as I can’t be the only person who wants alternative jewellery? I guess you feel the same otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this!

 

If there’s anything you’d love me to cover in my blog just drop me an email. In the meantime, why not check out my current skull jewellery here.

 

Take care of yourselves and stay safe out there!

 

Sam