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Gualala Arts

Promoting public interest and participation in the arts since 1961.

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Gualala Arts Workshop
Skull Making
Instructors: Bernadette Garcia Ambers and Phyllis Garcia Wade

October 31, 2010
4:00 - 7:00 p.m.

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Sugar Skull You don't have to be a child or even have children to enjoy this wonderful Mexican tradition. Making sugar skulls is just part of the Días de Los Muertos (Days of the Dead) celebration. Gualala Arts will offer a workshop in decorating sugar skulls on Sunday, October 31 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. during the Day of the Dead celebration.

Students will be able to purchase blank skulls to decorate if they wish. Students will also receive a handout about the materials used in the workshop. Blank sugar skulls whole, half, large and small will be for sale, starting at $5 and up. Pre-decorated sugar skulls will also be available for purchase at $20 and up. Additional pieces: flowers, cats cookies, etc. will be available.

Bernadette Ambers

About Bernadette Ambers

Bernadette Ambers is trained in Culinary Arts, teaches classes and is a Wilton Method Instructor. Bernadette's commitment to education led her to Sierra Community College, Rocklin, California and Newcastle Produce, Newcastle California to help reestablish homemaking skills through cake basics and decorating. Bernadette demonstrates and teaches to adults and children various cooking classes which include Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and canning. As for her favorite, that would be Sugar Skulls (Día De Los Muertos) which is near and dear to her heart for the past eight years. She also grows her own garden and uses "local produce" as much as possible.

About Phyllis Wade

Phyllis Wade I became interested in this when I was exposed to it at Point Arena High School. Paula Patterson was the ELD (English language development) and Spanish Instructor and I was the ELD Assistant Coordinator at the time and felt like a missing part of me was completed. Having our grandparents come from Mexico and having had instilled in us by her our culture made the connection grand. The school celebrated for 4 years. The Day of the Dead allowed me to have an Ofrenda (altar) in the showcase for all to contribute. It was great. Students participated by making the skulls and decorating them. They brought photos, food, things that were from the ones they wanted to honor and remember. I picked up again about 3 years ago when my sister, Bernadette Garcia Ambers, told me she had been doing this in her home in Auburn. We got together in July and felt it would be wonderful to do it together and spread the experience to others, especially since it was so fun and rewarding. It is a powerful experience to do the whole celebration of El Día de los Muertos.

More about Day of the Dead

El Día de los Muertos is a traditional holiday celebrated by many Mexicans in Mexico and Mexican Americans living in the United States and Canada. The holiday is believed to have originated from the Aztec mythology, Mictecacihuatl, the Queen of Mictlan, ruling of the afterlife in the underworld. Mictecacihuatl is represented with a defleshed body with her jaw agape to swallow the stars during the day. Her role is to keep watch over the bones of the dead. The holiday came about after the immersion of the Spanish with the Aztec.

The holiday focuses on family and friends gathering to pray for and remember the family and friends who have died. It is believed that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on Oct. 31, and the spirits of all deceased children are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours and on November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.

Sugar Skulls The actual day of celebration is in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day November 1 and All Souls' Day November 2. Traditions of El Día de los Muertos include building a private Ofrenda (altar) for honoring a loved one that has departed using wild marigolds (called cempasuchil) and red cock's combs along with the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Toys and candies are left for the angelitos (little angels) and Nov. 2, cigarettes and shots of mescal are offered to the adult spirits. Little folk art skeletons and sugar skulls, purchased at open-air-markets are also often used. Many believe that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck and wisdom to their families. Ofrenda (altar) building keeps the family close. The Day of the Dead is a time for celebration, where partying is common.

Gualala Arts will host a Day of the Dead celebration on Sunday, October 31. Altars will be constructed. Contact Gualala Arts at 707-884-1138 to sign up for installing an altar.

See also: Gualala Arts Workshop Registration, Payment & Cancellation Policy.

The Gualala Arts Center, located at 46501 Old State Highway in Gualala, CA,
is open weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and weekends from noon to 4:00 p.m.
Please call (707) 884-1138 for more information, or email

Serving the coastal communities of northern Sonoma & southern Mendocino Counties.