Nearly two and a half years ago, I agreed to temporarily care for a cockatiel who was between homes. Little did I know that this tiny ball of feathers birdie would wheedle his way into my heart and that my home would become his permanent home… and that I would, to this very day, continue to be amazed at his cleverness, his sweetness, and his love of human companionship.

I mean, how could I not fall in love?

So when I saw that some of the folks on Craftster were having a “Put a Bird On it” swap (no, it’s not about Portlandia, it’s all about the birds), I had to join.

I was partnered with the lovely charlieandwillow and as soon as I saw that her interests included Dia de los Muertos, I knew a skeleton had to be involved. Though I was unsure how I was going to put a bird on a skeleton…

[Rather than rewrite the explanation of the skeleton that forms the base of this project, I'll just point you to the last time I used a skelly.]

My partner mentioned liking finches, tits, and owls, but as there is a grand variety of coloring and shapes for each of these birds, I asked her to give me her favorite in each category. She responded with: Zebra Finch, Blue Tit, and Little Owl.

Peripitus. “Zebra Finch.” Dorsch, Maximilian. “Blue Tit.” Hisgett, Tony. “Little Owl.” Wikipedia.

And I knew what I needed to do with those birds: bird masks for the skelly.

I knew she would now be the Bird Woman — always waiting, always ready for the birds to come to her.

Skeleton Bird Woman

Unworn masks hang from her removable belt.

Oh yes, the feathers you see were freely donated by the resident cockatiel (he had already discarded them when I collected them).

Base made from the top of a ribbon spool, some bits of soda 12-pack cardboard, pages from an old law book, paint, stain, beads, and chain.

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altar close up

Finally. In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned my “secret skelly project” and here it is — part of the Matchbox Swap (partner #2). The Matchbox Swap is all about decorating the outside of a matchbox and packing the insides of the box with all manner of craft supplies.

The minute I read my second swap-mate’s list of themes, I knew her topic of “day of the dead” was the one for me. I quickly decided to make a Dia de los Muertos Altar.


The altar includes: “papel picado” (“pierced paper,” representing the wind); candles (representing fire), various fruits and vegetable (representing earth), a small bowl on the top shelf filled with water (representing water), sugar skulls, a loaf of “pan de muertos”, a picture of the deceased and some bottles of her favorite beverages.

I know. Hard to see “matchbox” in that pic — maybe this one will help:

matchbox shot

By the time this photo was taken, I’d already lost control of the project.

Yes, that is a cracked-open rib cage attached to the box.

You see, while I was working on the altar, I remembered that I had some skeletons and I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if I used a skull as the drawer pull?”

After that it’s pretty much a blur. I never meant to use the entire skeleton, but use her I did. And I never meant to dress the entire skeleton, but dress her I did. Suddenly, my simple altar became an object held by a full-fledged Catrina.

These things happen when you allow your projects to control you.

dia de los muertos, "catrina"

The dress is made from ribbon and glue. Seriously. I forgot to take a photo while I was building the dress, but here’s a shot just to demonstrate the process (this piece wasn’t used in the final product).

ribbon wrap dress

dia de los muertos, "catrina"

I debated about making a crown for the hat, but Mr. Jivvy very much liked her bony head peeping out the back of her enormous hat and I had to agree. Looks cool, less work. I’m a happy camper.

dia de los muertos, "catrina"

dia de los muertos, "catrina"

dia de los muertos, "catrina"

And a shot just to prove that, yes, the matchbox drawer is still functional (and stuffed with goodies). ;)

dia de los muertos, "catrina"

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I still can’t tell you what I’m working on, but thought I’d share my latest skeleton upgrade. If you’ll recall, I’m working on a secret project that involves a skeleton. Well, I decided she had to be articulated — or else I was going to bend her bones and that just looks painful — and I was pleased to discover that it just wasn’t that hard to do.

SuppliesFor this project, I used my “go-to” glue (Aleen’s Quick Dry Tacky Glue), some 28-gauge wire, a craft knife, and a tiny hand drill.

UPDATE: Make that glue Zap-A-Gap (a CA glue). While getting her into final position, I managed to yoink off one of her hands. While attempting a repair, I ripped out her forearm. At which point I just pulled out her shoulder and repaired all the joints with Zap-A-Gap and they’re much stronger for it.

In place of the hand drill, you can use a straight pin/needle, but the hand drill makes it easier. If you like working small and don’t have one of these little drills, I have to tell you — I bought mine on a whim (it was probably on sale) and I use it all the time. It’s not one of my “have to have” tools, but it is one of my “I’m so glad I have this” tools.

cutting skeletonA standard craft knife slices right through the elbow joint.

cut away sectionAfter slicing the elbow joint, I noticed the bright white of the original plastic — I stained the white spot to match the bone. Certainly don’t want any glaring white bits when the lady bends her arm.

drillingDrilling the holes — I hope the different color paints on my fingers don’t give away too much about what I’m working on. :D

wires insertedI inserted wires (with a dab of glue) into the elbow joint and the wrist joint. After those had some time to dry, I inserted the other end of the wire into the corresponding body part (forearm and hand).

articulated armAnd, voilĂ ! The articulated arm. This method isn’t sturdy enough to hold up to endless posings, but it’s perfect for my purpose.

My secret purpose.


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