The Bonesmith’s Union: Melanie’s Menagerie and the Danse Macabre of the DEADutante’s Ball

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As we slide neatly across the waist of the halfway point of dia de los muertos observances and prepare to pull the curtain on The Folk Tree’s seasonal exhibit, I’m reminded once again of just how fortunate I’ve been over the last few months. In addition to the explosive promotional gains that the Comrade’s Calacas FB Group has been making, there’s the fact that this blog’s resurrection has put me in touch with an entire cadre of fascinating artists and editors, the inspiration from which has helped tremendously in terms of dealing with the inevitable “off-season” that the muerte arts typically take throughout the winter months.

One such fellow bonesmith is Melanie Nord-Monsees, or–as she’s known in her Etsy circles–Melanie’s Menagerie. I was unfamiliar with Melanie’s work before firing myself back into the blogosphere in August, but I’ve become quite a fan of her style in the time since: as I’ve mumbled on about before, calacas and calaveras are an artistic genre that’s easy to pick up, but extremely difficult to personalize in any profound or intriguing fashion. There’s only so much that a sculptor or painter can do with a human skeleton, which means that a considerable amount of “day of the dead” artisans are content to simply slap some candy-skull detailing on their work and call it qualified; it fits the bare minimum requirement to compel the observer or buyer to acknowledge what it’s supposed to be, but not much else.

la bella morte.

Melanie’s work, on the other hand, is completely unique and truly elegant. Much like a Clay Lindo diorama, there’s no mistaking the deft touch of the creator when canvassing her offerings: her characters are meticulously sculpted and beautifully dressed, with equal attention paid to both the delicate build of her calaveras and their shelf-ready aesthetic. Like the best bonesmiths, she maneuvers effortlessly between the gleeful and the ghoulish, and is seldom content to painting herself into just one corner of the genre.

la diabolita.

I would wholeheartedly invite you to check out Melanie’s Etsy offerings here, and to give her blog a due read-over, if you’re in the market for some entertaining insights into her process. Good stuff abounds.

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4 responses »

  1. I recently decorated some sugar skulls the other day, it was the first time but I can definitely see how much effort goes into the design especially in the Mexican Day of the Dead skulls & skeletons. I do like the artist’s work!

    • It’s weirdly involved work, isn’t it? I remember the first time I decided to embellish a piece with sugar skull-style designs: I rolled up my sleeves, sat down with my brush in hand, and promptly realized that I had absolutely NO idea where to begin. LOL.

      Since then, my understanding of the fundamental symbols and their significance–flowers, curlicues, crosses–has marginally improved, but I couldn’t agree more with the comments you’ve made: it DOES take effort!

  2. OMG! I just discovered this entry on your blog!!! For some reason I missed it, and just happened to stop by to catch up on what’s going on with you lately! Thank you THANK YOU so much…I’m touched by your comments and compliments. BONESMITH UNION FOREVER!

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