Behind the Scenes: Retablos Fit for an Icon

When you walk into the museum store, you may notice the elaborate display wall at the entrance. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look with our Creative Merchandising Director on how it all comes together.

This season’s display is a tribute to Mexican arts and culture and features a life-sized retablo complete with a Catrina figurine. My inspiration were the detailed nichos, or retablos, that are such a central part of Latin American folk art. These retablos are usually under 12 or 18 inches in height but I wanted to create a seven-foot-tall reproduction. 

Starting with a metal wedding arch I found at the local party supply, I wired a support cage along the back and sides of the arch. Foam core cut to size was wired onto the side to create the retablo doors. Then the real work began: covering the structure with a few hundred giant paper flowers!

Arch

Each of these flowers was made by hand, and I gave countless lessons to curious patrons on how to make them. Here’s what you do:

Take five sheets of tissue paper. Starting from the short side, accordion pleat into three to four-inch folds down the length of the tissue. Fold the pleated paper in half and twist a pipe cleaner around the center to hold the folds in place. Cut each end of the folded paper in a rounded shape to create your petals. Open up the folds and very gently, starting from the top sheet, pull each sheet of tissue toward the center pipe cleaner.

flower pile

The flowers were tied onto the arch, inside and out, and paper roses hot-glued to the doors. Next, I had to create our Catrina.

Flowers

La Catrina is a popular figure on El Día de los Muertos. Originally a turn-of-the-century political cartoon by illustrator José Guadalupe Posada, La Catrina was popularized by artist Diego Rivera. Rivera’s famous mural Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central prominently features La Catrina between Posada, a young Rivera, and Rivera’s wife Frida Kahlo. The mural is a visual commentary on the history of Mexico with La Catrina representing that all are equal in the face of death.

Using an old mannequin from our Exhibits department, I spray-painted it bright red and then painted on a traditional calavera face.

mannequin

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 I wanted our Catrina to reference artist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo and acknowledge her contributions to La Catrina’s popularity as well as Kahlo’s dedication to Mexican heritage. A rose headdress and Oaxacan blouse, similar to the huipil Kahlo was known for wearing, were added along with a white petticoat that resembles the Tehuana skirts she favored.

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The final piece of clothing is a very special item. This ornate, heavy overskirt belongs to a local los matachines dancer. With roots in both Medieval Europe and Native American dance, los matachines dance on important feast days with Dec. 12, the feast day of La Virgen de Guadalupe, being one of the most important. Our dancer was not able to perform this holiday and generously loaned us her costume.

los matachines

Finishing up the display wall involved climbing up 20 feet to hang more flower pompoms from the ceiling and adding folk art pieces to the wall.

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Wall

Our six-foot-tall papier maché skeleton guards the jewelry and retablos in the wall cases.

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Though a challenging project, this display is one of my favorites. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to ask questions while I was working out there. I enjoyed getting the chance to talk about our beautiful and moving exhibit on the Virgin. And it’s the proceeds from the museum store that make it possible for the Houston Museum of Natural Science to develop these exhibits, so we are always grateful for your support and patronage.

 

Trunk Show features Masterson’s coveted glass art jewelry

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Houstonian Mariquita Masterson has always had the eye of an artist. Thirty years ago, Mariquita was commissioned to design a glass table setting for an art gala. Working with the glass blower, she became fascinated with the chunks and shards of colorful glass and imagined the pieces set as jewelry. Fast forward three decades, and Mariquita’s hand-blown jewels have become a coveted status symbol within the Texas social scene.

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Extending her artistic skills beyond her jewelry line, Mariquita has designed a stained glass window for the chapel at Houston’s non-profit Amazing Place adult wellness center and created an iconic necklace for the Absolut Artists advertising campaign.

ABSOLUT ARTIST Mariquita Masterson

While Mariquita’s designs are immediately recognizable, each piece of glass is one-of-a-kind as they are blown and slumped by hand from recycled materials. The glass is then hand set in custom sterling silver or gold vermeil settings.mariquita masterson ring grp

The incredible color selection of Mariquita Masterson’s glass will be on display July 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All pieces will be 20% off the day of the show in addition to member discounts.

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Feel good about looking great knowing that 100% of Museum Store and Trunk Show proceeds benefits HMNS’ educational programs.

Lankford’s layerable styles featured Friday at Trunk Show kick-off

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Raw diamonds, Sleeping Beauty turquoise, South Sea pearls, leather and hand cast metals. The luxe boho style of Houston jewelry designer Rebecca Lankford is immediately recognizable to her fans and collectors. Her delicate styles are perfect for layering and stacking.

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Rebecca started designing jewelry while working as a paralegal in the early 1990s. As her hobby slowly began to flourish, Rebecca was inspired to perfect her craft and enrolled at the Glassell School of Art in Houston. The foundational knowledge Rebecca gained from her work at Glassell allowed her to become a beloved local favorite as well as a renowned national and international jewelry designer.

Rl turq leather bracelet

Rebecca’s designs were introduced to HMNS in 2002 for the Duval Mineral Collection exhibit. Her unique take on gemstones seemed the perfect fit for a museum with the world’s best gem and mineral collection. A true partnership was born during the 2003 The Nature of Pearls exhibit. Rebecca created an entire collection of unique custom designs with one of the world’s oldest precious gems.

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Thirteen years later and our love of her work has only grown stronger. The Rebecca Lankford for HMNS collection debuted this year. Using gemstones handpicked by our buyers at market, Rebecca has designed a one-of-a-kind collection exclusive to our museum.

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We will be featuring Rebecca Lankford designs at our first trunk show of the summer. All pieces will be 20% off the day of the show in addition to member discounts.

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Feel good about looking great knowing that 100% of museum store and trunk show proceeds benefits HMNS’ educational programs.

 

Top 10 Tokens of Affection from the Museum Store for Valentine’s Day!

Can’t think of the perfect gift for your Valentine? We got you covered with 10 gift ideas for your sweetheart.Untitled-1

# 10 — Kris Nations X And O Stud Earrings

 

# 9 — Kris Nations Heart And Arrow Stud Earrings

 

# 8 — Eddie Borgo C Z Pave Bicone Hinged Rose Gold Cuff

 

# 7 — Swallow Heart Lock Ruby Necklace

 

# 6 — Ananda Khalsa Pink Tourmaline Ring

 

# 5 — Rebecca Lankford Hugs And Kisses Diamond Necklace

# 4 — Brassthread Kiss My Heart Necklace

# 3 — Mawi London Crystal Heart Spike Earrings

 

# 2 — Mirta Tummino Pink Sapphire Clover Necklace

 

# 1 — Delphine Leymarie Amour Heartbeat Tiny Double Necklace