Papel Picado

Papel picado has taken over the DMA art studio!

In celebration of México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde, the DMA offered many exciting activities during our DMA Family Days/DMA días familiares. Not only was admission to the exhibition free, but visitors could also enjoy music performances in the atrium, visit a new Pop-Up Art Spot in the Ancient American Galleries on Level 4, and make papel picado in the studio.

Papel picado is a type of Mexican folk art often used as decoration for all kinds of festivities, like Dia de los Muertos, Easter, and Christmas. Papel picado literally means pecked paper and is made by cutting designs from tissue or crepe paper. These designs are often very geometric and might feature floral elements, birds, skeletons, and more, depending on the celebration.

In the video below, you can watch artisans at work in San Salvador Huixcolotla, a municipality in the Mexican state of Puebla that is well-known for papel picado. Look at how deftly they use chisels (rather than knives or scissors) to punch out designs – using this method, an artisan can cut up to 50 sheets of tissue paper at a time!

At home, papel picado is often made using the fold-and-cut method, which is probably familiar to you if you’ve ever made a paper snowflake. This was our method of choice in the studio. To help visitors get started, Jessica put together some instructions and a simple template to go along with them. Click on the link to download the instructions, find some 8 1/2″ x 11″ tissue paper, and have a go at making your own papel picado!

¡Buena suerte!

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Jennifer Sheppard
Teaching Specialist


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