Oaxaca Day of the Dead Retreat 2019 Oct 27-Nov 5

Optional Mexico City Excursions Oct 24 - 27

A Note From the Organizer, Colleen Darling:

Join Michael deMeng for a workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Dia de los Muertos is one of the most beautiful celebrations in all of Mexico, and Oaxaca is one of the best places to experience it firsthand.  Oaxaca, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a vibrant, welcoming, historical and culturally rich city in southern Mexico.  In 2018 it was on National Geographic’s list of top 10 cities to visit in the world.  Oaxaca is home to some of the finest artists in the world and abounds with ceramics, textiles, tin, woodcarvings, jewelry, and more.  There is also a prolific contemporary art and photography community based here. The restaurants, luscious food, and friendly people make Oaxaca an amazing place to visit.

Throughout our 9-day stay, people around the city will be getting ready for Dia de los Muertos, one of the most beautiful and treasured celebrations in Mexico.   Every home and business is setting up ofrendas and preparing for the feast. Every day and night the city is buzzing with excitement that spills onto the streets.   The photo opportunities are endless.  Each time you head out the door for the Zocalo or just a walk around the neighborhood something new will catch your attention.  Flowers on the street corners, students competing in school ofrenda competitions, comparsas (parades) winding through the streets with traditional dancers, village bands and so much more!

We hope you can join us this year!


A Strange Tale (to put you in the mood)


Once upon a time there was a little boy, who was really really hard on his toys. He would put them through all sorts of harrowing trials and tribulations. Some would be forced to fly when they were not designed to do so, some forced to swim when they were not designed to swim, and others were…well I’d rather not say because their stories are so horrifying to hear, that you would have nightmares for the rest of your days. Years had gone by and one by one each of these mistreated toys was put into a large black box until is was filled to the rim, and then, the cruel little lad, dragged it far far into the woods where he buried it, never to be seen again…or so he thought.

One cold autumn day, an unusual artist, by the name of Michael, was wandering the forest with his trusty dog Romeo. The little white dog had caught the scent of a squirrel and scurried off. Michael, following as best he could, found little Romeo sniffing and digging at the base of a tree trunk. The artist called his dog with no avail. When he went to investigate he found his dog had partially dug up the black box that had been callously discarded many years earlier. Michael, using his bare hands, dug until it could be pulled from the ground. The hinge creaked as he slowly opened the container. Inside he was aghast to find a jumble of indiscernible toy parts ranging from action figures to model trains to puzzle pieces. “Help us, kind sir” a Mister Potato Head mouth uttered despairingly. Horrified, Michael put the box under his arm and headed straight to his studio and locked himself in. Many days later, when the door finally opened, it wasn’t Michael that emerged but a procession of toys. But these weren’t the same toys that went into the box many years earlier. These toys were reinvented into strange and marvelous critters: Barbie with a plastic tarantula arms, a little bulldozer with legs instead of wheels. Hundreds of newly invented creatures walked through the doorway and out to the street. The once forsake toys had risen…and they weren’t going to be toyed with anymore.

Class Description


Last year I had the immense pleasure of exploring the Toy Museum in Mexico City. It is four floors of dolls, action figures, toy cars, etc, interspersed with some of the most amazing street art you’ll ever see. Originally this museum was a toy store for a number of decades and eventually the place closed down and became a wondrous display case of yesteryear. If you’re a child at heart like me, its and incredibly inspirational place, so inspirational in fact, that I decided for 2019’s Dia de los Muertos workshop we would all become toymakers. 

I’ve always found it a bit sad seeing discarded and broken toys, and perhaps this is why I gain so much joy from reinventing them…recombobulating the discombobulated, shall we say.  In this class we are going to round up a variety of toys and toy parts and give these things new life in our mad scientist laboratory in Oaxaca using a combination of assemblage, sculpture and painting. Those once forsaken playthings will rise and live again!  Bwahahaha!

 Mexico City Optional Add-On Adventure

This year Colleen and I are doing something a little different.  We are going to offer an optional excursion to Mexico City prior to the Oaxaca class and workshop.    While there we will visit the Toy Museum as well as check out the crazy beasts in the annual Alibrijes parade.  Also on the itinerary will be a visit Coyoacan (and the home of Frida Kahlo) as well as a variety of haunts in the historic district.  It’s an amazing place with plenty to see and we will show you as much as we can before we head to Oaxaca for the workshop and Day of the Dead festivities.

If you're interested contact: Colleen Darling: colleen950@gmail.com  805-448-1509