I knew very little about this ancient ritual when I purchased my first Dia de Los Muertos folk art. I just fell in love with the images — little plaster statues with skull heads that represent all walks of life, sequined sugar skulls, wildly painted papier mache skulls and beautiful cut-tissue-paper banners.

This folk art was very intriguing to me. I was impressed with the creativity and whimsy. I started researching and visiting stores and museums that featured Day of the Dead folk art. I acquired some incredible pieces at our own local stores, like Inti, and from Thea at Wildcat Clothing, who also helped me add to my collection.

At first I kept my precious items on a shelf at home. As my collection grew and I learned more and more about the history and actual meaning of this ritual, I decided that the courtyard at Pearl — my restaurant — would be an ideal place for a Dia de los Muertos ofrenda (altar).

2011 marks the twelfth year that we have built the altar at Pearl. Over the years the collection continues to grow. I thank all of our friends who make it their mission to add to the collection. Every year there are new pieces on the altar. The beautiful quilts made by Sharon Cooperson are a unique contribution.

Our longtime chef, Jose Bravo, makes the most beautiful and delicious Pan de Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread) that I have ever seen or tasted.

Many people have put pictures of lost loved ones and pets on the altar. I always hope that they are able to find solace in this celebration of life and the afterlife.

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