When designer Katie Gallagher was trapped with her boyfriend Nikolay Saveliev during Hurricane Irene, she thought it would be a great time to get “crafty”. She pulled out a Sugar Skulls kit that her sister had given her as a gift, and proceeded to mix and mold the colorful skulls, decorating them with her favorite Halloween treat-candy corn. She has always been obsessed with Dia De Los Muertos, and is now a pro when it comes to creating the holiday’s signature decoration.
How did you celebrate Halloween this year?
I went to a few different parties on Saturday and Monday.
Tonight I am stopping by my friend’s Halloween party at his record
store then ill go to a party at the Dream Hotel hosted by Milk.
What was your favorite Halloween costume you ever wore?
Every year I make a costume so every year I think that the current is the best. But, one of my favorites was when I was a white rabbit. I just wore this all white sweatsuit, had a white face- it was really fun.
Favorite Halloween snacks?
When did you start making sugar skulls? Why?
I have always been interested in the Mexican holiday, Dia De Los Muertos (day of the
dead). It is one of my dream vacations to go to Mexico this time of
year. My sister, Marlee bought me a sugar skull mold and all needed
ingredients to make sugar skulls for Christmas last year and so when
my boyfriend and I got bored inside the apartment during Hurricane
Irene this past summer, we decided to make them and see how they
What is your favorite thing about making sugar skulls?
Its sort of like carving pumpkins! Its fun. I like mixing the icing colors.
Apparently sugar skulls aren’t to be consumed. They
are mostly granulated sugar-hardened. Traditionally, you place them on graves and doormats.
I don’t really have favorite colors, I usually prefer black and
white and shades of grey, but for the skulls, its fun to use bright
What was the inspiration behind your most current collection?
My SS12 collection is called Red Red Blood. The inspiration comes from the
blood that flows inside of us (think Magic School Bus blood). Nothing
gory about this kind of blood.
Where do you draw inspiration from in general?
My paintings and drawings.
Where are your favorite places to eat in New York?
One of my favorite things to do is to go to restaurants and bars! My very favorite places
to eat are Cafe Katja, Barrio Chino. For Drinks: White and Church.
What do you miss most about your hometown in Pennsylvania?
I miss nature and open air. Also, the ability to go outside and not see
anyone at all unless you really want to.
How did you celebrate Halloween when you were younger?
It was always a big celebration as were all other holidays! Halloween has always been
my favorite. My sisters and I would always dress up and then we would
go to my grandma’s house to trick-or-treat.
How do you celebrate Halloween now?
Unfortunately, I’m too old to trick-or-treat but I do always dress in costume and go to parties.
Can you provide our readers with a “how to” for making sugar skulls at home?
KATIE GALLAGHER’S DIA DE LOS MUERTOS SUGAR SKULLS
Large Mixing Bowl
Cardboard Square (approximately 5″X4″)
Powdered Sugar (Royal Icing)
Food Coloring (Royal Icing)
1. Mix together in a large bowl: 1 teaspoon meringue powder for every
one cup of granulated sugar used. Mix dry ingredients well.
2. Sprinkle sugar mixture with 1 teaspoon water per cup of sugar
used.( For a 5 pound bag of sugar, use 1/4 cup meringue powder and 10
teaspoons of water: Yield 20 skulls. For a 10 pound bag of sugar , 1/2
cup meringue powder, 7 tablespoons water: Yield 42 skulls.)
3.Mix well with hands. Until every bit of sugar is moistened. Test
sugar by squeezing a small amount of sugar in your fist, open slowly,
and if your fingerprints remain, sugar is ready to be molded. The
texture should feel like beach sand that can be used to make sand
4. To mold: Pack sugar mixture firmly and use straight edge to scrape
the back of the mold perfectly flat. Pack down some more.
5. Place stiff cardboard square over mold and invert immediately.
6.Lift mold off carefully. If all of the sugar mixture does not fall
out of the mold easily, it is too wet. Re-mix with a bit more sugar.
TIP: Hand wash and dry your mold after every 5 skulls to avoid
sticking. Also, throw any molded sugar “mistakes” back into the bowl,
stir and try again. If too dry, spritz with water bottle. Keep
re-testing your sugar for proper moisture content.
7. To dry: The molded sugar skulls need to air-dry on their cardboard
squares from 8 hours-overnight. DO NOT MAKE SKULLS ON A RAINY OR HIGH
8.When the skulls feel dry, it is time to decorate! Use royal icing,
sequins, gems, beads, feathers, colored foils, buttons, straight pins,
candies (like candycorn), shiny eyes, and whatever else you want to
use on your skulls.
Mix 2/3 cups water, 1/2 cup meringue powder and 2 pounds powdered
sugar until icing peaks (about 9 minutes). Do not mix up more than 2
pounds at a time, Keep in a tightly covered container. DO NOT
REFRIGERATE. Royal icing is a cement type icing used for ginger bread
house construction. It isn’t very tasty, but it is strong and dries
pretty and lasts. Mix icing and colors in separate containers or
bowls.Use pastry bags or metal decorating tips if you want for finer
lines and dots.