Aztec history, which dates as far back as 1200BC, was rich in culture and many arts and crafts. Artists during the Aztec period included stone carvers, jewellers, potters and scribes who created pictograms. Artists took their work seriously, and archaeologists today are able to learn about Aztec culture from the arts and crafts that have survived for centuries. Seek out images of Aztec design that may inspire your crafts.
Aztec calendar glyph
The Aztecs created a calendar based on the solar year. It was made up of 18 months each with 20 days. Five days were added to make a 365-day year. The additional five days were considered empty days, or days without activity. The calendar determined sacred days, ceremonies and rituals. It also determined times for harvest and projected lucky and unlucky days.
The Aztecs believed a god or goddess presided over each day in the sacred calendar. The god or goddess was represented with a glyph, or symbol. Look at some of these symbols and choose one that speaks to you. Re-create the symbol and add additional details using pencil on an 20 by 25 cm (8 by 10 inch) piece of paper. Use bright colours along with detail and patterns to colour in your Aztec design. Tempera paints, watercolour or coloured pencil can be used to finish the project.
The Aztecs created detailed, beautifully designed jewellery that was commonly worn by emperors. Jewellery was mostly owned by the upper class and craftsmen were dedicated to creating the best pieces. Religion often influenced their work, which incorporated colourful stones and objects from nature such as shells, wood, rock, and feathers. Metals or stones were highly polished to create contrast with the colourful objects used within the jewellery.
To create your own piece of Aztec jewellery, start by sketching a design for a pendant, an ornamental piece of jewellery that can hang from a necklace. Think of an animal that represents you and re-create it in an Aztec design style. Create a sketch no bigger than a 5 cm by 5 cm (2 inch by 2 inch) square. Cut out the image and place it on a 5 cm by 5 cm (2 inch by 2 inch) square of tagboard. Outline the image and cut it out of the tagboard. Wrap the cutout with foil, keeping the foil as smooth as possible. Put at least two layers of foil on the cutout. With a permanent marker, add detail and line onto the foil. Glue on decorative shells, feathers and rocks. Punch a hole in the top of the finished pendant and string on a length of leather.
The Aztecs used masks for many things from celebrations to adorning the dead. Many times masks were made for decoration, not to be worn. Aztec masks were often free of mouths or eye holes, and were placed on a stone or a deceased person. The masks would were often made with a mosaic design. Use a natural pattern -- such as flower petals of veins on a leaf -- as inspiration for a mosaic mask.
Outline the mask on tagboard. Try to make the mask life-size. Mark the location of the eyes, mouth, nose and ears with pencil. Sketch a design for the mask. Aztec masks commonly included representations of animals, especially snakes. Incorporate an animal or snake into your mask design. Using the concept of mosaic and pattern, select items that can be glued onto the mask, along with paint colours. Paint the mask and glue on adornments.