Painted Flower Pots: Activity Inspired by Contemporary Artist Carlos Colín

Self-guided activity

Figure 1. Painted flower pot example.


Try your hand at an art making activity inspired by contemporary artwork by Carlos Colín in his solo exhibition Little México, which was presented by The Reach from May 23 to September 15, 2019.

This activity is designed for middle school students from grade 6 – 8.




This activity fulfills Curricular Competencies in BC’s New Curriculum for the following subjects and classes:

  • Arts Education 6, 7, 8.
  • Spanish 6, 7, 8.

To see relevant connections between this activity and BC’s New Curriculum, see downloadable PDF “Curricular Competencies Related to Painted Flower Pots: Activity Inspired by Contemporary Artist Carlos Colín.”



  • Temporary Foreign Workers
  • Papel picado (pronounced pah-PEHL pee-KAH-doh)
  • Folk art
  • Justicia (pronounced hoos-TEE-syah)
  • Dignidad (pronounced deeg-nee-DAHD)
  • Resistencia (pronounced rreh-sees-TEHN-syah)
  • Tierra (pronounced TYEH-rrah)




Carlos Colín is an artist originally from Mexico, who now lives and works in Vancouver. His artwork takes many forms including photography, sculpture, text-based work, textiles, and installation. In all of his work, he explores Latin American history and culture in Mexico and in Canada.




This exhibition was presented at The Reach in the summer of 2019. It looked at the experiences of thousands of Mexican people who live in Canada for up to eight months of the year as temporary foreign workers, working legally on Canadian farms. While living in Canada far away from their homes and families, these foreign workers from Mexico form temporary communities in towns and cities across the county. 

Colín’s project at The Reach was inspired by the many temporary foreign workers from Mexico that are a part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), who live and work on farms in the Fraser Valley. These people help with the berry harvest and maintain Abbotsford’s identity as the “Berry Capital of Canada” but these workers and their needs often go unnoticed within the wider Abbotsford community.


Through this activity participants will:

  • Learn about art made by contemporary Vancouver-based artist Carlos Colín in the exhibition Little México.
  • Consider the experiences of temporary foreign workers from Mexico who work on farms in Abbotsford and in other agricultural communities throughout Canada.
  • Learn four Spanish words and why these words are a part of Carlos Colín’s artwork.
  • Paint a terracotta flower pot and decorate it with Spanish words that are featured in Carlos Colín’s artwork, and use that pot to grow your own seeds!



  • A terracotta flower pot and dish
  • Paintbrush
  • White acrylic paint
  • Other colours of acrylic paint (light colours work best, such as yellow, light blue, peach)
  • Black permanent marker (e.g., Sharpie)
  • Seed packet (free packets of sunflower seeds are available for a limited time at The Reach, generously supplied by Abbotsford Communities in Bloom!)


Figure 2. Carlos Colín. Festivities on Sunny Days. 2019.

WORK OF ART IN Little México

This activity connects to Carlos Colín’s installation called Festivities on Sunny Days.


Why did Carlos Colín make work about Mexican workers in Canada?

Mexican foreign workers come to work in Canada because they need to make money to take care of their families in Mexico. The workers can make more money in Canada, away from their families, than they can working in Mexico. However, many of these workers are still paid very low wages by Canadian standards. While in Canada, the workers often work very long hours, sometimes in very difficult working conditions. Colín wants to raise awareness about the experiences of these Mexican workers in his artwork called Festivities on Sunny Days.

What inspired Carlos Colín to make Festivities on Sunny Days and how did he make it?

When making Festivities on Sunny Days, Colín was inspired by traditional, decorative Mexican folk art flags called papel picado. Papel picado is Spanish for “perforated paper” or “pecked paper” and is a form of folk art made by cutting elaborate designs into sheets of tissue paper to make flags that are suspended overhead. The designs that appear on traditional papel picado are widely varied, and may range from very simple to very complex patterns. Folk art is produced by artists who do not have formal training, and techniques are frequently passed from one generation to the next. It is often made of everyday materials and can be very decorative. Colín incorporated the folk art tradition of papel picado into Festivities on Sunny Days because it draws attention to the decorations that might be part of daily life for ordinary Mexican people, like the temporary foreign workers from Mexico living in Canada.

Instead of cutting traditional decorative patterns into the papel picado, Colín designed his flags with images of the most common fruits in the Fraser Valley that are harvested by local foreign workers: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Each flag also includes one of four different Spanish words, which are translated into English below:

Justicia = Justice

Dignidad = Dignity

Resistencia = Resistance

Tierra = Land

Figure 3. Papel picado in Mexico.

Figure 4. Detail of Festivities on Sunny Days.

Figure 5. Another flower pot example.


  1. Paint the terracotta pot and dish with white acrylic paint. Let dry, and apply a second coat of white paint.
  2. Once the white base layer is completely dry, paint some of the shapes that are used in the papel picado (circles, triangles, etc.) on sections of the pot and dish with accent acrylic colours. Let dry.
  3. Once the pot is completely dry, use your black Sharpie to write the Spanish words that you learned about in the lesson on the pot: Justicia, Dignidad, Resistencia, and Tierra.
  4. To finish the pot, add dots and stripes in black Sharpie to make your pot pop!
  5. Plant a seed! Pick up a free packet of sunflower seeds from The Reach during our Summer 2020 hours of operation (Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm). These seeds were generously provided by Abbotsford Communities in Bloom!
  6. For tips on growing a sunflower from seed in a pot, click here.
  7. Share your creation with your social media following. Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram (@thereachgallery) and Twitter (@TheReach) and use the hashtags #TheReachAtHome and #LittleMéxico.


  1. The next time you drive past a berry field, think about the temporary foreign workers that do the work to make Abbotsford the “Berry Capital of Canada.” Imagine what your life would be like if you had to leave your family to go to another country in order to support them.
  2. Where does your food come from? Before you eat a meal, consider all the different people who are involved in preparing the food that you consume on a daily basis. For instance, think about the number of people needed to allow you to enjoy a bowl of strawberries. First, someone had to prepare the soil before planting the berries. Then the berry plants had to be weeded and watered, and later the fruit was picked. Next, the berries were sorted and packaged. The packages might have been transported to a store where they were purchased by someone in your family and then brought to your home. Pick another food and imagine all the steps and people involved that brought this food to your home. If one step was missed, you probably wouldn’t be able to eat that particular food!



Did you know that the Dignidad Migrante Society in Vancouver helps temporary foreign workers living in the Fraser Valley? To learn more about the important work that they do and how you can support them check out their website at


If you use this free resource with your students at school / at home, we’d love to hear from you! Send an email to Diana Hiebert (Curator of Learning and Community Engagement at The Reach) at, with your comments including the number and age range of participants. This statistical information is important to us as a not-for-profit organization and will allow us to continue offering this kind of content.