Wednesday, September 3, 2008

PInata making 101

The most anticipated element of Will’s little baseball birthday party last week – in Will’s mind at least – was the smashing of the baseball pinata we’d made together. It was a simple pinata – just an ordinary balloon disguised as a crude-looking baseball – and the first one I’d ever made.

In theory it seemed like a fun project to make a little papier mache sculpture, decorate it, fill it – then smash it to smithereens. And Will enjoyed it enough that part of me would like to make it an annual birthday ritual.

But first I’d like to discover some good pinata shortcuts. I followed instructions on this Web site, which worked well in the end, but which I suspect may have been overly thorough and which had me second-guessing myself all the while. Will and I painted vegetable oil on the balloon for starters (to allow the balloon to be easily popped and removed once the pinata was dry) and then watched our over-soaked newspaper strips slide down the body of the greasy balloon.

I also never decided how thick pinata paste should actually look. The suggested 2:1 water-to-flour ratio produced a mixture whose consistency seemed closer to chicken broth than the desired “thick as glue” paste we were supposed to be aiming for. We kept adding flour and then determined that thinner-than-glue papier mache paste works too.

Papier mache with a nearly 4-year-old makes for a messy adventure. Will enjoyed “washing” his hands in the paste, splattering it everywhere in the process until soon he had papier mached various splotches on his body and began complaining of itchy skin. Half the time when he dipped a newspaper strip in the paste it became so folded and mangled that we couldn’t use it at all. So we had to work as a true team, handling each strip together, applying the layer of the day, then letting the thing dry 24 hours before repeating the process the next day. Three days of papier mache-ing and a fourth day of painting later, we had a trusty pinata that put up a good fight before finally yielding to the mighty bat swing of the oldest boy at the party.

My mom was in Europe and unavailable for consultation during our pinata-making adventure, but she tells me now that she remembers making pinatas in one simple session. For this year, I sort of enjoyed the daily ritual of building a pinata layer by later, but if I’m going to muster the inspiration for repeat pinatas we might try a faster/sloppier approach even if we wind up with a less bat-resistant pinata in the process.

So… who’s got papier mache secrets or pinata sagas to share?


shannon said...

My mom made many a pinata in her day and says the hair dryer comes in handy, as well as a good prop set-up (like a trash can, is what she said?). She mentioned something about propping the hair dryer, too? Crazy mom. But I've seen some good ones from her-- a bubblegum machine, a parrot. . . . The baseball wins the prize, though-- it was to the point and right on!!

Annie Addington said...

I'm gonig to give myself a few more years of practice before I attempt anything like a parrot. I'll remember the hair dryer in the meantime. Thanks!

Tina said...

I love wall paper paste. Just buy the powder at Wynnton hardware, mix with hot water to a creamy consistence and then get to work. These pinatas last for a while.
Remember the dinosaur?
Also, a good fan overnight does wonders

Annie Addington said...

Could anyone forget the dinosaur? The image of Dan beating that pinata ruthlessly is seared in my mind.

Annie Addington said...
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