Thursday, January 5, 2012

When Geeks Celebrate: Piñata

One thing that is universal if you are doing a non-commercial product party, you are going to have to make stuff yourself, and the store may at best get you halfway there.  Lets just put it out there right now that finding a rainbow shaped/colored pinata was not going to happen, and given the "confusion" around the colors of the rainbow - even though any 4 year old I know can recite them in order for you if you forget - even if you did find something odds are very good that even if all 7 colors appeared, they wouldn't be in the right order!
Dragon Artz Designs can tell how to make a rainbow!

How hard is it?  There are several songs, there's good ol' Roy G. Biv, and there's always a prism if you really can't figure it out.  Still that doesn't stop us from having a Little People's Noah's Ark where the flag is colored completely at random (seriously, not even close), several books where it is wrong, and well... I'm sure you can do a Google image search yourself, even the rainbow on Ver1's invite was wrong on the base image before I fixed it.  Anyway, I digress.... If we want stuff in true rainbow fashion - we have to make it.  We also had to make our own unicorn crafts, apparently unicorns aren't in this year either.

Let's jump right in on the big project of the piñata.  I wanted a nice large piñata, this is the first one I've made since I was in elementary school, and the first at any of our parties.  I also wanted to have the piñata hold up to all the guests, so that everyone at least got a turn.  Kids are used to the cardboard piñatas from the stores which don't have any paper mache to them at all.  Paper mache can be strong, but in my memory it didn't take the same kind of hits as the modern counterparts.

First we started with a frame.  I had originally planned to make a skinny frame of cardboard with four edges, but it was much simpler to make the top and bottom out of cardboard strips, I pinned the strips together with brads.  So when I was done I had an upper edge and a bottom edge with a big hollow shaped rainbow in the middle.  At the top of the upper edge I folded the pieces to leave an opening for stuffing.  (Sorry I didn't take a picture, it'd make more sense if I had).  Picture cardboard flaps, cut off a box bent into an arch, flat on the bottom, and then bent into a lower arch connected all together like one of those rubber-band bracelet things in the shape of a rainbow.  I also put a couple of thin support beams in to hold the whole thing secure.  - This is when I should have tied in the rope for the piñata to hang from, but I didn't... I did it after the first side was on, which was ok.

Next I took strips of cardboard about 2" wide and between 4 and 12 inches long and soaked them in a bucket overnight (which was too long they didn't just get soft, they got soaking). Then I mixed flour and water and a bottle of white glue (leftover from kindergarten) and took each wet strip dipped it in the glue mixer and smoothed it over the frame.  I filled one side and let it dry for about two days (the cardboard was really wet.  I was able to turn it over and lay it on the wet mache after about 18 hours and got a flatter end result.  I dumped the water out of the remaining cardboard strips, but they were still very wet when I did the other side.

Before I put the second cardboard side on I tied twine onto the stabilizing pieces of the piñata structure.  This allowed me to hang it and I had hoped would allow it to withstand the battering of abuse I had hoped to let the kids dish out. Unfortunately, the twine was the weakest link and even before these cardboard under-layers were damaged the twine snapped plummeting the piñata to the ground.  Where I ripped it open and dumped it to the delight of the adventurers.

Next I added some paper filler to the deep holes, holding it in place with masking tape.  This made it so I didn't have to place several layers of mache in any place where the cardboard sides sagged.  I then hung the piñata from a hook in my ceiling (where my new chandelier normally hangs, but I moved it over to the box for this project).  I placed a smooth layer of newspaper strips dipped in water and flour (no glue this time).  After a couple of layers I had a relatively smooth surface to paint.  Since I have left over primer from painting the house and redoing the ceiling I put a nice coat of that on after everything was dry.  Having the piñata hanging made applying the primer simple.

Somewhere in the last couple steps I took the time to stuff the piñata with notepads, pencils, and unwanted Halloween candy.  I also tied in a unicorn which was the ultimate goal for the adventure.  It was tied to the twine in the piñata so that it would not fall and be mistaken for a prize, I did not want a fight over it, and even with me ripping the piñata open there wasn't one.  I may have filled it too full, but none of the kids complained!

After the piñata was dry again I got out the paints the birthday girl had selected at the craft store and set to painting the rainbow, which should have been simple with the measured guide I had, but apparently I was ruler challenged that day and ended up having to make minor adjustments 2 colors in.  We also bought glitter paints in most of the colors of the rainbow (I put black on indigo and gold on yellow, red, because it was so plentiful was both pink and maroon).  It gave the rainbow that last bit of finish and really made it sparkle outside.  - One quick painting tip - Save your fruit cup/individual serve applesauce containers, they work great for squirting a little paint into.  Even if you tip them over they don't make a mess, and you have to really be trying to get your shirt or hair in them.  You can see mine still on the table along with the little container of glitter paints in this finished picture, below. The individual cups were also wonderful when my daughter decided she didn't like one of the colors she had picked and I had to do a little mixing to make it better.

Fruit cup containers can keep paint contained and ready to use
It took a few nights to get the whole thing together, but it was fun and worth it.  Next time I will use a better rope or wire and the piñata could last for quite a bit of a pounding!

Want to see the rest of the party:  Head back to the introduction post - When Geeks Celebrate

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