Thursday, September 28, 2017

Up, Up, and Away: Making a Wedding Pinata

pinata by Anita, photo by Joe Le Doux
A couple of weeks ago, we flew from Phoenix to Atlanta to attend our daughter's wedding at the Trolley Barn. Mary-Margaret and her husband Adam had tied the knot earlier in March (on Pi Day) at a courthouse in Seattle, so the wedding event in Atlanta was the family and friends celebration, with Mary-Margaret wearing the wedding dress that my mother had worn at her wedding, that I had altered to wear at my wedding, and that Mary-Margaret had restored and altered for her wedding. Rather than throwing rice (verboten, anyway, at most wedding venues these days) or blowing bubbles or lighting sparklers at the end of the event, I suggested that I make a pinata. I had made a pinata only once before, years ago, for Tom's birthday, so the first task was to find really good instructions on, of course, the Internet. And came through for me.

In my research, I discovered that pinatas are frequently included in weddings these days, with a hot air balloon being a favorite design, along with wedding cake-shaped pinatas and heart-shaped pinatas. I did a trial run on the shell, making a test pinata with a large punch balloon as the form over which to paste the the strips of newspaper. Pinataboy advises that punch balloons make an oval shape, just right for the design I had in mind--a hot air balloon, an idea originating  with my remembering the hot air balloon mobile Mary-Margaret had made for Adam a few years ago that now hangs in their apartment. I ordered a set of 12 punch ball balloons from Oriental Trading CompanyThat should be plenty, I thought, for my test run and final edition of the wedding pinata. Having those extra balloons was a good idea as I popped at least two of them by blowing them up too large, startling the cats.

Months before starting on the pinata, I had cut strips of paper from the free local news and market publication that gets thrown near my mailbox once a week. These strips of newspaper, soaked in flour paste, would create the paper mache layers of the pinata. I then created a hook from the pinata out of a clothes hanger, cut down to size. I punched the top of the clothes hanger through a rectangular-shaped piece of cardboard and bent the ends of the metal over opposite ends of the cardboard. All of this went into a box in my craft supply closet until I was ready to make the final shell of the pinata toward the end of July. (We were having our kitchen remodeled so I waited until most of that work was done before taking over the kitchen island again with pinata-making supplies.)

Here are a few photos I took of the process: 

The first layer of newspaper is taped to the balloon and over the cardboard on which I had attached the hook (the loop of a metal clothes hanger).
Here I have finished a layer of the flour paste-covered strips of newspaper, and I've placed a fan near the pinata to hasten the drying time.
I completed at least five layers of the flour-paste covered newspaper strips, with six or seven layers in areas that I wanted to strengthen (such as around the hook). Since mostly adults would be whopping away at this pinata, I wanted it to be strong enough to withstand several attacks with a pinata stick.
After finishing the shell of the pinata, I had to cut crepe paper streamers (also ordered from Oriental Trading Company) to size (about 6-10 inches, to be further reduced in size to fit the shape of the pinata design) and then to snip fringes in the streamer pieces. This is a tedious process; I much prefer the messiness of coating the strips of newspaper in flour paste and smoothing the wet pieces onto the pinata shell.
Finally, after days of working on the pinata shell, it's time to paste the crepe paper fringe to the pinata. One starts at the bottom and works upward toward the top of the pinata. The blue sticks you see there poking out of the bottom are wooden chop sticks that I punched through the pinata and then painted, to serve as holders from which to hang the basket of the hot air balloon.
Gluing the fringe is also rather tedious.  It didn't help that I got very sick for a week during this time. In the background, in front of the mirror, is the shell of the test pinata.
Almost finished with the fringe
A bit of bling for the top: satin ribbon, paper roses, and rhinestone stickers purchased from Michael's in Flagstaff
I recycled a small box for the basket of the hot air balloon, covered it with matching crepe paper fringe, added some satin roses and ribbons for decoration, and hung it from the painted chop sticks with red satin ribbon. 
Completed hot air balloon with basket
For the finishing touch, I wanted to add small dolls to the basket to represent Mary-Margaret and Adam. My first thought was to look for used Barbie dolls, but in a search on Etsy and E-bay, I couldn't find anything really appropriate, so I began looking for alternatives. I found the perfect dolls in Lottie Dolls, dolls created as alternatives to the weirdly proportioned Barbies, and ordered a "Fossil Hunter Lottie Doll" and a "Kite-flyer Finn Boy Doll." 
Lottie Dolls added to pinata
And so my work was done. I packed up the pinata, along with the goodies I had purchased to put inside (packages of seeds from Renee's Garden Seeds, packages of single serving tea from Tea Forte, pin-back buttons with photos of Mary-Margaret and Adam, and a few miniature Star Wars figures), and mailed it to the in-laws in Decatur, Georgia. There Adam's mom had gourmet candy, Star Wars-packaged jelly beans, and some more miniature figures to add to the fun. I didn't cut the access panel into the pinata until I arrived in Decatur and we were ready to stuff the pinata.
The pinata arrives safely in Decatur, Georgia, while the area is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Irma, six days before the wedding.
A young cousin prepares to hit the pinata (yes, we removed the basket and dolls)--Note the pinata stick, which I made from a one-inch dowel rod. I covered the bottom of the rod with turquoise-colored craft electrical tape for the handle and pasted matching crepe paper fringe on the rest.
Adam holds the rope while his friend and marriage officiant Joe takes a whack.
Taking aim
Finally, Mary-Margaret and Adam took center stage with the pinata.

Pinata bashing was a perfect end to a wedding that began with music performed by the wedding party with guitar and kazoos and wedding vows that included quotes from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.

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