As you know, I love parties: attending and hosting. When I’m attending, I enjoy every little detail and special touches the host puts on the party to make it their own. When I’m hosting, I really like to do it right and I try to make sure every little detail is perfect. For my birthday last year, we hosted a tailgate for the University of Washington/Oregon football game.
This wasn’t just any tailgate. It was a tailgate with a PINATA! The pinata was definitely the star of the show and although the Huskies didn’t beat the Ducks the way we beat the pinata, I still felt pretty positive. I’m just bummed the videos and photo footage didn’t go viral. Maybe next time…
Back to the duck pinata. I did an exhaustive internet search (both Bing and Google images AND Pinterest) and I only found one (ONE!) Oregon Duck mascot-looking pinata, via Twitter. I reached out to the person who tweeted it and got the phone number of the seller. After my message was un-returned, I decided I could make it myself. (It’s kind of my mantra…)
It’s been about 10 years since I had even thought about paper mache, so I sought out a teacher. Lucky for me, one of my work friends fit the bill. Thank you, Patrick for all of your guidance!
First: Collect your materials. Patrick recommended Sta Flo starch, available at most grocery stores. I bought mine for ~$4 at QFC. I ended up using about a third of the bottle. (Meaning there was more left for that Cougar pinata…) I also used about three free small-sized newspapers. Make sure you find one that isn’t glossy. Look for your run-of-the-mill, classic newsprint paper. You’ll also need two normal-sized balloons (not yet blown up) and some painters tape. I used the 1/2″ thick blue version. I also used a cardboard ring that I found in the cat toy area and another cardboard box. You’ll create quite a mess, so have a large garbage bag and paper towels ready for clean up.
Paper mache supplies
Next: Set up your station. Spread out your garbage bag and cut some of your newspaper into 1-1.5″ strips, about 7″ long. Blow up your balloons to the appropriate size: one is the abdomen (slightly larger, more oblong) and one is the head (smaller and more round).
Now let’s get messy:
1. Dip a handful of paper strips in the starch. Let them soak for 30 seconds to a few minutes.
2. Drape the wet strips over the balloon. This will be one of the messiest, most awkward steps. The balloons will get static-y and will roll around on their own and starch will get everywhere. That’s where your boxes/cardboard rings come into play. Plop those wet, paper covered balloons in the boxes and let them dry. (Likely overnight.)
Doesn’t look like much yet… but it will!
3. Repeat! You’ll need 3 layers or so, depending on your amount of starch and thickness of paper. Make sure each layer dries fully.
4. Once your last layer is dry and more-or-less hard, pop those balloons! Don’t worry if your balloons sort of implode. Mine did and I was able to pop them back into the right shape. This is what they could (will most likely) look like:
Don’t worry: it’s supposed to look like this!
5. Once the balloon is removed (it might stick a bit) trim up the openings a bit. Connect the two open edges and cut it so the head fits over the abdomen. Make sure there is some overlap, but as little of a gap as possible. Since this gap will be sealed up eventually, you’ll need to cut another opening. I prefer back or top of the head for my openings.
6. Once the base is complete, it’s time to determine your PAC 12 mascot and add the extremities and other features. I was having some issue visualizing the finished product on my first pinata, so I sketched the eyes, which helped me figure out the design for the beak. Use some cardboard (I used something similar to the back of a notepad) and a pen or pencil to curl the edges out a bit. Like this:
It looks a lot like a duck!
For the cougar I waded up more newspaper and created a nose and snout:
Side view of the Cougar snout
7. It’s a similar story for the limbs: design them off of the “body” and then attach them using painter’s tape. Don’t skimp on the tape. The more, the merrier. I crumpled and bent large sections of paper for the legs and then used a spiral tape pattern to make sure they kept their shape. I then taped on the hands and feet or paws, depending on your PAC 12 mascot. Cut holes where the limbs will go in the body and tape them in place. BEFORE YOU CUT: Make sure the hole is a little bit smaller than you think it needs to be. You can always scrunch the crumbled paper.
Duck limbs for days
8. Once all of the pieces are ready, tape them together and your pinata will really start looking like an actual mascot.
Duck pinata: about half way done
Cougar pinata: About half way done
9. Get out the starch and more strips of paper. Time for more layers! Put on another two layers of starched newspaper over everything, especially the seams. It’s boring and you have to be methodical, making sure that the whole area is covered. Just do it.
10. Once those layers are dry (each independently), bust out your solid white drawing paper. (Probably a normal printer paper would work too…) And it’s time to put another few layers on! The total number will depend on how thick paper is as well as how well it covers. I only needed one layer of the drawing paper.
One layer of white paper
A couple of layers of white
11. Once all those layers dry, it should be time to fill the thing! For our Duck pinata we used some mini-sized Halloween candy, mini plastic tequila bottles (make sure they’re plastic!) and yellow and green feathers picked up from Michael’s. (The feathers were the best part of the pinata, so make sure you get those! I was thinking about including some cat hair leftovers in the Cougar pinata, but we’ll see. That could be really gross.)
I layered the fillings: feathers, candy, tequila. Repeat. But don’t fill too full. This thing has to be able to hang at its final location.
12. Hang it up! I made a hangman’s noose with yellow nylon rope with these instructions I found on Pinterest. (Yes, it was weird to “pin” noose instructions!)
Oregon Duck on a noose
Finished WSU Cougar pinata
Good luck on your pinata endeavor! Please leave any pinata-making feedback in the comments below. And, GO HUSKIES!!