Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Piñata

 This piñata really deserved its very own post. Not only was this the first time I had one at a party, but it was the first time I had made one. They had been avoided until now, because I always associated them with a wild crazy free for all at the end. As a child I loved piñatas, but as a mother they felt like a recipe for disaster... if not tears. Until a Montessori teacher/mother modeled a new way for me. Before any bat swinging begins, the children all know the rules: when the piñata breaks everyone helps to gather the contents into a large bowl. Then a parent distributes the treats fairly. No tears. No child with less or more than another. It gave me the courage to give it a try.

One of our favorite books, El piñtero/The Piñata Maker, is all about a traditional piñata artisan in Mexico. It's a blend of culture and artistry, as he shares his process of making and selling amazing piñatas in his town. Wonderful photography brings his story to life. My whole family is captivated every time we read it. Of course, we'd have to make one of our own! Even if it was only a humble cat head shaped from a balloon... and made in a little snow covered farmhouse ever so far from Mexico.

I researched the steps and set up shop in front of the wood stove... because everything we do is close to the stove in January. Plus, I figured it would dry faster. I didn't want it to be such a sturdy cat that we couldn't break it, so two layers of paper sounded right. My son and I stayed up late on Friday night applying strips of newspaper with a paste of flour and water to our balloon. 11/2 cups of each made just enough for one layer. We hung it to dry from a beam near the stove and went off to watch a movie (Stardust). It was still drying when we went to bed. In the morning it looked like this.
broken pinata 2
And this.
 broken pinata
Yikes! Or as my 12 year old would say: "EPIC FAIL!"  Was there time to start again? We went for it. No hanging to dry this time. No way! We still kept it close to the stove for drying puposes. 12 hours later- with two layers of newspaper, one coat of paint and glued on felt ears... it was ready! Thank you wood stove! We filled it the next morning with lollipops, cat buttons, silly bands my daughter was ready to let go of (finally!), rainbow crayons... you get the idea.
pinata 3
I poked a nail into each side near the top and then used wire cutters to clip a hanger and attach it. A   party hat  was glued on to cover the hole that the balloon had slipped out of and that the treats had gone into.
pinata 2
And then it awaited its fate. 
If you haven't made one before, you've gotta try it! Even with the botched first attempt, I'm still looking forward to making another next year! Do you have any piñata tales of your own?
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  1. many wonderful memories of making and enjoying them in mexico city for me as a child. i still remember the ceramic ones as well. my son asked for one for his 4th birthday this coming summer.

  2. Ludid- how wonderful! In El piñtero they show how he made them around the clay pots you remember. How perfect for a summer party.

  3. I am so glad your pinata worked out so well!!! YOur cat is perfect!!!! We never have a party without one - eight pinata's a year - we could start an industry!!! We also put all the spoils in a bowl and share out one of each treat for everyone and a wi-ide open space between the "man at bat" and those waiting...

  4. Looks like so much fun! Did anyone have a problem with "ruining the masterpiece"?

    In the early 70's we were living in CA and did a ton of crafts w/ my mom. My brothers and I made pinatas one summer with the tissue paper fringe all around. (really fun!) I made a bunny and I can't remember what else. We all made several. For some reason my mom showed her friend who owned a craft shop and the friend asked to sell our pinatas in her shop! That may have been one of my first retail craft sales. :) I was the same age as your daughter.

    Thanks for bringing back some memories!

  5. Welcome to pinatas! We have made them for my son's birthday party for several years - an alien, a robot, etc. and they have been fun. The hardest part is not obsessing on the details and taking too many hours on the pinata and not enough on, say, the birthday boy. I hope to start earlier next time - no reason they have to be done last minute. Also, my pinatas all took major commitment to smash open. Muchly oh muchly over-engineered. I like your rule about sharing candy! - Jessica

  6. Truly fabulous, Maya! well done and love the character in the cat face too! from epic fail to monumental success!
    We had bride and groom pinatas at Erin and John Paul's wedding- the best part of the late night entertainment!

  7. it is a wonderful pinata! such fun!!!!
    we once made a simple rainbow coloured pinata with the girls for a party but as the visiting 'fairies' were so gentle with the baseball bat it needed a little help from my brother in law to burst it open.

  8. As all that you do this entire cat party has been fabulous!

  9. wow! Great pinata and your house is wonderful! I have made two pinatas in the past for my boys' birthday parties. After buying one at target and seeing store bought ones at other parties I realized that the ones you purchase at a store cannot be broken by a child. They always end up needing to be ripped open by a strong adult and that is so dissapointing for the kids. So, I've made the last two and they work wonderfully. The only problem I've had is getting them is tying them up without the holes ripping through. I've had to wrap them in duct tape around the bottem. You didn't have any problems with this?

  10. Looks great! My pinata experience involved a pinata with WAY too many layers of newsprint...making it completely indestructible! After much smashing we finally made a small crack and pulled the candy and treats out! Better luck next time.

  11. What wonderful stories you all have!!!!!!!!
    My responses:
    It was fascinating hearing about indestructible creations. Two thin layers was a challenge, but still broke easily.

    se7en- 8 a year!! you certainly could start an industry w/ your lovely clan.

    Betz- who knew!? I'm not surprised you started your crafty biz at such a young age. not one bit!

    charlotte- bride and groom pinatas?! outrageous! I love that idea and will go visit and see...

    Erin- I only have this one experience, but keeping the hole at the top was helpful. the bottom naturally got a bit more newspaper and was therefore sturdier. The wire hanger in the tiny nail holes worked like a charm. Would it work again? ...hope so.

    Thanks so much everyone for your input!

  12. This brought me back to one of my first art projects as a child: a balloon pinata in the shape of a pig covered in crepe paper. I was soooo proud of that pig, I would not allow it to be broken.

  13. I love, love the cat's face! Brilliant!

  14. Hooray! Looks like a great time was had by all! In these days of parties costing hundreds of dollars (or more!) you've shown how awesome a handmade affair can be!

  15. Pinatas aren't just for kids!! I really wanted a pinata at my wedding (we had a farm wedding) and one of my best memories of the day is me blindfolded, swatting at the pinata, while everyone I loved was calling out and heckling me. There's something intense and so sweet about that memory--I think it's because it's a memory based on one sense-- hearing -- no sight to cloud it!

  16. How very FUN!!! I just love it, you did a great job on it. And, might I add, you are a braver person than I by hanging it inside the house! ha ha!

  17. Thanks for the "gather all the spoils into a bowl and distribute" idea. That's the reason we've never had a pinata at a party. I just really dislike that candy-frenzy of everyone trying to grab-grab-grab when the pinata breaks. Maybe I'd be willing to try it this year with the "gather" rules. The kitty turned out great! And the whole kitty-party looks super fun!!

  18. nice to see you having a great home birthday party instead of all these over the top parties I see some families have. We always had little last minute parties for our sons so that no one would have time to purchase a gift, just come and enjoy.

  19. That is so funny, your husband reminds me of Wilson, the neighbor in Tim The Toolman Taylor (Tim Allen) whose face is always at least partly hidden.

  20. Hi Wonderful job on the party and the pinata!!!
    I also wanted to add your home looks lovely. Have you ever written a post on the corners of your home? If not, would you consider doing one? : ) Would love to see your home. Thanks again for sharing all you do it is inspiring. Perhaps I will make a pinata for my son's 8th birthday coming up this March.

  21. Oh my lord, I burst out laughing when I saw your deflated balloon. And while, no, I have not made a pinata, I did make a paper mache Wizard of Oz head for my daughter's Halloween carnival. I experienced something similar. I feel your pain. Your cat head turn out great and I love that at your daughter's party, there is not a commercial character in site. The Oz head turned out pretty good too, plus I learned so much and it's that what the process is about. Thank you for the laugh and daily inspiration.

  22. I too made my first pinata this past year for my son's 6th birthday-it was a monster head. Also, we did three layers and after the fist layer it looked so good--and the next day we put on the next layer and it split wide open when it dried too--looked much like yours. I am not sure what caused ours but I was really, really careful when we patched it up to ensure the layers went in all directions because I think made the strips mainly up and down the first time...anyway, it all worked out for us too and the kids utterly loved it.

    Also, love the approach of the kids gathering goodies into a bowl to be split up amongst the kids...will give that a try this year.

  23. I loved the posts about the birthday party. So many great ideas and sweet kitties. My boys are sadly grown out of the birthday party stage but maybe I can remember some of your wonderful ideas for grandchildren in the future. I really appreciate the down to earth party with what you have on hand. I think it shows that you can have a memorable time without all the commercial characters and expense. I did try to do that with our kids.

  24. Love the simplicity of the shape - its all in the details! i love your world, haven't been by for a while and am so glad to be back. you continue to be one of my all time favorites!

  25. omg the pinata is WONDERFUL!! :::

  26. The first time I made a pinata was for my first son's 5th birthday. It was a whale. And it was a little too well made. In the end we had to bring in the dads to whack the blewhammy out of that thing. We may even have taken a knife to it...rather gruesome in front of the kids. But I've always done that sharing thing with the treats inside.

  27. What a terrific party! I like the simplicity of it. Perhaps I can help plan the grandchildren's parties!


  28. Oh we make pinata's for everything! We even made a bauble shaped one for christmas. And a stripey easter egg shaped one for easter.

    Some times I put the normal candy, but other times I just put lots of cut up paper and glitter and balloons or some small bouncy balls.

    there are so many things you could put in that could prevent the crazy candy rush, or tell the kids not to go crazy and they must share what comes out, or you will collect it in a box and share it out.



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