Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Ninjago Pinata

Apr 23 2013

On Conference Weekend while the kids were doing their dollar-store crafts, I was working on my own creation: a Ninjago Pinata.

The first few pinatas were somewhat formulaic: get a big balloon, cover it with papier-mache, paint, fill with custom t-shirts. However, as I got better at working with the medium, I was ready to attempt something more challenging. Katie's castle pinata was the first venture into the non-oblong world, but it was pretty safe, since it was based around a cardboard box. When Scott said he wanted a Lego Ninjago birthday, I immediately set about planning a spinner.

The problem with store-bought pinatas is that they use a lot of cardboard and no child in a blindfold is every going to break one of those open. Even an adult with a baseball bat would probably strike out before before hitting a homer. The key is to use just a few layers of papier-mache and as little cardboard as possible. That's why balloons are great -- the internal mould dissapears after the shape is constructed. In this case, I thought I an external, removable mould would do the trick.

I used Scott's flying saucer sled as a form and made the top and bottom panels of the spinner. I covered the sled with pieces of tissue paper to keep the glue from sticking too much. This worked REALLY well. The sled is about 2.5 feet across, so we had the start of a very large pinata. I taped a tupperware container to the sled before making the bottom section, which gave it the proper shape.

I used some cardboard strips and duct tape to combine the two sections together. Then I cut a Cheerios box to the proportions of the Ninja's torso. The head was a Countrytime Lemonade tin which I cut down smaller and covered with some yellow electricians tape. The arms and hands were just paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls. I ran a computer cable from the base all the way through the center of the torso and the head. This way the whole thing could spin around once it was hung up.

With construction complete, I used black and red crepe paper streamers to decorate it. I figured this would be simpler and cheaper than using a bunch of spray paint. I tried applying the black streamers with some papier-mache glue, but that turned into a massive mess. The dye from the streamers came off in a dark green clouds that stained my hands like crazy, leaving the pinata looking a bit bleached. For the red streamers, I did my best to just wrap it around tightly and use bits of duct tape to hold in place. Although the end effect looked something like a man sitting inside a sombrero, I was really pleased with the way that the ninja's outfit turned out.

The whole process took a few weeks to prepare, and Scott would constantly ask me, "Are you going to work on my pinata now?" In fact, when it came time to invite his friends to the party, he decided on inviting fewer friends than he was entitled to so that he would be able to have more turns at hitting the pinata.

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