Travel inspires us – it’s why we do what we do. And it’s why for the last few weeks our Fridays in the office have become ‘Destinations Days’ where once a week we dedicate the always enjoyable last day of the week to one of our destinations. We’ve had dragon kites and pork belly for China Day, bindis, incense and a take-away curry lunch for India Day and this week it’s Mexico’s turn. Nachos, tacos and perhaps the cheeky shot of Tequila are bound to feature but Sarah and Hollie from the Sales Team decided to make the ultimate Mexico party piece – a piñata. Here they share how to make one (or perhaps, how not to make one…)
What You Will Need:
- Cardboard boxes
- Masking tape
- Crepe paper
- Paint/can of spray paint
- Paint brush
- Wallpaper paste
- Bottle of wine (optional, though highly recommended)
Step One: Make the decision to create a piñata masterpiece
An easy step that is best made in a moment of epiphany on the tube/metro/subway (depending on where you are in the world) during rush hour or late in the evening when the carriages are full of unwanted newspapers. In your decision-making euphoria you can then proceed to collect three carriage’s worth of unwanted newspapers in preparation for the making of your piñata, convinced that 20+ newspapers are necessary (only to later discover that four newspapers go a long way – see step 7).
Step Two: Google ‘how to make a piñata’
Select the first result that appears and vow to follow these instructions to the letter, fully aware that anyone who’s made one before knows more about it then you do. At this point you may also find that the humble llama is a popular piñata shape and quite an easy one to imitate when you break it down into squares and rectangles.
Step Three: Raid your office/home/neighbour’s recycling bins for unwanted cardboard boxes
We all love doing our bit to help the environment so turning a collection of discarded cardboard boxes bound for the recycle bin into a colourful, fun party piece should appeal to everyone. Collect a variety of sizes and shapes imagining the form of your llama as you do so (it’ll save time later).
Step Four: Hit the shops after work, ten minutes before they all close, in the hope that you will find everything you need to make a piñata in one go
Before you do so, convince yourself that wallpaper paste will be the hardest thing to find outside of a DIY shop and be amazed when it’s the first thing you find in your local pound store. Search extensively for crepe paper only to discover that tissue paper, a bit like the grey squirrel, has forced crepe paper (for the sake of a good metaphor, the red squirrel) into near extinction and that you will have to settle with the thinner and less robust tissue paper to decorate your piñata. Work out that there are 20 people in your office so you will need at least 10kg worth of sweets to fill your piñata with.
Step Five: Prepare your work area and materials (and yes, a bottle of wine is considered one of your ‘materials’)
Briefly glance at the instructions on the back of your £1 wallpaper paste, guess you need 6 pints of water, chuck the mix in, throw away the instructions and look on in mild horror as the mix you chucked in and momentarily forgot to stir has now congealed into one solid lump floating in your bucket of water. Spend the next five minutes using your hands to mix the wallpaper paste mixture with the water, slowly thinning any lumpy bits with your fingers. Once you’re bored with this, assume the mixture is thick and sticky enough and leave to one side. Head outside with your materials to save the wrath of your housemate(s) when you get paste/paint/soggy newspaper all over the table. Prepare your garden table with a torn plastic rubbish bag that barely covers all the edges. Later you might need to search for two extension leads and a lamp with a long lead for when the sun sets and you’re still creating your masterpiece in the dark with the mozzies.
Step Six: Construct your cardboard boxes into the shape of a llama
Envisage a body, four legs, a neck, head, face and two ears and pick your cardboard boxes accordingly. Use online images to guide you and waiver between complete lack of faith that you will ever create something that actually resembles a llama and unadulterated confidence in the fact that you will create something that people will talk about for years to come. Some boxes may need cutting into smaller shapes. It turns out that those lethal looking, double sided cheese and bread knives that every house seems to have are much better than any Stanley knife (obviously children should be supervised at this point). Once you have the shapes you need, fill each box with sweets and stick together with masking tape…lots of masking tape.
Step Seven: Tear your newspapers into strips and paste onto your cardboard llama
Start with two newspapers each and roughly tear into horizontally long strips. Discover that this equals a ridiculous amount of newspaper strips. Realise that carrying 20+ newspapers home may have been a waste of your time. Drink some of your wine and forget all about it. Then realise you were too cheap to buy a paint brush each so you will need to use your hands to apply the gloopey, lump-ridden wallpaper paste onto your strips of newspaper and onto your cardboard llama. Layer the strips around every surface of the cardboard llama in a vertical direction until all you can see is newsprint, headings and random images.
Step Eight: Ignore the rules you vowed to follow
Realise that allowing each individual layer of papier-mâché to dry will take far longer than the two and a half hours you have allocated to this part of the process and that one bottle of wine just won’t cut it. Allow your first layer to dry for 5 minutes. Continue with a second layer of newspaper strips in a horizontal direction adding a loop of string around the body of the llama so that you can later hang it from the ceiling. Once the second layer is completed, have a wine break. Five minutes later continue and repeat. Find the layering of paste-soaked newspaper onto a cardboard llama strangely therapeutic to the point where you repeat this step for another five times…at least.
Step Nine: Allow your slightly soggy, over-layered papier-mâché piñata to dry
Knowing what the English weather can be like, place your piñata inside for the night just in case it decides to rain. Say a small prayer that your piñata will actually dry and that ignoring step two doesn’t result in complete tragedy, you do, after all, only have 48 hours before you need to decorate the piñata and only four days before the thing will be bashed to a pulp (ironic really considering the thing standing on your kitchen table beside the window is, for all intent and purposes, wet pulp).
Step Ten: Check on the status of your drying piñata
After 24 hours discover that although it was a surprisingly warm September day, your piñata is still soaking wet in some areas. Curse the fact that you ignored step two, say another small prayer and make plans to get the hairdryer on the job.
Step Eleven: Paint your dried piñata
Discover that there is a God after all and attempt to coat your hardened papier-mâché llama with the cheap glitter spray paint that you purchased from the pound store only to find that it’s all glitter and no paint and just wets the surface you’ve been waiting for to dry for the last two days. Abandon the cheap spray paint, once again curse the fact that you didn’t follow the instructions and in a moment of brilliance, decide to cover the papier-mâché with spare tissue paper.
Step Twelve: Give your llama layers of fur in the form of tissue paper
A picture of a professionally-made llama piñata will inspire you to greatness and push your creative boundaries. Once you’ve decided on the pattern you want to follow, ‘debate’ the best way to do this with your friend/co piñata maker to the point of an argument where you might lose said friend. Use a different colour of tissue paper for each layer and clear tape to stick down. Don’t forget to make a tail. Once covered in layers of tissue paper, cut strips into the edges of each layer to create the effect of fur. Finish by giving Juanito the llama (you must name it) a pair of eyes and some nostrils.
Step Thirteen: Stand back and admire your handiwork
Raise a toast to the hard work that has clearly paid off (so you might need more than one bottle of wine during this entire process) and spend at least five minutes taking it all in. Realise that you may have grown quite attached to this inanimate object and that the day of bashing may cause you to shed a tear.
Step Fourteen: Plead with a colleague/friend/stranger (anyone who’ll do it) to collect the piñata and take it to your office in their car
Let’s face it – no one wants to carry a sweet and chocolate-filled, multi-coloured, small child-sized cardboard llama on the tube. We’re dedicated, but not that much so.
Step Fifteen: Hang the piñata from something sturdy and invite your colleagues to bash the living daylights out of your labour of love
Quite self-explanatory really. Rules are needed though to ensure fairness. Blindfold each participant and allow them each three attempts to bash the sweets out of Juanito. Laugh as they miss, cry when they don’t and console yourself with a kilo’s worth of sweets.
Happy Mexico Day!