Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Deconstructing the Construction of a "Meat-Filled" Zebra Piñata



The original Meat-Filled Zebra Piñatas project funded by Awesome Foundation - Boston in January 2013 was the talk of the Global AF sphere for a solid three months. It had been a while since a zany project such as that one had been funded by a chapter anywhere in the world, and it was a callback to our roots of funding things that no other traditional granting organization would fund (i.e. Funding Awesome).

So when we here at Awesome Calgary were looking for programming ideas to host during the lead up to our chapter relaunch in April based on ideas of projects that have been funded by The Awesome Foundation elsewhere in the world, something to honour AF-Boston’s original Zebra Piñata project was always in the back of our minds.

When we learned that there was a group of individuals in Calgary (i.e. Heather Ilsley and Derek Mah at ThePinataProject.com or TPP for short) that decided to make a piñata a month for fun (and this despite them never having built a piñata in their lives outside of their childhood), choosing to bankroll the whole thing themselves AND documenting the whole thing from construction to destruction (or deployment to destroyment, as they like to put it), we took it as a sign.

So we reached out to them to see if they’d be interested in working with us in some way this year and if we could commission them to create a zebra piñata for us. We were thrilled that they wanted to work with us on this project, and couldn’t be more grateful that they chose our AF-Calgary Zebra Piñata to become one of their official monthly piñatas for the year as part of their experimental Piñata Project. And that is the story of how our ‘Meat-Filled’ Zebra Piñata Party was born.

What follows are some behind-the-scenes photos from the early phases of the build; in fact, the actual piñata itself is much further along as we speak, and you can tune in to ThePinataProject.com later on to learn more as we get closer to our event on Sunday, March 30.



These are some of the materials that will be used in the construction of the piñata. In addition to the paper mâché, there’s newspaper, white glue, black and white coloured streamers (to give the zebra its striped body), black tissue paper, balloons, some twine to suspend the piñata from the rafters of its final home at Endeavor Arts and a paint brush to apply the paper mâché and glue. All-in-all, it’s basic piñata construction fare. The pink item is a Japanese paper lantern, whose use will be described later on.

 
 
 

These are conceptual sketches of the Zebra Piñata that Heather and Derek envision creating. Most of the Zebra Piñatas used by zoos in real life are created almost to scale in order to increase their authenticity to the lions. Because we’re paying homage to the original project that AF-Boston funded rather than going with a strict reimplementation, they decided to have a little fun with their design, choosing to go with a caricature of a baby zebra with rounded limbs. The tricky bit was figuring out how to create the elongated body; up to this point, TPP’s piñatas have used balloons to create the majority of their structures, which in this case, would not have been able to give them the shape they envisioned the body should have at this scale. According to Derek, the team at this point had already spent 20+ hours on figuring out how not to build the body. The first prototype body was too weak and the second prototype wouldn’t even fit through the door. The piñata body we’re talking about here is their third attempt.



As you can see, they envision building it so it cracks open like an egg when broken, rather than it opening randomly with bits flying everywhere. This implies putting some thought into how the body is constructed and which parts of it are reinforced. Because we’ll be holding our event at an art gallery, they’re also putting in some thought to how the ‘guts’ of the piñata fall out, or in other words, what the visuals of the evisceration looks like. The ideal is that things fall straight down because a) that would look more visually pleasing as the zebra starts slowly leaking its guts all over the place as it accumulates more damage, b) it’ll make clean up easier later on and c) there’s less risk of damage from flying debris to the other art pieces in the gallery. TPP is trying to practice responsible destroyment and we couldn’t agree more.



In order to give our baby zebra an elongated body, the team ultimately decided to go with two Japanese paper lanterns. That way, they could approximate the desired egg-like behaviour as the piñata cracks open down the middle by making each lantern one-half of the body, while still giving them something hollow enough to work with when it came to stuffing it full of treats later on. Of course, with the lantern being made of paper itself, it would disintegrate as soon as the paper mâché was applied. They solved this issue by waterproofing it first by wrapping it in plastic and then applying the paper mâché overtop of it.



Here is what the two halves of the baby zebra body look like after the paper mâché is applied. There’s at least three layers in this photo, although they may have added more since then to reinforce the structure (we want to make sure as many people in attendance as possible get a whack). Again, you can see how the body will try to emulate the breaking of an egg when everything is fitted together.



This will form the basis of the head of our baby zebra. It was constructed using a traditional balloon, while the snout was shaped and constructed using regular cardboard.



Here’s another headshot, with a bottle of wine and Derek’s finger for scale, along with the initial application of the neck piece which will later be mounted on the body. As you can see, the head alone is larger than a bottle of wine. Ears and other decorations will be added later, and the team hopes to custom-create 3D googly eyes that will react each time the piñata is struck. They believe that they’ll have to build those eyes themselves as they have been unable to find any that have been pre-made to the scale that they need.

And that was a sneak-peek at some of the earlier aspects of our piñata build, courtesy of Heather and Derek. They started building our piñata back in February, and things have progressed greatly since then. Another update detailing more advanced phases of the build will soon be posted over at ThePinataProject.com, so make sure to keep an eye on them over there, or follow them on Twitter at @PinataProject for all the latest details!

In the meantime, here again are the details on our “Meat-Filled” Zebra Piñata Party:


Agenda:

  • Doors and “Last Chance” Piñata Photo Ops at 6:00 p.m.
  • Eulogy at 8 p.m.
  • Zebra Evisceration at 8:20 p.m.
  • Lamentations, Reminiscing and After Party at 8:45 p.m.


Heather and Derek have spent an INSANE amount of hours on this project up to this point (not counting the 20+ hours on the failed prototypes), with many, many more hours to go until completion, so we hope you can make it out to our event on March 30 to show them your support for this massive undertaking!

And a BIG THANK YOU to our friends over at Big Chief Meat Snacks as they’ll be providing some meat-treats for us to make our Zebra Piñata truly “meat-filled” (and if you’re not a meat eater, don’t worry as we’ll also have traditional piñata fare like candies and toys). So make sure to come join us if you can; this event promises to be Awesome!

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