How do I go about making this ballerina pinata? I tried making a frame out of cardstock but when I applied the paper mache the cardstock weakened and wound up looking like a pencil headed alien.
Answer from Piñata Boy
I normally use either balloons or thin cardboard or a combination of the two as the base of the piñata, and apply the papier mâché strips to that. Thin cardboard will absorb water from the papier mâché strips as they’re applied and can warp or become rippled. As you found out, card stock, which is thinner than thin cardboard, will absorb water and then the wet card stock will collapse completely.
To make a ballerina like this, I would make the arms and legs from wrapping paper tubes, making some cuts in them in order to bend and taper them so the ballerina looks like a ballerina and not a like robot. The head can be shaped from a balloon, but the body is where the real challenge lies.
I would make the body from multiple pieces of thin cardboard attached together. Imagine a downward-pointing cone as the top of the torso, and an upward-pointing cone as the bottom of the torso. If you were to cut a big piece of the point off the bottom cone, the top cone would fit into it and where they meet you have the ballerina’s waist. The cones won’t be circular, of course, you would squash them into ovals to some degree so your ballerina has a more natural shape. (You will also probably want to cut the point off of the top cone so that the candy can fill the ballerina’s entire body, or alternatively you could leave the top cone intact and have two separate candy compartments, one in the top and one in the bottom of the torso.) You can further shape the body details using thin cardboard or by layering a balloon in papier mâché, letting it dry, and then cutting it into pieces and using the rounded pieces to give curves to the ballerina.
All of the pieces — the arms and legs, the head and neck, and the torso pieces — have to be taped together and then cemented in place with papier mâché. Piñatas that are made from many pieces attached together like this are what I call structured piñatas. A structured piñata requires a lot of papier mâché work, and as you’re cementing the pieces together with papier mâché you have to be careful not to let it get so thick that the kids can’t break it. If you feel the walls of the piñata have gotten too sturdy from assembling all the pieces, you can weaken the walls by stabbing lots of holes in them with a knife before decorating, or else by using a razor blade to make cut lines to weaken the piñata where you want it to break.
Remember that what you’re making here is a breakable hollow sculpture, and it’s okay if the papier mâché work is ugly because you’re going to hide it in the decorating. So add pieces where necessary until you have the basic ballerina shape you’re going for, then hide all your handiwork in the decorating step.