Making Papier-Mache Pinatas for Profit

Design, construct and decorate papier-mache pinatas, plus how to decorate and market them for profit.

| November/December 1983

In seventeenth century Italy, celebrations often centered around decorative earthenware pots filled with gifts. As these pieces of art dangled from a rope, blindfolded children (and adults!) would take turns trying to break open the mysterious crockery . . . and when the lucky blow was struck, all of the partygoers would join in a mad scramble for its store of prizes.

The festive pottery later found its way into Spain, and that nation's explorers brought the crocks to the New World. As the tradition caught on, the demand for pinatas increased, and the original earthenware containers gave way to easier-to-make, low cost papier-mache versions.

However, though these delightful party favors have been around for centuries, I've found that few people (other than those of Latin origin) have ever actually enjoyed the delights of a papier-mache pinata . . . and fewer still know how to make on . Well, I decided to take advantage of that situation. And — with more time invested than money — I now clear at least $100 a week by introducing this old custom into my own culture. You can do it, too! And think about this: Because the work can be done at home, you won't even have to hire a babysitter while you're running the business!

Here's What You'll Need

The main ingredient in pinatas is papier-mache, so if you subscribe to a daily newspaper, you're ahead of the game. (Should you lack a supply of your own, I'm sure your friends and relatives would be willing to pass their already read tribunes your way.)

You'll also need plenty of flour-and-water paste. Most households will have enough flour on hand to get started (approximately four cups). However, if you plan to jump right into mass production, you can cut your costs by buying in bulk quantities from a wholesaler . . . and perhaps purchasing generic flour. Just remember that the food quality of this ingredient isn't important: Recently I was fortunate enough to "inherit" 50 pounds of old, weevil-ridden flour, and that windfall saved me nearly $10, providing me with enough fixings to construct almost 100 pinatas.

Once you go into production, you'll be using the flour-water-newspaper combination to cover inflated balloons. Though round 9" balloons are likely to be used the most, you'll find that having a package of assorted sizes and shapes on hand will give you more opportunity for creativity. You'll also occasionally want to bind two or more inflated balloons together, and I've found that any of the now common cyanocrylate glues do that job well. If you need to purchase some of this fast-drying adhesive, keep in mind that a small bottle costing around $2.00 contains enough glue to make 20 to 30 pinatas . . . depending, of course, on the complexity of your designs.

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