It's Alive! How to Create a Mutant Pinata

It's after 7 p.m. when Steve Weiss rolls up to The Lodge, a collective art space on Grand Avenue. He's packing wine and his face is plastered with the kind of grin children wear when they think they're going to get away with something naughty. Who's to say you wouldn't look the same if you too were on the precipice of forging a monster out of old newspapers and wallpaper paste.

Over the next two weeks, Weiss along with his cohorts Abbey Messmer and Mike Miskowski will slowly piece together an artistic creation fit for Downtown's scariest art installation: the Mutant Pinata Show at Bragg's Pie Factory. The show, now in its fourth year, opens tonight and will be up for Third Friday and throughout Art Detour. For fans of kooky creatures or paper sculptures there is a lot to love about the Mutant Pinata Show -- you can't beat it with a stick!

But how does one successfully construct a pinata? What tools and strategies must be employed to draw life from scattered bits of newsprint and glue; of tissue paper and glitter? To find out, we return to the efforts of Weiss and company.

In Pinata circles there is a bit of controversy over which materials ought to be used to construct the pinata's frame.

The argument from the mouth of Steve Weiss is this: "Chicken wire is for pussies."

Instead, he and Messmer fill plastic grocery bags with crumpled newspaper and use tape and a sort of pinch-pull method to will the bags into the shapes they're looking for: a couple wings and a round head with a pointy beak.

As with any artistic endeavor a certain amount of mess is generally necessary to finish a pinata. This is fulfilled by the next step of applying soggy strips of newsprint soaked in wallpaper paste to the outside of the plastic bags.

Mummification must have looked something like this.

The pieces are assembled with more newspaper and glue until something that looks like a baby bird exploding out from a sphere begins to take shape. It turns out this is not far off the intended mark. Weiss and Messmer sketched out tons of ideas for mutant creations including something called "Dickle the Pickle" before settling on this bird design.

When the team begins applying colored tissue paper to the completed frame, the bird slowly transitions from a newsprint husk to an actual pinata. Messmer rolls and cuts strips of tissue paper to create a fuzzy look on the inside of one of the wings. The team breaks occasionally to peep through a computer archive of bird images Mesmer put on her desktop before returning to the project with new ideas for increasing the the bird's details. Slowly a pinata is born.

You can see the team's completed pinata along with a whole host of freakishly colorful monsters at The Mutant Pinata Show, which is hosting a special performance opening tonight and remaining on display through April at Bragg's Pie Factory.

Tonight's opening promises a "live mutant pinata performance" For a closer look at the step-by-step creation of a pinata, check out our mutant pinata slideshow.

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Jonathan McNamara