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  Make a Rainbow Zebra Piñata  
                                   
                  It looks like an ambitious project, but the Rainbow Zebra piñata is actually made up of a lot of fairly simple steps.   This page explains how I made my first Rainbow Zebra.                  
                                         

I always start with an image of some kind.  In this case, I used a clip art image of a zebra.

I pictured making the body in three sections, attaching an oval-shaped cone for the neck, and making a head mostly from a ballon with a snout attached. Add some legs and hooves and I'm done!

       
                                         
                               

I used punch balls for the shoulders and haunch, and bridged the gap between them to form the belly and the back, which would form a third candy compartment.

When I'm constructing a piñata for older kids, I always make multiple candy compartments just in case one of the players lands a lucky swing early on and rips the whole thing open too soon.  In a more horizontal piñata like this one, having multiple compartments also helps spread out the weight of the candy.

     
                                 
I'm so cheap I tried to reuse the punch balls. When I tied them off, I tied them around markers so that I could untie them and remove the punch balls intact after the papier mâché had hardened.  It didn't work.  The punch balls leaked air overnight, the papier mâché collapsed, and I ended up having to start over.
                       
The punch balls were wrapped in newspaper, then covered with multiple layers of papier mâché.  I connected them by making a newspaper bridge between them and layering papier mâché onto that.  
       
 

The legs were made from long skinny balloons.  The bulges at the hips and shoulder were made by simply bending the long balloon back around in a loop.  I also used some paper towel tubes to help reinforce the legs.

The legs gave me all kinds of problems.  They kept sagging to the side while drying, and that angle joint in the back leg turned out to be a major structural weakness in the piñata.  Twice when the legs were dry and I stood it up, the back legs collapsed at that joint and had to be rebuilt.  I solved the sagging problem by bracing the legs using masking tape and cardboard boxes. Look closely and you can see the masking tape in the picture -- the tape held the legs together and the boxes held them apart.  I reinforced the angled joint in the back legs using cardboard tubes from wrapping paper rolls.

I made the legs too long on purpose because I was afraid of having them come up too short.  I will cut them to the proper lengths later.

 
                                         

The zebra's neck would be a modified cone shape, but I didn't have any big enough cones to work with.  A laminated world map wrapped around a balloon did the trick. 

I wrapped the cone in newspaper, then papier mâchéd over it, and then pulled the map out intact afterward.  The world was saved!

             
                                         
                                                               

I don't use cardboard very often in my piñatas because even thin cardboard is almost impossible to break.  But the zebra's head is a non-target area that was just for show..

This photo is my first attempt at a zebra head.  After papier mâchéing it, the snout seemed a little too short, so I stuck another box on the end to lengthen it a little, and papier mâchéd over that.

Piñata-making is full of little tweaks and adjustments like that, but the decorating hides it all.

                                           

All the pieces are assembled!

I added a tail made from rolled up newspaper.  The ears are card stock. I have also cut the legs to their proper lengths and added bumps at the knees and ankles.  The hooves are made from disposable drinking cups.

This papier mâché zebra sculpture looks a lot slimmer than the final piñata, because the fluffed crepe paper adds thickness in every dimension.  In hindsight, I should have made the hooves a couple inches wider so they would stand out better after the legs are fluffed. The second Rainbow Zebra has much wider hooves.

   
                                                                   
       

Before decorating the zebra, I drew stripes to use as a guide. Once I started decorating, however, I realized pretty quickly that conventional zebra stripes won't work on a rainbow zebra because I wanted each color to be separated by black.  Using the stripes I had already drawn as a guide, different colors would come together and create awkward mergings.  So I ended up ignoring these stripes when I did the crepe paper decorating.

(Some of the stripes are blue and some are black because my black marker ran dry.)

 
                                                                 
   

On a piñata this size, the walls of the piñata have to be pretty thick just to support the piñata's own weight, but that makes the piñata too thick for the kids to break.

So before decorating, I created weak spots in the zebra by stabbing it repeatedly with a knife.  This picture shows a circled stab wound, but there are about 20 more punctures in the photo.  All those angled black smudges are punctures.  Some of the stab wounds are hidden in the stripes.  I ended up adding even more holes after this picture was taken.

     
                                                                 
                                                       
           

Decorating always starts at the bottom of the piñata so that each layer of crepe paper can be glued down overlapping on top of the one below.

In this picture, the piñata is balanced upside down between two small desks.  The zebra was standing on the desks while I decorated his legs, then I turned him over onto his back when I started working on his belly.

Eventually I'll work my way up his sides to his back, his neck, and then I'll finish with his head.

Now that his legs are decorated, you can see how thickening his legs made his hooves look puny. The hooves on the second Rainbow Zebra are much wider than these.

         
                                                       
                                               
       

In this picture you can see the open door flaps leading into to the shoulder and back compartments.  The haunch also has a flap, but it's on the other side of the piñata and doesn't show in this picture.

I added hanging hooks to the two biggest candy compartments before decorating began.  You can also see them in the two outdoor photos earlier on this page.  The hooks are made from wire shirt hangers as explained on the Tips and Tricks page.

         
     
The mane was made of three strips of cardboard jammed into a slit cut into the zebra's neck and then hot glued in place.  I wedged some additional cardboard pieces into the top of the mane to give the mane a wider bristle at the top than at the base.   
If you're wondering why I waited so long before adding the mane, it's because being the dope that I am, I completely forgot about the mane until I got to this point. Then I went "Oh crap!" and had to figure out a way to put one on.  So I cut a slit through the neck, wedged some cardboard in, and hot glued it in place.  It worked out well in the end, but when I made the second Rainbow Zebra piñata, I added the mane during the papier mâché stage.
I painted the nose gray instead of black because I thought that too much black in one place like that would look too heavy.  The hooves were painted silver instead of black because it's a rainbow zebra, and everybody knows that rainbow zebras have silver hooves.  (The second Rainbow Zebra had a silver nose instead of gray.)
   
           
That's all there is to it!  Now that you know how, you can make your very own rainbow zebra piñata.  This one took a long time because I had to keep feeling my way through the project, and some of the problems (such as with legs sagging or buckling) not only cost me time, but also had me scratching my head for a while.  And since I really didn't know how it was all going to work, I did each step sequentially -- first the body, then the legs, then the neck, then the head.  With most of the piñatas I make I really don't know how I'm going to do it when I start, so I go slow, one step at a time, and work out each problem before facing the next one.
 
                                                     
                             
      I have since made another Rainbow Zebra piñata, but I didn't take many pictures while building the second one.  If you're interested in seeing what I did differently when I made the second Rainbow Zebra, check out the Rainbow Zebra 2 page.    
                             
                                             
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