Working on Piñatas: The “Any Bird”

In the summer of 2018 I’ll be teaching several adults-only workshops on making and decorating tabletop piñatas.  The first four classes are called “Monumental Piñatas” events (because they’re based on creatures and plants found in the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument), and the last two classes art called “Art/Nature Fusion” events. All of the classes are two-day workshops (on two consecutive Saturdays) during which I teach participants how to build their own piñatas “from the balloons up”, and then teach them how to decorate them.

I’m volunteering my time for these workshops, and all of the proceeds from the ticket sales will go to support Tuleyome’s Certified California Naturalist program.

Before the classes start, however, I needed to create the sample piñatas to use for advertising purposes. What you see here is the “Any Bird” sample piece.  The “Any Bird” piñata form is a very generic one, and it allows participants in the workshop to decorate it to make it look like any kind of native, nonnative, or imaginary bird they want. I based this sample on the male Western Bluebird.

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Just about everything about the piñata is made of recyclable, biodegradable materials. The form is made of recycled newsprint paper, flour, salt and water and is built up around balloons (which are popped and properly disposed of once the form dries).  The exterior is decorated with tissue paper, light poster board, art paper, construction paper, and water-soluble glue.

The bluebird’s feathers are made of tissue paper and created using two different techniques: flat scale feathers and “fringe edge” feathers. The eyes are surrounded by an eyelid made by twisting two different colors of tissue paper together.  The wings and tail are made of poster board and covered with varying layers of tissue.  Te bird’s bowtie is made of construction paper and turquoise glitter.

Like all of the piñatas I create, the Any Bird doesn’t need to be smashed to get to the goodies inside of it.  Instead, the head of the bird  can be removed in order to fill its body up and empty it out again.

If you would like me to do a workshop for your nonprofit, business or group, please contact me at

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Mary K. Hanson is a breast cancer survivor who, at age 61, took coursework to become a Certified California Naturalist. The author of “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout”™ blog, Ms. Hanson has also written nature-based feature articles published in regional newspapers, authored over ten books, including her "Cool Stuff Along the American" series of guide books, and has had her photographs featured in books, articles, calendars, on the American River Parkway Foundation’s Instagram stream, and even the White House blog. This year Ms. Hanson is helping to launch and teach a new Certified California Naturalist course through Tuleyome, in partnership with the University of California and the Woodland Library, so members of the public can themselves become certified as naturalists in the state. All of the photos seen on her website were taken by Ms. Hanson herself (unless noted otherwise) with moderate- to low-end photographic equipment more easily affordable to the everyday nature enthusiast. She also occasionally leads photo-walks through the American River Bend Park for the public and is sometimes available for public speaking.