Sunday, April 8, 2007
We were expecting a dozen or so entrants for our first-ever Peeps Diorama Contest. We got somewhere north of 350 from across the area and the world.
There were copious dioramas with antiwar or patriotic themes ("Give Peeps a Chance" and "George Washingpeep Crossing the Delaware," for example). Several chronicled Britney Spears's meltdown in front of the "Peeparazzi." Two dioramas adapted a classic Charlton Heston movie line: "Soylent Green is Peeps!"
There were some that stretched the boundaries of taste, such as the diorama titled "Dear Metrobus: Please Stop Running Over Our Peeps," which featured a cardboard bus with prostrated marshmallow bunnies in front of it. And an Army officer stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, crafted a diorama of Saddam Hussein's execution, with a purple bunny Peep hanging from a noose.
As we said: Wow.
Operations here at The Washington Post ground to a halt when the winning Peeps diorama, "Peeps Are a Girl's Best Friend," above, was unveiled a couple of weeks ago. Many bigwig journalists stopped by our section to marvel at Charles Johnston's restaging of the classic musical number in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Executive Editor Len Downie was heard to utter, "That's extraordinary."
And it is. It's a miracle we put out a paper the next day.
There are so many more great dioramas than what we've printed here and on pages 4 and 5, and we don't have room to gush over the craftsmanship and creativity. So all we can say is thank you -- and start thinking about next year.
Peeps Are A Girl's Best Friend
Charles Johnston, 48, Manassas
He knew he'd gone over-the-top when he spent $16 on Swarovski crystals for a woman made of marshmallows.
|(Renee Comet Photography)|
The money and time (two weeks) paid off. We were rendered speechless by the diorama's meticulous craftsmanship -- from Marilyn Monroe's sculpted hairdo (made of clay), to her curve-hugging pink papier-mache dress (her rump is made of a whole Peep), to the fine details of the tuxedoed Peepmen, each made of 61 pieces (their toes are coat hangers bent into L shapes, taped onto a dowel and coated 15 times with liquid spackling compound).
To the nitpicker, our contest instructions were a tad inconsistent from week to week. When Johnston saw in our March 4 issue that we said the diorama must be comparable in dimension to a shoebox, he called a clown-shoe company to inquire how big such a box might be. The guy was just trying to play by the rules.
Either way, he's our winner.
"It's something I see and never think to buy or eat," Johnston says of Peeps, which he now realizes are "delicious." "It was just a total challenge."
And a resounding success.
TIP: 1. Let the Peeps harden before using them. 2. Super Glue is the ideal adhesive for anchoring Peeps.
Marpeep Antoinette: Let Them Eat Jelly Beans
Cynthia Kopkowski, 29, Washington
When she learned she was a finalist, Kopkowski was elated and mortified. Why mortified?
Kopkowski, a writer and editor, devoted an evening and ensuing morning to re-creating the decadent lifestyle of 18th-century Versailles. She was inspired by the candy-colored hues of Sofia Coppola's avant-garde biopic "Marie Antoinette" ("I thought the movie was 'meh,' but I liked the look of it"). After starting with the idea of cotton-ball wigs, everything fell into place:
She got the tiny wine bottles and playing cards from the Web site Dollhouse Collectibles, printed photos of Versailles landscapes from the Internet and got the wallpaper from the scrapbooking section at Michaels.
"I was giggling through the whole process because it was so ludicrous," Kopkowski says.
TIP: "Have your love life pretty well-cemented, because, as I joked with my boyfriend, I'd probably never get a date again if I was single and this came out."
Peepman and Boypeep Speed to the Peepmobile to Feed the Parking Meter
Liz Roberts, 65, Culpeper, Va.
"My 33-year-old son is an art major, and I think he thought I was losing it," confesses Roberts, a grandmother of three.
Since retiring as a nurse four years ago, she has gravitated away from her usual watercolors toward acrylic abstract painting. With Peeps as her latest medium, Roberts sought to dramatize Batman and Robin sprinting to avoid a parking ticket.
TIP: The Peeps tend to dissolve when painted partially. "I'd be painting on it at night and get up the next morning, and it'd be a big old goop of sugary solution. I ended up covering the whole Peep with acrylic paint. Even where it was yellow, I put yellow paint there. The noses kept breaking off. I did two Boypeeps. It's not the easiest thing. You have to coat the whole thing."
Anne Lukas, 40, and Meg Paganelli, 37, Sterling
The initial concept was a little more complex, though.
"We talked about raiding our daughters' Barbie doll accessories," says Lukas, left in the photo, a freelance illustrator. "Originally we were going to put [the Peeps] in two apartment complexes and have one looking in on the other but then thought, 'We'll never find time to do that.' Simplicity is better, visually."
So Lukas and Paganelli, a Loudoun County public school teacher, opted for an austere, clinical bathroom setup accentuated by polymer clay (the showerhead, the Peeps' bug eyes). The shower cap is made of sealable plastic wrap threaded with string.
"We have similar senses of humor -- a little dry, definitely enjoy a play on words," Paganelli says. " 'Peeping Peeps' . . . It was such an obvious one that it begged to be done."
TIP: Save the sugar that falls to the bottom of the Peeps box. Use it to patch up the white scars that appear on the sides of Peeps when you detach them from one another.
Dr. Paul's Peep-o-Suction Clinic
Marti Doyle, 50, Washington
Okay, very topical, very "now." But where specifically did the inspiration come from?
"I just think Peeps are funny," says Doyle, who a creative manager by trade and a volunteer for Art Enables, a program for aspiring artists with disabilities. "Peeps have always cracked me up."
(Now, a reporter tactic: Ask the same question using different words.)
"I've always wanted to tour the factory."
Do you eat them?
"No, they're disgusting."
Oh, snap. Talk about a self-esteem killer. But after all, we live in a society that tries to keep up the appearance of healthiness, even if it's at the expense of our actual health. Notice the "before" and "after" shots in the diorama: a properly plump Peep and an emaciated post-op Peep.
Notice, too, the surgeon's mask (snipped from an actual mask and sewed), gown (made from disposable sterile cloths used in operating rooms) and tiny stethoscope (that, as well as the X-ray on the wall, is from a male nurse doll a co-worker gave Doyle for Christmas).
TIP: Peeps are hard to manipulate. "I thought about slicing him down," Doyle says about the thin-Peep photo, "but it was a gooey proposition. So Photoshop was much easier."
See the Peeps
To see the dioramas in person, head to Artomatic, an eclectic multimedia bonanza for regional artists, starting Friday in Crystal City.
Artomatic, Friday through May 20. 2121 Crystal Dr., Arlington. Free, donations accepted. www.artomatic.org.