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Pick of the Peeps: Peeps dioramas serve up a candy-colored take on pop culture

Our fourth annual Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest drew more than 1,100 sugar-inspired entries. See the winner -- a candy-colored take on the movie "Up" -- and 37 of our favorites.

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The pair, who worked on the diorama every night for two weeks, had learned from last year's project that a bit of space can help the creative process -- or at least protect the relationship. "Last year, we had a couple arguments about the diorama," Chirlin says. "We just have to stay out of each other's way and let the other person do their own thing."

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Perhaps the most magical part of this hefty creation, what imbues it with a sense of wonder and magic, and elevates it to the level of art, is the movement that comes from the metal coils at its base. "I love the floating aspect, because we had the house built, and then we thought, 'What can we do now?'" Chirlin says. First, they experimented with springs from Home Depot, but the house was too heavy for them to hold. But when the couple went down to the basement of their building to paint the house, they stumbled on a discarded box spring. Voila -- the gift of flight.

So, will they aim for a hat trick in 2011? "It's up in the air," Chirlin says with a laugh, as Ettle lets out a groan. "One of my co-workers offered to buy it today," he says of the masterpiece but notes that he and Ettle might replace last year's "Wall-E" diorama on their dresser with the "Up" creation. "Or maybe I'll send it to Pixar," Chirlin says, "and ask for a job."

Finalist

"Creating a Masterpeeps"

by Phyllis Mayes, 55, Silver Spring

With 15 years of art classes under her belt, Mayes drew on her experience as both an artist and a figure model for her rendition of a figure painting class. Three Peeps art students, equipped with aprons, tiny easels, canvases and paintbrushes -- makeup brushes that Mayes repurposed -- paint portraits of a nude Peep reclining on a fainting sofa. The walls are decorated with study drawings, paintings, and posters advertising works by Peepcasso and Mapeeps, all of which were created by Mayes using pastels, oil paints, charcoal and pencil. A tiny Peep skeleton -- for anatomical reference -- completes the scene.

"One of my painter friends had the idea of doing a skeleton, and I had all these little ones at home. Once I started taking them apart, I realized that the leg bones made really good rabbit ears," Mayes says. "Although rabbit ears are probably just cartilage, I guess. ... But verisimilitude probably isn't the most important thing in this case."

Mayes's theme was inspired by a trip to a craft store, where she found the miniature easels and canvases. A dollhouse furniture shop turned up the tiny couch, and she sewed scrap fabric into curtains, hanging them from a paintbrush. The "nude" Peep is coated in gesso, a white art material used to prep surfaces for painting, which creates a sharp contrast with its pastel peers.

"The real work was doing the art -- that took a long time," Mayes says, noting that she spent 40 to 50 hours to complete her diorama. "I make little pins with small paintings on them, so I'm really good with miniatures. The biggest challenge was getting the photos done, because I don't even have a camera!"

Finalist

"Goodnight Peep"


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