Construction, destruction

Karina Sandoval-Cantu

Photo by Howard Hardee

Karina Sandoval-Cantu needed a piñata. Her son’s birthday was approaching and he wanted his party to have a video game theme, but she had no luck finding an appropriate piñata at local party stores. So, she looked up an instructional video on YouTube and made one that looked like an Xbox controller. A few months later, she made another one—a horse for her daughter, who likes cowboys—and knew she’d found a new hobby. Sandoval-Cantu, 33, was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. at 3 months old, living in Fresno until her family moved to the Oroville area when she was 19. Now a stay-at-home mom, she’s set up shop on social media and sells all sorts of hand-constructed piñatas, including elaborate papier mâché sculptures of the Ice King from Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, a PG&E utility truck and even the 45th president of the United States. To place an order, search for Karina’s Custom Piñatas on Facebook.

Have you always been crafty?

I like to make decorations and plan parties, which stresses out a lot of people. But my mom and my sister are the same away, so when the kids’ birthday parties come around, we’re planning months ahead. The piñatas just kind of happened. It’s been almost a year, and I’m learning new ways of making them and getting better as I go.

Do you find some things too difficult to make?

People send me requests with some picture off the Internet and say, “Can you make this?” I always say, “Yes, of course I can,” because who wants to hear, “Let me think about it?” I’ll start sketching it out and thinking about how I’ll construct it. This month, I have to make a circus elephant on a ball.

Where do you find your materials?

I try to use recycled stuff. I use a lot of cardboard, so I’ll look on Craigslist for people advertising free moving boxes and jump on the opportunity. And my family always has old newspapers for me, so that’s what I use for the sculpting. As far as the decoration paint, I surprise myself sometimes. It’s like, This actually came out pretty decent.

Who are you customers?

A lot of moms like me who plan out everything and want the cake to match the invitations and the piñata.

What about people who just want to hit something with a stick?

I’ve had two requests for Donald Trump piñatas …

Does it bother you knowing your creations will be destroyed?

One time we were invited to a party and they started whacking the piñata and I was like, “I can’t watch this.” My husband told me, “It’s not yours—somebody paid you to make it.” So, I’m fine with it now. Once they’re out of my hands, they’re gone.