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Originally published March 16, 2014 at 6:20 AM | Page modified March 17, 2014 at 9:27 AM

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How to make award-winning art out of Peeps

Tips from the Peeps “pros” — winners of the 2013 Seattle Times Peeps contest.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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It’s not often an artist throws in the towel by just deciding to eat their supplies. But for dedicated Peep artist Anna Hiatt, it’s just another day on the job.

She’s been known to spend the month and a half leading up to Easter toiling away on a couple different scenes composed primarily of Peeps — those colorful animal-shaped confections that come out of grocery-store hibernation each spring. It would seem like she’d have it down to science, but like any good artist she hones her crafts and sets new challenges for herself.

“When Peep art started catching on, I just thought ‘Well, that is just the coolest thing,’ ” said Hiatt. “It’s happy, it’s fun, and it takes your mind off the world.”

“Pageant Peeps,” Hiatt’s entry that won “most enthusiastic” in The Seattle Times Peeps contest last year, took a full week to put together, after three weeks of thinking over ideas, she recalled. Her toil paid off, complete with mini microphone, outfits and wigs for the Peeps. Although she did have to explain to her co-workers why she was coming to work with burned fingers. (That was from the hot-glue gun; but more on adhesives later.)

Hiatt says she often tells others struggling with ideas to keep it relatable, and pull material from their lives.

For Nadia Melim, Peep art is an extension of skills she uses every day as an architect. She and a team of colleagues created “Peepitecture: Seattle Central Peep Library” — a blue, sugary and spongy take on architect Rem Koolhaas’ visionary downtown Seattle library, held together with ample assistance from glue and chicken wire.

It was the first model they’d built in years, and all together it took them about eight hours to assemble. But Melim says that their tools and skill worked to their advantage, with everything from knife choice to Home Depot know-how.

“We’re in an architecture office, so we put those tools to good use,” said Melim. “We ended up cutting the Peeps in half” — to expose the critters’ sticky insides, which adhere to glue easier than their sugary outsides — “and they don’t slice in half very easily. Luckily we had a very sharp model knife.”

Melim and her team found white glue to be the most effective — though it meant standing there and holding it until it was dry. While she said that hot glue didn’t work for her Peeps, Hiatt swears by it. For her models, it melted the sugar and the marshmallow and hardened quickly.

“Best thing of all? When you need to remove a Peep it just peels right off,” said Hiatt.

Though Hiatt and Melim stuck to different adhesives, they agree that you need to keep the integrity of the Peeps intact. Melim advised buying early if you were trying to match a certain vision. Her offices’ piece was almost derailed when they ran out of blue Peeps.

“We waited until the last minute and every single grocery store was out,” said Melim.

For Hiatt, this means keeping the scene nice and sweet (“after all, they’re 99 percent sugar”) and being careful of the edges.

“They come in a long strip, so when you tear them off there’s a big hole in the side. But I use baker’s sugar and a brush, and just paint over to cover up the white hole,” said Hiatt, who’s found baker’s sugar in any color you’d need to fill in your Peep.

“Not every piece of artwork is going to turn out,” said Hiatt. “[But] don’t be afraid to think big! If you want to do a piece with 100 Peeps, get 100 Peeps and try. If nothing else you can just eat them.”

Zosha Millman: zmillman@seattletimes.com



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