For the past three years, the Washington Post has invited its readers to participate in its Peeps Diorama Contest. The rules for the contest are simple – create a scene, concept, or event, in which the characters in the diorama are played by Peeps, “those marshmallowy chicks and rabbits plaguing checkout lines in every convenience store this season.” Throw a clever pun into the mix, and the Post promises the possibility of extra-credit.
Our first thought was an ode to Obama – “The Peeple’s Choice” – in which a throng of marshmallow figures crowded the Washington Mall in witness of an historic Inauguration. But, we worried, the Obama idea would hardly be original. Indeed, even the paper warned that it was “tired of the campaigns.”
The other major theme of this year, of course, has been the economic crises. And the more we thought about it – industries collapsing, banks failing, unemployment rising, stocks plummeting, and savings disappearing – we knew that some larger force had to be lurking behind the nation’s financial calamities. Our diorama, submitted last night, reveals that Wall Street’s financial troubles owe their origins to one nefarious confection: the Grim Peeper.
The Grim Peeper
PREP TIME: 1 Weekend
COOK TIME: Several seconds of singeing
YIELD: 1 Diabolical Diorama
WHAT WE GRABBED:
1 pack of red Marshmallow Peeps (only available at Target)
1 pack of yellow Marshmallow Peeps
Foam-core board (you’ll find this near the poster board)
Cardstock or construction paper (for wallpaper, the flags, the flames, and the scythe)
Tissue paper (used for the flames)
Strong tape, such as duct tape or foam tape (to secure the walls of the diorama)
Double-sided tape (to affix the newspaper headlines to the walls)
Rubber cement (to construct the flags)
Mat knife (or another fine blade for cutting the foam board)
Fine-gauge wire (used for the wire-rimmed glasses)
Small nails or tacks (to affix the walls of the diorama to the foam core base)
Acryllic paint (we like the Folk Art brand and used a metallic bronze hue)
Markers or felt-tipped pens
Candles (we melted down several red birthday candles to create a “blood” effect around the Grim Peeper)
HOW WE DID IT:
Explaining the creative process behind our diorama is not quite as easy as deconstructing the steps to a recipe. As Caitlin put it, the final product was a combination of raw talent, divine inspiration, and a little good ole’ fashioned nuttiness. In fact, up until the last minute our vision of some of the details was still changing ever so slightly.
We started with the baseboard, and covered the walls with cardstock, to create a nice working canvas. From there, we painted, and then attached, our second level. From the beginning, we knew we wanted the Grim Peeper looking down, menacingly, on the trading floor and the quickly crumbling market. After shaping some felt and a scythe, the Grim Peeper was in his place.
The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange serves as a microcosm for Wall Street. And Wall Street, in turn, is the source, er, symbol, of the nation’s financial troubles. Pictures of the stock exchange always featured several characteristics: traders, large groups of computer screens, and flags. Our traders, following the contest rules, were the Peeps, which we outfitted with fashionable neckwear and trading tickets. Rather than the usual “Buy” and “Sell” tickets, we gave our Peep Traders “Sell” and “Panic” tickets to waive about – a more appropriate sign – or signs – of the times.
When we were making the computer console, we wanted the computer screens to be lit. And it actually took several efforts to find a blue paper sufficiently translucent. Tissue paper was too light and construction paper was too dark. Blue Post-It notes were just right. After we covered the console with the blue paper, we stuck a small light bulb inside, to create the computer glow. Unfortunately, the glow was completely unnoticeable in our daylight shot. Though you can see the glow featured in some of the photographs we took while inside.
We created the NYSE and American flags from construction paper, though the stars (50, give or take a few Western states) were drops of White-Out. We created the newspaper headlines and the Dow Jones Industrial graph using Microsoft Word. The red arrow is construction paper; the realism is just unfortunate. The jailbird image that accompanies the Madoff headline is not attributable to the Associated Press or Reuters; Caitlin created that image in Paint.
The final touches both involved creating fire. Red and orange construction paper were affixed to the top level, to create a visual representation of the Grim Peeper’s wrath. We then lit a red candle and let it drip around him to instill yet more fear in the mallow-filled core of our traders. With a quick and final touch, we used the candle to singe the edges of the yellow tissue paper affixed to the flames.
We had now created the Grim Peeper.