Building a styrofoam fort: or, foolishly accepting Kathyann’s challenge

Hoth 9

One of the ways I make time to craft is to do small portable projects on my lunch break at my desk, listening to 80’s hits with my ear buds (“Chak chak chak Chaka Khan.  Chaka Khan . . .”).  Inevitably, someone will ask, “What’s with all the black pompons, Melody?”  Or I’ll contrive to artfully toss a pompon into someone’s cubicle to have an excuse to show off the Halloween spiders I was working on.  One of my co-workers, Kathyann, always: 1) admired my work; 2) asked where I came up with the idea; 3) encouraged me to to come up with something original instead of tweaking what I saw online.  With the Star Wars party in full planning mode I threw down the gauntlet and said “Challenge accepted, Kathyann!”

I was looking at a styrofoam insert from a monstrous microwave we had just purchased.  It had such interesting shapes, in particular a porthole-looking cutout, that I, sick individual that I am, thought it reminded me of Star Wars and maybe I could use it to make some sort of ship along with some other pieces of styrofoam.  When I threw this idea out to Kathyann, she mentioned she had 4 enormous styrofoam containers she wanted to get rid of.  All she had to say was “free” and I was hooked.  I took those 4 containers, the microwave insert, and some of those inexpensive styrofoam coolers they sell at the grocery store we already had on hand, cleared out the garage, and started to basically play with very large blocks, like some grotesque parody of a toddler, for all the neighborhood to see.  All I needed was a onesie and a pacifier.  Besides that scary image,  this was the scary and exhilarating part about creating on the fly — no blueprints, no instructions, just makin’ it up as you go along and only yourself to blame if it doesn’t come out right.

I also had to let the structure speak to me about what was going to work and what wasn’t.  Kind of like when you try to convince your extremely curly hair that it wants to be straight, like the Jedi mind trick.  But your hair yearns to be curly again, like Frodo’s Ring trying to find its way back to Sauron (I know I’m mixing my franchises but you get the picture).  So sometimes you just have to go with it.  I had intended to make a ship of some sort, but the resultant structure looked more like a fort than anything else.  I immediately declared it the Echo Base “located on the 6th planet of the Hoth System” and took pictures of it for reference when I was ready to build it.

Hoth 2 Hoth 1

I gathered up some bamboo skewers and toothpicks, and bought some tacky glue for greater support as there would be a number of little boys probably doing their best to tear it up.  These were the only things I purchased for this project.  I started gluing together pieces of styrofoam and secured them together using the bamboo skewers or toothpicks depending on the thickness of the pieces.  I tried to put the skewers in the thickest parts of the styrofoam for better stability.  Once it was dry I checked the stability again, and some of the pieces were wobbly, and seemed like they were depending on the skewers for support which made me nervous.  Here I got probably the best idea I could have had.  I took more of the cut up wardrobe boxes leftover from the Falcon experience and glued the bottom of each side of the fort to one strip of cardboard.  This not only gave each side stability but when it came time to move the fort into the backyard I was able to either slide or lift the whole side by the cardboard instead of jeopardizing the styrofoam and accidentally breaking something.

Once again the painting ensued with no rhyme or reason, I just tried to keep it geometric and symmetrical.  I did refer to Google images a lot to get overall design inspiration, and used more of the foam keyboards, outlet cover buttons, and Star Wars radar graphics I used in the Falcon.

Hoth 4 Hoth 5 detail Hoth 6

Now it’s no fun to just stand in a fort, although I’m sure the kids would have thought of something.  I was stumped:  “Now I’ve made this thing, what the hell are the kids going to do in it?”  I finally came up with the idea of printing out some pictures of the wampa, the monster that attacks Luke (should I admit now I have the soundtrack to the Empire Strikes Back and that is why I know the monster is called a wampa?  Probably not.  Makes me look geeky), propping them up, and making paper snowballs for the kids to throw at them.  Never happened in the movie but this was (say it with me) my interpretation of Star Wars.

Hoth 8 Hoth 7

On the day of the party I hauled it out to the backyard, laid down a canvas tarp, and placed some dumbbell weights (which, like all exercise equipment, ends up being used for something that has nothing to do with exercise — think clothes on the stationary bike or children riding the elliptical like a horsie) in some hollow areas to further weigh down the structure.  As it was the kids basically whaled on the wampas with their lightsabers (I can’t blame them, Luke did too) as well as threw the snowballs.  My one regret is that I could not figure out something for the front of the fort.  In the movie they mention something about shield doors, but that was not happening.  If I had had more time, I would have like to have fashioned some sort of doorway, but as it was I was pretty happy with the end result.  And so ends my foolish quest to meet Kathyann’s challenge to “make something original.”

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Star Wars Birthday Party Bits: or foolish flotsam | The Craftin' Fool
  2. Trackback: Pirate Birthday Party; or, thar be no fool’s gold here, only doubloons — savvy? | The Craftin' Fool

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