By Wendy Wallace
Sally Noedel isn’t offended when her work is beaten, broken and busted. In fact, that’s the whole point. Since 2013, the Whata Piñata owner has crafted hundreds of piñatas, thousands of party crackers, and countless strawberries and paper flowers for seemingly every occasion. Crafted in what Noedel believes is the only piñateria in the Pacific Northwest—and made from all recyclable materials—her creations include a 6-foot tall T-Rex, an 8-foot octopus and, of course, ferry boats.
How did you start a piñata making business?
A friend on the same early commuting boat and I started brainstorming small business ideas. I got excited about this one because I have a background in art and it always bothered me about ones you buy filled with plastic. For the amount of time someone is engaged with that toy, I cannot justify putting more plastic junk into landfills.
Sounds like your business has a deeper mission.
Yes, I have a very strong environmental commitment to make everything as green as possible. Often a mom will say their 7-year-old has this dream for a dragon party, and if they didn’t want candy, I can make dragon stickers, little dragon coloring sheets, little dragon crayons for inside.
You spend time hand making a unique product only for it to be destroyed. Is it hard to part with your piñatas?
It’s not hard because I have an ethic about the materialist age we live in. We have so much stuff. I feel the important thing about celebrations is the experience. If my piñatas or crackers contribute to an exciting or heartwarming celebration, that’s what we’re after.
Is there an ideal level of piñata breakability?
Yes, definitely. The first 5 hits are fun, but that last 40 are not. You end beating the thing on the ground. That’s where your local piñata maker can help. If you have young kids, we can make one that breaks more easily or has a weak area.
How’s your experience becoming a business owner on the island?
I give a huge shoutout to Lisa Dunlap of Bon Bon. She was the first or second person I went to and said, “Here’s my little product and would you maybe consider selling it?” I was so scared. And from that moment she was so kind, so willing to share business advice or ideas. In the beginning I often felt like I borrowed her courage. I’d say the same thing of Elizabeth Dahl at Calico Toy Shoppe. Those two women have used the business strength that they’ve built and share their space with new people like me. It feels like a really nice, hometown attribute of this community we live in and I’m very grateful for that.
What’s your favorite piñata filler?
What does a piñata add to an event?
It’s a focal point for the theme and it adds excitement to the party, because everyone knows the game is coming. A party with a piñata is a lot more exciting than a party without one.