Friday, June 14, 2019

Margherita Pizza - A guest #FakeFoodFriday post from Hannah Fenske!

Hello all, it's that time again for a guest post!  This time we have a tutorial on Margherita Pizza from Hannah Fenske, who I worked with at the Opera. This delish dish (yeah, I said it) was for 2018's The Italian Girl in Algiers at the Santa Fe Opera. Take it away, Hannah!

Hi y’all!  Happy Fake Food Friday!

Aimee shared a great tutorial last month for her version of leftover pizza, but there’s no single way to make a pizza!  I was tasked with making one last summer, and used some different techniques to accomplish a similar product.  It was requested as a rehearsal stand-in for what would eventually be a practical margherita pizza consumed onstage in a very silly scene.  This meant that it didn’t need to be anything fancy, but the desire to make something pretty combined with a quiet work week allowed me to go all out on this project!

Materials: Thin upholstery foam, hot glue, Jaxsan, papier mache, Flex Glue, fake ficus leaves, acrylic paint, gloss sealer (also, round plastic tray and pop rivets)
Tools: Heat gun, scissors, hot glue gun, sandpaper, Olfa knife, paintbrushes (also, pop rivet gun)

First, I started off with a thin piece of upholstery foam (1/2” or so) and cut it into a rough circle.  I wanted the final product to have some flexibility to it to mimic real slices of pizza, but in retrospect, after I added the layers of hot glue and Jaxsan, the pieces ended up fairly stiff.  While the foam worked really well aesthetically, I would probably recommend using some craft foam as a base instead if you want a more flexible end product.

For my particular pizza, since I knew it would be carried around stage and tipped towards the audience, I needed to keep the slices on the tray and together until they were removed for “eating”.  I accomplished this by adding some pop rivets to the tray and keeping the corresponding hole in each slice marked and clear throughout the process. You can see my Sharpie marks in the next picture.

From there, I cut some additional pieces of the same foam to build up the edges for a thick crust look.  I made sure to vary them in width and placement since real pizza crust isn’t perfectly consistent. Then, since papier mache doesn’t really like sticking to upholstery foam, I painted a layer of Jaxsan onto the crust and let it dry before adding a few layers of good ol’ papier mache.  This gave the crust a nice lumpy look and feel while still being smooth enough to look like crust. After a bit of sanding, I also ended up adding a layer of Flex Glue to the crust for added stability and to smooth out any rough spots.

Next, tomato sauce!  I added liberal amounts of hot glue to the center of the pizza, making sure to overlap the edges of the papier mache to keep them from curling up.  Once a section was covered with a puddle of glue, I would wait for it to partially set up, then go back and use the tip of the gun to add texture by re-melting the glue in places.  I considered using a more sophisticated material like silicone for this, but I liked the malleability of hot glue since I added lots of texture with this step (also, hot glue is way easier to paint!).  Once the layer of tomato sauce was built up and cooled, I added a few specific smooth puddles of glue that would become the melted slices of fresh mozzarella. (Sidenote: If you’ve never had a slice of classic Italian-style margherita pizza with the fresh mozzarella slices, you’re missing out!  It is by FAR my favorite kind of pizza. Go try it.)

Basil came next.  I acquired some leaves from a silk ficus tree, and since basil shrinks and gets sort of wrinkly when it’s cooked, I took a heat gun to them.  Worked like a charm! I also pressed them flat while they were still warm since they were initially a bit too voluminous to be convincing.

The next steps were a lot of careful layers of paint.  I based the whole thing in a pizza dough beige, then added a variety of browns to darken the crust, focusing on darkening the places where the dough “bubbled”.  I used two or three reds for the sauce, and after painting the cheese white, I added some yellow in the low spots where the oil would have pooled. I painted the basil a darker green, glued it on, and added bits of even darker green and brown to the cooked edges.  To seal it, I added a layer of gloss to all of the sauce, cheese, and basil.

Also, once I realized that my pizza wasn’t going to be particularly flexible, I went ahead and added a layer of Jaxsan to the bottom (not pictured, sorry).  This gave it a nice crumbly feel, and with some paint, it blended in well to the edge crust.

As much as I didn’t want to cut up my lovely pizza, it did need to be sliced.  I made the cuts with an Olfa knife, then painted the sides of the slices strategically with the beige, reds, and whites.  The edges didn’t end up looking as finished as they could have with some additional papier mache and/or Flex Glue, but I wanted to make sure that the pieces fit together as snugly as possible.

And here you have the end result!   Don’t you love when a fun project goes even better than you expected?  I tend to get the wiggles when I’m in a good place creatively, and there were lots of those during this project.

Wishing you happy crafting and creative wiggles of your own.  Prop on!

Thanks Hannah! If you want to check out more of Hannah's stuff, you can check out her website at  


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