It isn't easy to create a "hon."
The face, with the glittery, heavy eye shadow, has its challenges, say the third-graders in Ms. Roman's art class. But even with glue, the hair -- arranged high into Bawlmer's classic beehive style -- is even harder, the students say.
"It's hard to make it look real," says Silvia Caceres, who notes that while she's technically 8 years old, she will turn 9 on Friday.
This is not too young to make an artistic debut. She and 26 other third-graders at Baltimore Highlands Elementary School in southwest Baltimore County have earned the honor of displaying their portraits tonight at the shrine to Baltimore's stereotypical hausfrau, Cafe Hon, on West 36th Street in Hampden.
"They are just fabulous, really well done," says Denise Whiting, Cafe Hon's owner and a prominent promoter of the gum-chewing, animal print-wearing, cat sunglass-sporting, Aqua-Net-spraying female.
Ashley Hawrysch has seen exactly one of these women in her 9 years. "When I was 3, I saw a hon. I think we were at Kings Dominion," the she says, her eyes widening as she tells the tale. "When my dad said, `She's a hon,' I thought he meant a short person."
She wouldn't make such a mistake today. "I was 3," Ashley repeats.
Lee Ann Roman, who has taught at the school for four years, conceived the project when she attended the Hon Festival at Cafe Hon for the first time last summer.
At the time, Roman says, she was struggling to think of a way to get her third-graders interested in drawing portraits. "It's not something they're dying to do," she says.
One look at a hon, though, and Roman knew she'd found the perfect subject to capture the interest of her pupils. She did a similar project with a summer camp class before introducing the assignment at school. About 100 of the school's third-grade pupils tackled the project.
And 27 of those portraits, chosen by Roman, will be on display at Cafe Hon until Easter, Whiting, the restaurant's owner, says.
The Baltimore Highlands pupils practiced drawing self-portraits and saw lots of pictures from Hon Fest before Roman asked them to tackle the beehives and glittery shirts. The boys weren't quite as excited by the project as the girls, who were fascinated by the Baltimore ladies, Roman says.
The girls, especially, in Roman's classes also enjoyed learning various Bawlmerese phrases used by hons. The favorite word, according to the girls, erupting into giggles: "Turlet." Translation: "Toilet."
The pupils drew their hons on paper and colored them with markers. They created a rainbow of three-dimensional hairstyles with curls of paper.
Anjae White, 9, says that while the assignment took imagination and creativity, she had some prior practice. "I like making wacky hair and wacky clothes and wacky shoes," says Anjae.
For the art show's opening tonight, 8-year-old Jade Schmidt is going to twist her long brown hair up into the biggest beehive she can manage. The secret, she has learned, is a plastic cup. A hon places the cup on top of her head and pulls her hair up around it, to give it the trademark height.
Last summer, Roman stopped in at Cafe Hon and talked to a manager about displaying one or two of her pupils' masterpieces, thinking a public display of the art would motivate the children even more. Roman says she was surprised and excited when Whiting called and said she liked them so much, she wanted to line the walls with them.
Whiting says she's always sad when she takes down the holiday decorations, but isn't this year because of the pupils' work. She had been displaying articles about herself that a friend had collected and "scrapbooked" for her.
"It was all about me," says Whiting. "Now it's all about the students."