The Star Wars fans behind the bread dough-based sculpture tell StarWars.com how they baked up their latest viral sensation.
The problem was Han Solo’s lips.
For three months, Hannalee Pervan and her mother, Catherine, had carefully planned out how to create a 6-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide sculpture of Solo encased in carbonite using the tools of their trade from One House Bakery in Benicia, California. After the bakery closed for the day, mother and daughter worked side by side for four weeks, baking three massive batches -- 30 kilos each -- of a special yeastless dough, rolling it into thin sheets reminiscent of fresh pasta, and then racing up the stairs from the bakery’s ovens to the loft where they would assemble their masterpiece.
The underlayer was forgiving, a rock-solid form with a high-protein flour and high sugar content to give the carbonite base its shape. Upon discovering she was the same height as Harrison Ford, Hannalee volunteered to lie down on the plywood base while her mother traced her with a Sharpie marker, approximating the placement of Han’s shoulders, his waist, his legs.
Working into the wee hours of the morning, for three or four hours each night the two toiled section by section to build up Solo’s hands, the creases of his shirt, and finally his face. “You can't go back and rework it,” Hannalee says. “You just have to pick a section and be like, ‘Okay, this has to get done tonight.’” Given the sugary base, a heat gun caramelized the ingredients in the malleable dough to perfectly set each finished section.
But the lips of the sculpture simply didn’t look right, at least not to the artist. “You couldn't let his lips go. She was obsessing over his lips,” Catherine says.
Hannalee combed through 30 reference photos and polled her entire kitchen. “He looks like a duck!” she thought, smashing the dough to try to get them into shape. “I had to get her to walk away,” Catherine says.
The hands were another thing altogether. “We hated the hands up until the last second,” Catherine says. Ultimately, another layer of gossamer dough draped over the final visage brought the whole front of the sculpture together.
In the final hours, as the clock struck 1 a.m. on October 8, the two rushed to glue down the last biscuits and wafers that made up the greeblies around the perimeter of the “levainite” casing.
At last, it was time to put the 300-pound Pan Solo on display, an entry in the town’s annual Scarecrow Contest.
On Sunday, the bakery shared the creation on Instagram. By Monday, they had their first phone call for an interview. In the weeks since, “Pan Solo” has been featured in the New York Times and other media outlets. A creature – either a dog or a raccoon – came by and nibbled the lower right corner away, sampling the sculpture. Hannalee and Catherine had to made a few emergency repairs, starting with lacquering the front of the façade after a fog layer had made it dangerously moist in the first 24 hours. Still, passersby stop to take photos, sniff Solo to see if it’s really made of dough, and even steal a kiss.
Becoming a viral internet sensation is still surreal to the family of bakers, who previously turned heads in 2020 with another Scarecrow Contest entry featuring a bread-based statue of the Mandalorian, or “Pain-dough-lorian,” alongside a Grogu plush draped in dough robes and floating in a mixing bowl pram, and an IG droid made entirely from kitchen gadgets. The “Pandroid” still stands watch just off the bakery’s back patio, the only part of the creation that didn’t eventually give way to mold. “It's very temporary. It's very transient,” Catherine says.
But among the biggest thrills for Catherine was the moment Mark Hamill himself shared their work. She was working on the line making waffles when we she heard, and immediately brought the entire bakery to a grinding halt to announce the news. Just talking about it still gives her goosebumps.
Afterall, Catherine has been a Star Wars fan since the first film arrived in theaters. “Nobody had ever seen anything like it before. It was a real experience. All of a sudden it all just, it just exploded at you and I was hooked. I was absolutely hooked.”
She has shared her love of the saga with her children since they arrived in the years after, dressing her two sons and young Hannalee in handmade Ewok costumes one Halloween. The family, originally from Calgary, had to plan their costumes over snowsuits and other layers.
So it’s only fitting that they continue to share that joy in homemade masterpieces. With two Star Wars-themed creations out of the oven, the family is already mulling next year’s possibilities. Last year, they fashioned a 6-foot-long Alligator Loki from dough and chicken wire, but Hannalee is already studying Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for inspiration for 2023, with preliminary plans to create R2-D2 from dough if she can only figure out how to make the dome head spin.
She just watched the movie again the night before the interview with StarWars.com “I'm becoming obsessed with it,” Hannalee says with a laugh. “Welcome to the Pervans.”
Pan Solo, outside One House Bakery in Benicia, California, won second place in the Scarecrow Contest.