Orky on Balloons

Balloon craft, like any other skill, comes from practice, practice, and practice. Innovations can be shared in classes, books, magazine articles, balloon jams, pickup workshops, and twisting competitions, but nothing can replace the actual experience of personal practice. There is just no substitute for measuring and twisting bubbles over and over, to develop the touch and technique for quality figures.

Developing twisting into an art is a building process, but it starts with developing control over the size, shape, and uniformity of each bubble. Technique develops when you can conceptualize and visualize the final form and have the capability to accurately create each of the parts that make up the whole figure. Ballooning is a visual art, and understanding how proportion affects our perception is a key element. A dog has a relatively short neck and large ears. A horse has a similar shape, but a longer neck and smaller ears. A giraffe has a very long neck and very small ears. Conversely, if we see a giraffe with a very short neck and very long ears, we recognize it as a bunny, while a balloon giraffe with no ears is easily a brontosaur dinosaur. So if you can make a balloon dog, you already have a whole menagerie in your balloon-twisting repertoire. Keep in mind that the perception of the recipient is also very important. If you make a dog and the child calls it a horsey, it is now a horse.

Inflation is an often unmentioned but significant element of balloon crafting. And developing that knowledge, again, comes from practice. Knowing how much balloon to inflate and the proper firmness for a particular figure is one of the tricks of successful balloon twisting. How full the balloon is when you start affects the final result. If it is too full, you will run out of twisting space before the figure is complete, and it will pop. Too little inflation, and you run out of workable balloon before it’s complete. Getting inflation right comes with experience, and experience comes from repetition and experimentation. How you achieve inflation is a matter of pride among some balloonists, as not everyone can fill a 260 with their lungs alone. I was one of those elitists, until my cardiologist mandated that I stop. I now realize that using a pump is much more consistent with our message that the children should not put the balloons in their mouths, and so using a pump is acceptable and even preferred for public performances.

So get some bags of 260’s, 150’s, even 3”, 4” and assorted specialty balloons and start practicing. See what original figures you can create. Plan on attending a balloon jam, such as the evening session at the convention in Peoria. Enter the balloon competition at the convention, which is an excellent way to push your skills level and see what others are doing in this field. I would like to see more competitors in balloon competition.