Balloon Twisting 101, Animals and Sculpting.
The Life of a Balloonatic
My stage name is Joe the Balloonatic, and I am a twister. "Hi Joe!" A balloon twister is a person who uses balloons to shape and twist them into animals, cartoon characters, and anything else you could imagine really. For me, it began with learning a few designs for my son's birthday party. I got such good reviews from my family, saying I could go out and make some money doing it. Later that spring I decided to make a post to a web community that I'd be at the local mall giving out balloon sculptures to the kids. A highschool classmate of mine then asked me to perform for the school she worked for.
Nowadays I entertain for most of my city's elementary schools, local churches, as well as private parties. I have a full time job managing a sandwich shop at which I'll make a balloon animal for the occasional little girl or boy that come through with their parents.
My outfit complete, paying taxes and parading a vendors license, this has been the most fulfilling job I have ever had. I get paid to play with kids! How cool!? I take this pretty seriously, hundreds of balloons, quite a few different, shapes, and sizes. I feel like a part of an elite group of entertainers that give kids something tangible. Something to play with, even if only for a few days, as well as the memories that go along with it.
History? Yeah, there is one.
Back sometime in the early forties somebody decided to stretch and twist balloons into shapes that resembled dogs and monkeys. Wether it was in Pennsylvania or in Ohio, nobody knows for sure, it all began with the simplest of designs. The art of ballooning has grown to be so complex, with it's own vocabulary of terms, it's an old art making a comeback. But don't be fooled, it's not just for clowns.
The hardest part learning how to twist balloons is the very first step, inflation. A skill not easily mastered, blowing up a balloon by mouth takes practice and a good set of lungs. Do not try at home! I have hurt my jaw, cheeks and become very light headed to the point of almost passing out in the process of learning mouth inflation. I am now able to inflate two balloons at once. But in the beginning I used a pump, and I suggest any newcomers do the same. In my performances I reserve mouth inflation for anyone who asks if I can do it. Most twisters do the same, who wants a strangers' spit all over a balloon their kid is playing with? However, to stay true to the art, I chose to learn mouth inflation, and I practice it regularly to keep the skill honed. Usually when learning a new sculpture I'll mouth inflate to stay tolerant.
What's in a Balloon?
Latex mostly. The best balloons boast a natural decomposition comparable to an oak leaf. Eco-friendly, how cool?! Twisting, or rather, sculpting balloons come in all shapes and sizes. Most commonly used is the twister's standard, the 260. The 260, breaks down to a balloon fully inflated will measure 2 inches by 60 inches. There are also 160's, 350's, 646's, rounds, bee bodies, and geos, a balloon when inflated has five flower petal shaped bulbs with a hole in the middle. All of these styles have their own, very useful, purpose in balloon sculpting.
Balloon twisting is gaining popularity. Wether performing on the street or for a restaurant dining room, balloon twisters are leaving an impression on the crowds they interact with. From the simple, clown that makes single balloon sculptures for young children, or groups of professional Twisters making life sized dinosaur replicas setup like a museum, the possibilities are endless.
Its also super easy to learn how to twist balloons. The wonders of the Internet showcase the multitude of designs possible. From the novice to the super difficult, the kind that you burn up sixteen balloons trying to make one twist on, balloons can provide hours of entertainment and sometimes frustration.
So, if you feel the desire to get out there and try your hand at balloon twisting, just remember to have fun doing it. Small inexpensive kits can be found almost anywhere complete with a small hand pump. For a few dollars you can find out if you have what it takes to be twister.
You can follow me and my endeavors at Facebook.com/balloosions and on Twitter @balloosions