Thursday, December 22, 2016

Spotlight interview with self confessed 'Education Junky,' Tina Giunta, CBA, of Shivoo Balloons, Melbourne, Australia

Tina Giunta
Tina first discovered balloons 16 years ago when she saw balloon creations in the window of her local party store.  This inspired her to make her own centrepieces for her son's Christening. From this event, Tina was asked to decorate parties for friends, and before long she found herself decorating almost every weekend!

So what attracted Tina into running her own balloon business?

"I only really registered a business name so that I could buy at wholesale prices. It really was just a hobby for me. But as I mixed in circles with other young families, surrounded by young mums who were very supportive and encouraging while word of mouth kept spreading, I found myself just falling into running a business."

How did you learn to work with Balloons?

"In the beginning, I would study my Balloon Images Magazine and the Qualatex® catalogue, and I would just try and work things out. My work was quite basic back then and I found that this was enough. But as my hunger to try new products and more complicated designs grew, I looked into attending classes. My local supplier told me about the Australian Balloon Convention that was being held about an hour away from my home, so I decided to attend —and well, obviously I got hooked!"

Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
"My work space is a warehouse with an office. It's 100 square feet with an extra 50 square feet of mezzanine. We are not a retail store so we don't open to the public, but on occasions people will make appointments to discuss what they want. My website has hundreds of photographs on it, so most people prefer to just email or call.
I have one part-time employee and use contractors for the bigger jobs. My contractors are people that I have built a very good relationship with over the years. They run their own businesses, so they are experienced and have good working ethics."
Confetti Balloons
Beautiful confetti balloons by Tina Giunta

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting a balloon business?
" Learn your craft is your number one priority! Attend classes and conventions as much as possible so that you feel confident in what you offer your customers. When you believe in your work and you genuinely love what you do, people will see that in you! They feel your excitement towards their event and it makes them feel special. Once you have their trust, it is so much easier to get them to part with their hard-earned money!"
 What industry events have you attended during your career?
"I am an education junky! I attended every class and convention humanly possible in Australia and three World Balloon Conventions, one of which I attended as a scholarship recipient and the most recent as an instructor. 
1st Place Medium Balloon Sculpture.

At the 2015 Australian Balloon Convention, I was awarded 1st prize for my medium balloon sculpture and also the People's Choice award. I also won 1st place for my column. This was a very proud moment in my career!"

1st Place Balloon Column Competition.

What do you believe is the most successful way to promote your balloon work?
"I don't believe that there is any one single way that is better than any other to promote my business. I think that everything works together. Word of mouth is still alive and well, but you really need to have a website. Facebook and Instagram are also very important, as it shows people that we are active and that we keep up with the trends, and it also gives them a constant reminder that we are there."
 What kind of balloon services do you offer?
"We do deliveries, but our main service is decor. Because we don't open to the public, we have the freedom of working on site if we choose to. We always set up our balloons and never leave them in plastic bags. Even if the venue tells us to leave them in the bags, I always insist that I need to check that nothing has popped. I don't even like them helping me to remove the designs from the bags as they generally make my job harder when I have to untangle the mess!"
What kinds of occasions and clients do you typically work with?
"I would say that it is 50% corporate and 50% private functions."
What qualities are important for someone to be successful in the balloon industry?
"I believe that you need to be enthusiastic, show genuine interest in your customer's event, and that you should treat people in the same way that you like to be treated, then you can't go wrong!"
Organic Balloon Arch
Organic Arch by Tina Giunta.

 What is your favourite balloon creation to make?

"At the moment, I would have to say anything organic."
Organic Balloon Decor
Organic Balloon Decor by Tina Giunta.

What is your favourite Qualatex balloon product to work with and why?
"I love, love, love Bubbles! They are elegant, durable, and so versatile."

Where do you get your design inspiration from?
Balloon Topiary Tree
Elegant Balloon Centrepiece
by Tina Giunta.
"Everywhere!  My garden, fabric, paintings, the sky! But when you are working with a client on a specific event, it would normally come from their invitation or their cake, and then I expand on that."

 What would be your dream job?
"That would have to be the opportunity to transform a blank room into a fairy-tale land — filled with blossom trees and weeping willows, green, green grass, and rolling hills covered in beautiful flowers (sorry, I got a bit carried away there), and all this would be for a client where money would be no object!

Shivoo Balloons has given me some of the most rewarding experiences of my life after becoming a mother. Through my business, I have met some amazing people from all over the world and have learnt more than I thought possible. I have been given the opportunity as an instructor to travel Australia and the U.S., and through teaching I have been able to share my passion for creating beautiful things with balloons. I am so grateful that I stumbled on this unlikely career 16 years ago and look forward with excitement to what is still ahead."
A huge thank you to Tina for sharing her ballooning story. It is very inspiring to hear how others have grown and developed their businesses from a hobby to a very successful, profitable, and flourishing  balloon business! 

Many of you will have the opportunity to see Tina teaching in Australia and the U.S. as part of the 2017 Qualatex World Tour. For more details and locations, click HERE.

Happy Ballooning!


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Elegant Air-Filled Hanging Decor by Luc Bertrand.

The fabulous Luc Bertrand, CBA, of Waw Balloons in Vichte, Belgium, shares another one of his truly elegant designs that would work amazingly well for a New Year's celebrations. I also believe that this design would be fabulous for a store window display or decor for elegant black tie events.

Luc is a master at using the Qualatex® Number Shapes to create elegant air-filled decor, and this beautiful design is no exception! As soon as I saw this design, I thought of the Fleur de Lys shape and saw how incredible, unique designs can be created using Luc's technique.

Materials required: Choose colours to suit your occasion or event.

2 - Number Six or Number Nine Microfoil® Number Shape balloons.
3 -13" Taper Microfoil balloons.
1 - 27" Taper Microfoil balloon.
11 - 5" Latex balloons.
1 - 260Q to tie all the elements together.
Click-Click™ Stretchy Balloon Tape®.
Heat Sealer.
Hand-pump or an electric air inflator suitable for inflating foil balloons.

Step 1.
  • Air inflate the two number balloons and secure together using the stretchy tape.
  • Air inflate all the Taper balloons. The 13" Taper balloons will require heat sealing. If you are not familiar with heat sealing, check out my post: "Heat Sealing Microfoil Balloons and Turn those Little Balloons into Big Profit Earners."
  • Tie one of the 13" Tapers balloons to the 27" Taper balloons and tie the other two 13" Taper balloons together.  Attach an un inflated 260Q balloon at the joint so that this can be used to connect everything together.

Step 2.
  • Connect the Tapers to the Number shape balloons as shown below using the 260Q. 
  • Air inflate  two 5-balloon clusters using the sizes as indicated below and with one of the clusters add a centre balloo. This cluster will be positioned at the front of the design, and the other to the back of the design. Now connect the clusters as shown below, once again using the 260Q. 

The Very Best Balloon Blog

The Very Best Balloon Blog

This is a photograph of Luc's current window display for New Year's! I love the vibrant colours and the use of the "Celebration Pink Bubbly Wine" balloon with the "New Year Confetti Dots" balloon along with the number one and seven to make 2017! 

The Very Best Balloon Blog

A huge thank you to Luc, who every year never fails to share a wonderful design with us for either Christmas or New Year's! 

Happy Ballooning!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tip and Tricks of the Trade - Part 4 Controlling a Bubble Balloon® for vinyl application

20" Deco Bubble, with 16" White latex inside.
U.S. Patent No. 6,782,675

I recently taught a class showing different ideas and techniques working with Qualatex® Bubble Balloons and turned to Chris AdamoCBA, of Balloons Online, in Sydney, NSW, Australia, some weeks before I was due to teach the class to ask him what technique he used to "control" a helium-filled Bubble Balloon whilst adding vinyl and how to ensure that the text or image was centrally positioned. Chris has already showed us how to add vinyl transfer to flat foil balloons along with how to make confetti filled balloons in "Tips and Tricks of the Trade- Part 1," and I thought that he would be the perfect person to ask!

Chris confessed that he had not worked out a specific way, but would be very happy to work on it! We discussed a few ideas and Chris went away to play!

Within no time, Chris had devised the perfect solution —a cardboard jig, something that we can all make very easily from a cardboard box and a few un-inflated 260Q balloons! 
The video clip below gives you full instructions on how to make your Bubble Balloon into a solid colour Bubble, how to make the Bubble jig, and how to add the vinyl to the Bubble. For all you vinyl users, this is the coolest tip ever!

When I arrived at the Slovenia Qualatex Event, my first job was to make my jig, as I knew that I would need it to help me to prepare for my class. In fact, I made two: one for 20" Bubbles and the other for 24" Bubbles. They did not look pretty. Sadly, I did not take any pictures, but my goodness, it really made a huge difference when working with my Bubbles! When I showed it to the delegates in the class, they all thought that it was a wonderful, tool! 

So a huge thank you to Chris, who once again shares an amazing, time-saving, and extremely useful tool with the balloon world!

Happy Ballooning!


Monday, November 28, 2016

Fantasy Rose working with Heart Shape Balloons

Fantasy flowers can be made in a number of different ways. For many flower designs, we use floral wire inserted inside latex balloons to form petal shapes. However, when making the rose using the heart shaped latex balloons, we use very little wire.

Sue Bowler CBA

I first saw this type of Fantasy Rose a number of years ago when Jodie White, CBA, created these stunning designs for a photo shoot that we were both working on. She used 6" hearts to create the rose for this beautiful "Mother of the Bride" corsage.

Jodie White CBA
Mother of the Bride corsage by Jodie White, CBA

This is another beautiful design by Jodie. This time, she created a full bridal bouquet using a variety of fantasy techniques, and this occasion she used the 11" latex heart to make bigger roses.

Jodie White CBA
Bridal bouquet by Jodie White, CBA

A few years ago I taught myself how to make this delicate little rose and even attempted to make a small bridal bouquet which I used in a display at Spring Fair a few years ago. 

Sue Bowler CBA

To make the rose you will need the following items:

  • 6" Qualatex® Heart latex balloons ‑ there are no specific number of balloons for each flower, but I would allow approximately 15
  • Elmer's® Rubber Cement
  • 1.2mm/18 gauge wire - only 1 wire per flower required.
  • Floral binding wire
  • Floral Tape

Check out my step-by-step video to see how to create this lovely little rose.

To find out how to make other types of fantasy flowers check out my early post:
The Art of Fantasy Flowers.

Have fun and happy ballooning!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

So what tools should I take with me when working on a balloon decor job?

Having a well-kitted toolbox might just be a lifesaver when working on a balloon decor job. To find out what essential tools should be included, I asked a group of Qualatex Balloon Network (QBN®) professionals from our QBN Facebook Group to share their expertise on this subject. 

There are a number of things that we should always take with us when we go on a balloon decor job.
  • Job/order sheet with a full description of the decor, client's name, address of the event, and contact details.
  • Loose change for vehicle parking.
  • Balloons, accessories, and spare balloons.
  • Helium.
  • Balloon inflation equipment

What else might we need?

Tapes & Glues 

There are quite a few different types of tapes and glues, each one having a different job to do!

1. Scotch® or Sellotape®- A strong, clear tape. This type of tape can be used to repair a small hole in a Microfoil® or Bubble Balloon
2. Painter's or masking tape - Ideal for temporary use. It is perfect for marking out areas and can be removed quickly and easily. If you work with a die-cutting machine, you can use this type of tape to transfer vinyl onto balloons.
3. Glue Dots - Great for easy application of accent details to balloon designs, such as attaching a bow or a nose to a character design.
4. Duct Tape - A good general tape. Good for strong connections on framework.
5. Gaffer Tape - Like duct tape, it is a good general tape. However, it can be cleanly removed after application, leaving no sticky residue. Ideal when working with the AeröPole System™.
6. Oasis® UGlu Dashes - A personal favourite for me since I found out about them from other balloon professionals. They are easy to work with and very strong.
7. Click-Click™ Balloon Bond - Great for sticking latex balloons to other latex balloons.
8. Click- Click Stretchy Balloon Tape - This truly is an essential tape that all professionals should have. Although it might appear to be expensive, you only need to use a small amount each time. Great for securing Microfoil® balloons together, making strong fixing points on Microfoil balloons, and for repairing Microfoil and Bubble Balloons in emergencies.
9. Low temperature glue gun and glue - Not a glue that I use very often these days, as I believe that some of the others mentioned are better for many of the daily jobs that we do. However, I would use a glue gun to secure floral foam to a base or a container to a base.

To find out more about tapes and glues, check out my post: 

A sticky situation...which glue is best for you and your balloons? Updated October 2016

Everyday Tools

These items are a must for every tool box.

1. Qualatex
® Hand-Pump -  Dual-action pump has a tapered nozzle for easy inflation of 5", 6", 260Q, 321Q, and 350Q latex balloons.
2. Qualatex Pocket Pump - Suitable for inflating 160Qs and 260Qs.
3. Scissors - I personally like to use floral scissors. Floral scissors have a wire cutter built in, so they are perfect when making fantasy flowers.
4. Monofilament line, fishing line, or nylon line - Best used for Single Pearl Arches (SOP).
5. Dacron Line - Best used for outdoor Arches, Garlands, and Columns.
6. Safety Pins - Ideal for fixing fabric and ribbons when dressing tables.
7. Balloon Weights - Decorative weights can be used to hold down balloon bouquets and arrangements.
8. Fishing Weights - Ideal to weigh down helium-filled balloons when being dropped into a design or floral arrangements.
9. Washers - These can also be used to weigh down helium-filled balloons into a design or arrangement.

Other Essential Items

1. First Aid Supplies - Just in case!

2. Hand Cream - Hands often dry out when working with a lot of latex balloons.
3. Cloth towels that can be dampened down to help remove static around working area.
4. Someone suggested mints to freshen your breath before speaking to your clients.
5. A copy of your Public Liability Insurance certificate.
6. Don't forget your mobile phone; will also act as a camera if you forget to bring one.
7. Water — you may not be able to get a drink when working.
8. Care cards to inform your customers on how to get the best from their balloons and a few do's and don'ts.
9. Business Cards - You may get asked for your business card when on a job. Make sure that you have plenty!
10. A good camera -  A smartphone is good, but good quality photographs are essential for a high-quality portfolio, so consider using a better camera for taking pictures of your work.
11. Pens - Great for adding detail to balloons such as faces. You also might need to leave a note on your car or van stating where you are working.

More Tools & other useful items.

1. Hammer.

2. Nails or tacks.
3. Pliers.
4. Cable Ties.
5. Tape measure and a spacing stick to help you to accurately measure the distance between balloons in an Arch.
6. Pipe Cutter - perfect for cutting aluminium rod and tubing.
7. Wrench - This can be very helpful if you have a helium cylinder that is difficult to open.
8. Laser pointer - This was a great tip! Perfect for pointing to the ceiling to indicate where you want to connect a magnet! It will also help you to locate the magnets ring when removing decor after a job.
9. Power extension cable - Power sockets are never where you want them to be!
10. Magnets, MagMover®, and Mag Pole for rigging at high levels.

I am sure that you will have other essential items that you include in your toolbox. Let me know what they are, and I will add them to the list!

Thank you to all the QBN members who assisted me with this list.

Happy Ballooning!


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Tips and Tricks of the Trade - Part 3

Learning how to do things easily or in a better way can take many years of trial and error. Today, we are very lucky. We have great educational classes, YouTube, and many fabulous artists who are willing to share some of their fantastic techniques and new found skills.

"Tips and Tricks of the Trade" is a series of posts that will help you with a variety of different techniques that will make life easier and your work look better.

In Part 1, of this series, Chris Adamo, CBA, of Balloons Online, in Sydney, NSW, Australia, shared some fabulous techniques for filling latex balloons with confetti and how to easily apply vinyl to foil and Bubble Balloons. This is a must read post for anyone who works with confetti-filled balloons, and for those of you who personlise balloons. To view this post, click HERE

In Part 2, I show two different techniques on how to cover a base board using latex and foil balloons. These techniques are perfect for those who make centrepiece designs. To view this post, click HERE.

In part 3, we are going to look at two different techniques for wrapping a pole with 160Q or 260Q balloons.

The first techniques is shared by Cam Woody, of Pioneer® Balloon Company.

"I learned this cool technique from Aleks Hernández of Waikify in Guadalajara, Mexico, while I was teaching in Brazil earlier this year.

It's a 3-balloon spiral, a little different from the usual 4-balloon spiral.  I think it actually works best on a smaller size pole, like 1/4" aluminum, but it also works on the 1/2" conduit."
Step 1: Tie all 3 260Qs together and create a spiral braid with 2 of the balloons.

Step2: Wrap the braid onto the pole.

Step 3: Wrap the 3rd balloon in the gaps that are left. This makes a nice tight spiral.

Some years ago, I posted a blog on how to make the 4-balloon spiral column. I used this as a pedestal base to display a Number One balloon. This technique is built directly onto the pole.

These are both great techniques and can be used in a variety of ways to cover poles in decor designs.

Here are a few of my favourite designs using this stunning spiral technique. It can be used to create designs that are soft and elegant, which are perfect for weddings, as well as those that are bold and classic, ideal for corporate and black tie events!

I hope that you are enjoying these fabulous "Tips and Tricks of the Trade." We have even more top tips that will be featured soon!

Happy Ballooning!


Monday, November 7, 2016

Disney•Pixar Finding Dory - The Latest Trend for Birthday Parties

"Disney·Pixar Finding Dory" Bubble Balloon® #44146
U.S. Patent No. 6,782,675

Disney•Pixar Finding Dory has finally arrived in cinemas. The release of any new blockbuster film gives us many new sales opportunities. Children become infatuated by a film's characters, leading to the desire of wanting everything in their lives to be based on a film and the characters within it. In my early childhood, it was A.A. Milne's, Winnie-the-Pooh who rocked my world, and secretly, he still does!

It is very important as retailers and event decorators that we capitalise on these sales opportunities. It is easy to think that by simply stocking current trend balloons and partyware it will simply "fall off the shelf," and "sail out of the door," but in reality it rarely does. Customers need to be inspired and captivated by what they see, and part of that is to see these beautiful balloons inflated, and remember; we don't just sell balloons, we sell the emotion that the balloons create. In this case, probably a very happy child!

If you have a store or shop, this is the perfect time to create a wonderful window display showing a range of different designs suitable as a gift, or decor ideas for a Disney•Pixar Finding Dory theme party. If you sell the Disney•Pixar Finding Dory partyware range*, this is the perfect opportunity to get creative and show off your skills designing a tablescape. *Disney•Pixar Finding Dory partyware range is currently only available through Qualatex® distributors and Qualatex Direct in England, Scotland, and Wales.

Instructions to make this wonderful design by Cam Woody, CBA, Pioneer Balloon Company,
can be found in the Jul/Aug/Sep 2016
Balloon Images magazine.

If you are a home-based decorator, you should use your social media channels and your website to show your client base what you can offer. If you have a Pinterest account, why not start a "Children's Party Ideas" board, add a good range of relevant balloon designs and decor ideas, and also re-Pin ideas and suggestions from other boards, such as themed party snack suggestions, party games to play and other non-balloon related items that will draw interest and engage visitors to view your board. Pinterest boards should always have mixed content; it is all about lifestyle and not just an advertising platform. The most important thing about Pinterest is to ensure that all your design images have a link back to your business website so customers can easily find you!

Displaying partyware is a whole new challenge for me, but I like to learn new skills and enjoyed creating a small tablescape using a variety of the Disney•Pixar Finding Dory partyware products. The objective was to show customers the range of products available and how they look when placed together.

Tablescape by Sue Bowler, CBA

Sourcing props to help you with your displays is the key to success. Remember, IKEA is great for inexpensive items such as small tables and storage boxes that can act as shelves within a display to give height and variation.

Here are some other great displays and tablescape ideas using a range of the Disney•Pixar Finding Dory partyware products.

To find out more about Disney•Pixar Finding Dory partyware range  and other collections, click HERE

The Disney•Pixar Finding Dory Qualatex Bubble Balloon is filled with vibrant colours and can be easily complemented with balloons in the Tropical Assortment range such as the "Birthday Classy Script" balloons shown in the bouquet.

For Disney•Pixar Finding Dory theme parties, I think this fabulous arch by Cam Woody, CBA, would make a great focal design. Children will have so much fun playing "under water!"

To learn how to make this Criss-Cross Arch by Cam Woody, click HERE

Here is another great idea that can be easily adapted to suit this very popular theme. This can be used as a centrepiece design or as floor-standing decor.

To make your own wonderful fish, you can simply follow this easy step-by-step recipe. You can make the fish in a variety of different sizes from 5" to 16", these make great accent details for designs, the 16" version is ideally filled with helium and the smaller versions with air.

Here are some more great design ideas!

This lovely design was made by Patrycja Lipińska of Patrycja Lipińska dla Dzieci in Warsaw, Poland. Patrycja has made some lovely fish using 6" Hearts for the bodies, a slight variation to the design shown above.

Good ideas come from everywhere, and your business can benefit from the latest blockbusters whether or not you’re a fan of the silver screen. From fabulous in-store window displays to Pinterest boards, there are no shortages of ways to attract customers with some movie magic.

Happy Ballooning!


Monday, October 31, 2016

'Making the Very Best Balloons,' by guest blogger Larry Moss

A bunch of years ago, my friends’ son, then still probably 6 or 7 years old, ran up to me one day to ask, “Where do they make balloons?” The question was inspired by a song with that very name by They Might be Giants. While the song never answers the question that it poses, he didn’t let that bother him at all. He knew I’d know the answer. And he was right. I immediately told him, “Hamilton, Ontario.” I could have easily given him a few different answers, but that was the one that mattered to me. The Hamilton plant is where most of the Qualatex balloons that I use come from.
After years of using the product, I was really excited when Kelly and I were invited to the plant for a tour. We’ve often found ourselves in conversations with Pioneer employees (makers of the Qualatex brand) about the abuse we put their balloons through, and also other artists about what they expect from the balloons they use. This tour would be a chance for us to get our questions answered about the product itself, while being able to share our experience and our knowledge of balloon artist needs with the people actually making our balloons. When their tour ended, we took them on our tour of what we do with their product. We had Pioneer employees, from the people making the balloons, to the people testing their strength, to the sales team, and even the COO, all twisting balloons and trying new things that they didn’t know their balloons were used for. The goal of all of this is to make an even better balloon by devising an even more rigorous quality control regimen than they already employ.

The tour begins.

How are latex balloons made?

We can break this down into a few general stages:
• Rubber trees, specifically the 
Hevea brasiliensis variety, are scored, allowing the latex to flow and collect in buckets. This is somewhat analogous to tapping a maple tree for syrup. And, like in the collection of maple, no harm is done to the tree.

• The collected latex is shipped to the plant where it’s tested and adjusted to make sure it’s consistent with the latex product used for all balloons the factory produces. Being a natural product, some variation is expected over time, like with any fruits or vegetables. Quite a bit of effort goes into ensuring consistency from batch to batch.
• Pigments are added to the latex to create the huge range of colors used for balloons.
• Forms are dipped into vats of colored latex and then run through large ovens to cure the rubber.
• Balloons are packaged and shipped out for use. Well over a million balloons can be produced in just this one plant each day.

Bare forms used to make 260Q balloons.

Bare forms used to make 11" round balloons.
Over time, the forms that have become scuffed and damaged are repaired and polished.

A worn form can be seen next to one just recently polished. It's critically important to have a smooth form. Forms are regularly inspected for imperfections.

Racks of forms of different sizes and shapes are ready to be used to produce more balloons.

A long term employee, skilled in color, adds pigments to the latex to make the rainbow of colors we're used to seeing.

How are balloons tested?

We were impressed when we saw the number of quality checks balloons go through before they ever reach us. With somewhere on the order of 100,000 balloons being used by our studio each year, and the millions I’ve used so far over the course of my career, I think I have a pretty good handle on what constitutes a good quality balloon. But I had no idea what things the quality control and quality assurance staff watch out for in order to flag bad balloons. 
That’s because, for the most part, we never see them. Sure, the occasional balloon gets through that we wish didn’t make it into our bag, but the rate at which they find their way to us is tiny. This is an item made from a natural ingredient that changes with every batch. When you watch the process and see the volume, it’s unbelievable just how many good balloons are produced.
I know. As users of any product, we all want perfection. That’s why it was great to see they do too. It was an eye opener to see just how much work they put into catching anything that goes wrong.
Random samples are pulled by hand from every box of balloons that comes off a line. They measure the thickness of the balloons in different places to check consistency through the balloon. They measure lengths and widths down to millimeters to make sure that they’re within reasonable tolerances. They inflate balloons and visually inspect them under bright lights for flaws. In the case of twisty balloons, they fold and twist them to stress them trying to make the bad balloons break. They even leave inflated and twisted balloons for a bit to see if they lose air after they’re inflated, carefully keeping track of which box these balloons came from. If any tests result in failures, more balloons are pulled and tests are repeated. So concerned about bad balloons getting through, that even a small number of bad balloons found in a large box results in hand sorting the batch. And too many bad balloons in a hand sort results in quite a bit of product being pulled before it can be passed on to consumers. A number of bad balloons even results in stopping the line completely, locating the cause of the problem, and pulling anything that may have been affected by the problem.
When we asked for more specifics on what problems they look for, we were shown a training manual with photos of almost every conceivable mistake that can come off the line. Most of what we saw in the book was stuff we’ve never seen reach us in the bags we’ve bought. We were even shown sample bags of flawed balloons that they save for training. They gave us a chance to see what flaws we could recognize just passing these samples through our hands.

260Q balloons on freshly dipped forms.

260Q balloons before their necks are rolled and the balloons are stripped from their forms.

A sheet of rubber that will get ground up and used in the inks that are applied to printed balloons.

This fun splatter of colored latex on the side of one of the dipping tanks gave us an idea of what colors have passed been used in the past.

How well does this testing work?

I could go on writing about how great Qualatex balloons are without identifying flaws, but you’ll soon accuse me of being a shill for Qualatex. So let’s step back and see what things look like in the real world. To a decorator transforming a room, every bad balloon costs time when the job has to be completed before the guests arrive. To a balloon twister at a festival, a popped balloon can be devastating to a child in line and can change the mood of the rest of the crowd. To an entertainer on stage, a single popped balloon can throw off the timing of a routine. So any bad balloon is a bad thing, and we all know some of those balloons reach us. It’s inevitable. The testing is on samples of balloons. It simply isn’t possible to test every balloon without raising the cost by at least an order of magnitude. And the testing they do is largely based on tests that were devised years ago when twisty balloons were used to make dogs. So, to make things better, you need to sample more balloons and devise newer twisting tests that stress the balloons in the ways we use them today. They’ve already implemented the former, and we made suggestions on the latter that we think will make a difference.
The amazing thing to us was hearing that they are aware that problems are getting through – at a higher rate than they like, and the individuals working the lines were really looking to do something about this. It never felt like the attempts to fix things were due only to corporate policy. 
Obviously a business needs to produce the best product it can to be successful. But these were individuals asking for help in improving their product. They could have easily, and justifiably, told us that after decades of doing this work, they know their product and are doing the best they can. They didn’t. They were intentionally asking outsiders for different ways of looking at this product that they know intimately. I’m an artist. I produce one item at a time. I had this image in my head of factory workers churning out mass quantities of balloons and never noticing or caring about individual pieces. That old image has now been replaced.

Boxes of balloons are sifted through by hand.

Individual balloons are spread out for inspection.

Random samples from every batch of balloons are pulled out using a statistically valid method, inflated, and twisted to ensure they behave as expected.

The checklist for every box of balloons is quite extensive. If any flaws are found, that checklist is used to locate the problem on the line.

Balloons from every box are randomly drawn for inspection.

Many of those balloons are folded and twisted.

What affects the behavior and quality of balloons?

Let’s say balloons leave the factory as perfect as possible and a problem still arises. How often are those problems due to a bad balloon being missed before packaging, and how often does a problem turn up further down the line? Think about all of those times you’ve carefully selected fruit in the grocery store, only to get home and find you have a bruised apple, or your disappointment when you see the banana that turned brown before you got to eat it. It turns out, balloons aren’t all that different. They too can break down—it depends, just like fruit, on how they are handled and stored. 

We asked about things that can go wrong, what we should watch for, and what we should do to improve our success with the balloons. The three biggest factors we discussed were:
• Temperature – Balloons are very sensitive to temperatures, first during manufacture, but then in our hands as well. When it comes to storing the balloons, whether for use on an up- coming job, or being tucked away because you’ll want them down the road, try to keep them in a cool, consistent temperature.
• Exposure to light – Nothing breaks down balloons faster than bright sunlight. Leave that bag of balloons on your porch or the dashboard of your car and it won’t take long before they’re useless. Keep them in a dark closet, and they’ll probably serve you well for a while.
• The stability of the balloons – They’re a natural product. They don’t last forever. Still, they can last years if stored correctly. We make a point of rotating our stock when possible so the older balloons are used first, but we have a few older balloons in colors that are no longer produced. Most of those have still performed reliably when needed.
Considering those factors when storing your balloons can help a lot. But there are some things we have no control over. Even the time spent in a delivery truck, something that's completely out of our control, may have an impact on our balloons.

Various tests are done in the lab, measuring the sizes of balloons carefully to make sure they match the standards that have been set.

The thickness of balloons is also examined to determine if they are within acceptable tolerances.

We noticed these mirrors scattered throughout the plant as a reminder to all employees that they play an important role in the quality of product shipped.

What came out of this visit?

Overall, the visit was very educational for all of us. Kelly and I learned a lot more about the 
production of the balloons, what we can expect from a bag of balloons, why and when things go wrong, and just how much effort goes into quality-checking our balloons. The plant employees learned more about our needs, how we use Qualatex balloons today, and even learned how to make a few things themselves.
I’ve taught a lot of balloon twisting classes over the years. I’ve taught artists that were learning to a use a new medium. I’ve taught people with no previous art training that could see a balloon as a toy that they ultimately were able to create with. Teaching this group was a unique experience. They already knew how to twist the balloons, but not how to create with them. They didn’t have the fear of balloon popping that so many other people have when they get started. They were genuinely interested in applying their knowledge of balloons to making things with them. And, like our suggestions making a difference in the way they test balloons, they were able to point out why some balloons broke in the middle of the class we were teaching. At one point, several balloons in a row broke and one of the QA people grabbed the bag the balloons came from and quickly jotted down the lot number so she could look into what may have gone wrong. The experience really made me feel good about using a product made by people that care about their end users’ experience. 

About Larry Moss

LARRY MOSS began his career in 1985 as a NYC street performer, but has gone on to display his amazing air-filled art in over a dozen countries on four continents. His achievements have been recognized by The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, CNN Headline, PBS, Smithsonian Magazine, American Profile and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Moss has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, NBC’s “Today” and at the White House, and has set two Guinness World Records. Larry is the author of many published ballooning books and founder of, a resource that services the balloon industry and communicates with over a half-million visitors annually. Larry also has a degree in applied math and computer science, as well as a master’s in elementary education from the University of Rochester.  Building community through his large-scale art creations is of particular interest to Larry, and was the focus of his 2009 TEDx talk in Rochester, NY.

A big thank you to Larry for sharing his experience on his recent tour of the Qualatex balloon production plant in Hamilton, Ontario, Canda. 

Happy Ballooning!