Friday, August 26, 2016

Balloon Basics - Microfoil® Balloons

This type of balloon is often called a foil, Mylar®, or a metallic balloon. However, they are not made from foil as you would imagine. They are actually made from a bi-axial nylon impregnated with aluminium on the outside to hold in the small molecules of helium or balloon gas and laminated with a polyethylene (plastic with a low melting point) coating on the inside to allow the material to be heat sealed. The material is then cut to the shape required and heat sealed at the edges. 




Due to their material, Microfoil® balloons are less porous than latex balloons, so they stay inflated longer. This type of balloon is NOT biodegradable.





Qualatex® Microfoil balloons are available in a wide range of colours that coordinate with the Qualatex latex colour range. Microfoil balloons range from 4” to 36” with a wide variety of shapes and designs.






Conwin Precision Plus Inflator.
Correctly inflated Microfoil balloons are firm with uniform creases along the seams (you must leave space for heat expansion). The 18” size and larger can be inflated with helium or balloon gas. For correct inflation, use an Automatic Foil Balloon inflator. These inflators have been designed to fill any size or shape Microfoil balloon to the optimum size (leaving the correct amount of creases) and will automatically cut-off when the balloon has reached its correct size. Using the wrong type of inflator can cause damage to the valve of a Microfoil balloon, plus you can easily overinflate these balloons, which could cause them to pop.



Friday, August 19, 2016

Balloon Basics - Inflating and Tying Latex Balloons

For many of you that regularly read the Very Best Balloon Blog, you probably already know all the basic techniques that we use. However, there are many that are new to the wonderful world of balloons, others that are self-taught, and those who might like a quick refresher! 
I would like to start by saying that there are no right or wrong techniques, just those that might be a little easier or have benefits when working with multiple balloons. I know that I tie balloons a little differently from some of my ballooning friends, but like many, I was self-taught and don't feel the need to change my technique as it works really well for me.

Latex Inflation
When inflating Qualatex® round latex balloons, it is important to fill them until the balloon forms a teardrop shape. An over-inflated round balloon develops a pear shape, whilst under-inflated balloons are more round in shape.


This rule does not apply to the giant latex 30" to 36" balloons, which are produced on different forms* and should be round rather than teardrop-shaped.

Latex balloons may be filled with air, helium*, or balloon gas.* Balloons that are 9" or smaller are generally filled with air rather than balloon gas or helium as they have a very limited floating time, which is generally not suitable for decor.

Balloons filled with air do not float and stay inflated considerably longer (weeks rather than hours) than those inflated with balloon gas or helium.

Balloons inflated with balloon gas or helium are affected by extremes in temperature and altitude. Helium expands in the heat and contracts in the cold. On hot days, when moving balloons from a cool environment to a warm or hot one, ensure that you slightly underinflate your balloons to allow for expansion. It is better to pre-inflate your balloons to their full size first using air, and then re-inflate to a smaller size with helium. For example, an 11" balloon can be pre-inflated to 11", deflated, and then re-inflated to 10.75" or 10.5". By not pre-inflating your balloons you may find that they will still pop even when underinflated.
On a cool day, slightly overinflate the balloons when moving from a warm environment to a cooler one.  In normal conditions, balloons inflated with balloon gas or helium should be inflated to their correct size to ensure maximum float time.
Personally, I would do some floating tests or trials when working in different temperatures to ensure that the balloons offer maximum float time in different conditions.

I recently wrote a blog, Balloons and the Great Outdoors, that may help you when working with balloons in different weather conditions.

Sizing Balloons
Sizing balloons is important for two reasons:


Very Best Balloon Sizer
Available at European Qualatex Distributors.
  • Ensuring that all your balloons are inflated to the same size when creating decor will offer a professional finish.
  • Balloons filled with balloon gas or helium will have the maximum floating time when inflated to the correct size.
You can use a sizing template to size a balloon. There are various options available to purchase, or you could make your own. 


Monday, August 15, 2016

Why should we use social media to promote our balloon business?

Social media is all about conversation, community, and content. Today, most people have at least one social media account, with Facebook still leading the pack with 1.65 billion monthly active users. That is a 15% increase over last year, (Top 20 Facebook Statistics by Zephorial Digital Marketing.)

The current fastest growing networks are Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Linkedin. Social media networks are a major resource for both small and big businesses to promote their brand or services online.

So why should we use social media to promote our balloon business?


90% of consumers go to the internet first to learn about or to be inspired as to what they want to buy.

      • Traditional marketing is very expensive and its effectiveness is questionable, especially for small businesses. Digital marketing in many cases is free, and a targeted campaign can be relatively low cost. It does take time to administer accounts, so make sure that you use your time and resources wisely.
      • Balloons and decor are extremely visual. What better way to show off what you do really well with photographs and videos - show it to sell it!
      • It's a fantastic way to reach a large but targeted audience.
Using a variety of social media channels to get your business noticed has to be an essential part of your business marketing. However, choosing the right social media channels for you and your business is very important. For most businesses, the best approach is to handpick social media channels that make the most sense for you and your brand, rather than try to be everywhere as you don't want to spread yourself too thin.

I have looked at three of the most popular social media channels and given a short assessment of the benefits of each one.


Facebook
Facebook still appears to be one of the best social media channels to use. You can use it to share photos, videos, promotions, and seasonal activities. Facebook can be more low-maintenance than other social networks.

Facebook cites these as being the main reasons why you should use Facebook for business to reach your business goals:

      • Driving online sales
      • Increasing local sales
      • Increasing brand awareness
      • Promoting your app
      • Finding leads
      • Social customer service
Looking as some of the more successful balloon related Facebook pages, it appears that regular posting is important, once a day, maybe twice occasionally, but don't be tempted to over post. Use a variety of post styles. Could show staff having fun on a job or even at a company social event, but don't use your business accounts to post personal stuff. Lifestyle photographs, even simple slogans or “saying of the day” posts, are useful in generating user interest in your page. Each type of post will generate a different reaction from your followers and it will keep your posts fun, interesting, and fresh. 
It is important to check your social media accounts every day, and respond to any comments, good or bad. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A creative hobby that turned into a wonderful children's book - an interview with Steven Mayhew

Recently, Steven Mayhew announced the completion and impending launch of his fabulous new ABC Balloon Book. I have known about this incredible project for some time, and each time Steven showed me one of his amazing designs I was simply in awe of his incredible talent. I am very excited that Steven has turned his dream into a reality and look forward to seeing many more exciting projects from the Balloon Workshop! 




What inspired you to create the ABC Balloon Book?
‟I was seeking a creative outlet of some type that I hoped would become a hobby. One day while searching for a project, I came across a greeting card for children that had a picture of an illustrated owl on it. Immediately everything clicked and I thought, I could create him out of balloons and make a picture book for kids. That then developed into creating an alphabet book as I felt the concept would be easier for a reader to understand exactly what they were looking at. So not only did I find my project, I felt like the work I was doing was for something greater than myself - using balloons to get children excited about reading.” 
When did you start working on the book and how long did it take from conception to completion?
‟I started working on the book in March of 2012. I really kicked it into gear two years ago and worked on the project almost every night and every weekend. I created an album in my phone and when the next image was finished, I'd add the image to it so I could visually see what each one looked like next to each other. This little task inspired and motivated me to keeping going as I literally saw the book coming to life before my eyes.”
Where did you start? Did you have a logical process?
‟I started with the frog. I immediately had an idea of this tropical, colorful frog sitting on a branch and thought, 'Well, if I'm inspired to start a few letters in, why argue with inspiration.' From that point I would just jump around from letter to letter as an idea would hit. Friends and family would ask, 'so which letter are you at now?' and I had to explain, I wasn't going in order. I didn't want to force anything. Some animals I wasn't looking forward to, only because I had no idea what I was going to do. However, at some point an idea for an animal would jump out at me, and I was immediately excited to get to work. Looking back, I'm glad I went with my inspirational instinct and didn't force myself to work on an animal when I wasn't ready, otherwise it would have been drudgery.” 
How did you choose which animals to show in the book?
‟I have a sister who had a toddler at the time I began the project. I spent many hours talking through each letter with her to decide on which animal I'd create for each letter. She'd have all of my niece's ABC books out and the many I had purchased on my end were out as I figured out each letter. I had to continuously compromise on things like, I can't create an iguana because I already have a lizard like creature, the newt, so I have to pick another 'I' animal, but one not too difficult for kids. I had already three or four animals created by the time I finalized the entire list. I already knew certain ones I wanted to develop and I was excited to get to work!”

Which would you say was the most complicated, challenging, or technical design that you created for the book? 

‟Each animal had its own complicated design element at some point. However, I would say the most difficult was the jellyfish. I created the structure three times before I finally got what I wanted. The first one had no personality in it by the way it was positioned to portray movement. The second was far too large at almost 5 ft., and again, it didn't give me the look I was going for. It wasn't until I decided to create an armature that would hold the wiring for the tentacles and devised a way to double stuff the head with a Qualatex® SuperAgate®
balloon and a 3 ft. clear balloon. I finally settled on a technique I learned from Sue Bowler where you press a flat board against a fully inflated balloon. As you push down, the air is pushed out of the balloon and it wraps around the back edges of the board. I went through about ten 3 ft. balloons of each color trying to get two balloons on to the same board; not to mention trying to inject just the right amount of air into each of the balloons before they would snap off the board. That design took me three months to finally complete.” 

The book really does not fully show the scale of all of the designs that you made. Which was the biggest animal and biggest scene that you made? 

‟I think in any art project, the final design never shows the full scale of what it took to get there or how big something might have really been. This project was no exception. You are correct though, you don't see how big some of these designs were or what happened leading up to the final image. I'd say the largest design is tied between the giraffe and the elephant. The giraffe’s body and neck (not including the head) stood about 6 ft. tall with an intricate aluminum rod frame I had built.



The elephant's head on the other hand was massive, but horizontally. The head was about 2.5 ft. wide but each of the ears stretched about 3-4 ft. in either direction, which were cut from 5 ft. chloroprene balloons.”

Did you make all the designs in their entirety or just partially for the shoot?
‟Yes and no. My goal was to create as much as I could for one shot, but that's not realistic as colors and shapes of balloons are not available in every size and color under the sun. For example, I wanted to create a fat, blubbery look for the walrus' body but next to filling 3 ft. balloons with water and battling them to stand on top of each, I opted to fill 11" balloons with clay, suck out the air, and mold them into place. The walrus' head, however, was much larger, and due to the fact that 160Qs are the smallest entertainer balloon available, I had to create the whiskers on a 3 ft. balloon. However, some animals like the monkey and the owl, to name a few, were taken in one shot.”

Which was your favourite animal to make and why? 
‟It's hard to pick a favorite. There were animals I was excited to get to, and then there animals that I was a little less excited to create, but then the final design turned out amazing. My favorites are the ones I feel show the most personality or expression such as the alligator, the giraffe, and the vulture. But if I had to choose one, it'd probably be the alligator. He wasn't the original design for 'A.' I had already built and photographed a whole scene with an aardvark and its baby eating ants from a balloon ant hill. It was one of my first designs I built and coming back to it at the end, my work had evolved so much that how I made it didn't fit with the others. That's when the idea of an alligator in the bayou with lightening bugs and weeping willows at sunset popped in my head...and I immediately got to work.” 

You have used a lot of distortion to create fantastic shapes for your animals. Do you use anything to help you when you distort your balloons?
‟Distortion was a very important technique used to create parts of the animals as I didn't want them to all just look like the balloon animals we all know and love. I kept my tools simple when it came to distorting the balloons - a balloon straw, a basic pump, an Air-Pro inflator, the Nikoloon System by Niko Fric, and whole lot of patience.”
To find out more about distortion techniques check out my earlier posts:
Distortion Techniques Part 1
Distortion Techniques Part 2
Distortion Techniques Part 3

Can you tell me more about your education program? 

‟At the beginning of this year I connected with a gentleman who has a lot of experience working with authors and school presentations. He was extremely impressed with my artwork and the fact it was all geared towards early literacy, so we began collaborating on a presentation about the book. I felt it wasn't only important to cover the fascinating history of balloons but also cover balloon safety as it pertains to children, and give them the opportunity to make a balloon design themselves. Most importantly, though, is the literacy side, which is why I also developed activity guides based of the book that kids will have a chance to work on to better their abilities to recognize letters, differentiate lower and uppercase letters, writing words, and more. It's designed to be interactive, educational, and keep kids' attention.”
Are you planning to teach any of these designs in the future?
‟At this time I do not. My focus right now is getting this book into children's hands and then getting to my next balloon education projects.”
Do you have any future plans or projects?
‟I do! In the process of learning the world of children's book publishing, I have taken classes and courses on a variety of topics that has allowed me to develop my own stories. I have big plans for The Balloon Workshop and I'm looking forward to creating some of these ideas that have been in my head for the past couple of years, all geared towards early childhood development. So stay tuned, because you haven't seen nothing yet!” 
In what format will the book be available?
‟At launch, the book will be available in a hard cover format. It's 8.5" x 11" and includes 26 balloon landscapes along with original design sketches and a photo collage of the making of the book. I wanted to make the book a high quality product that anyone would be happy to give or receive as a gift, which is why it also includes a beautiful, custom-designed dust jacket. If you stay connected to us through social media (links below) we'll announce new formats of the book as they are available.”


When will the book be available to purchase?
‟Pre-orders for the book will open in the coming weeks, so make sure to sign-up at www.TheBalloonWorkshop.com to be notified of when they will be available to order. Books will begin shipping at the beginning of December 2016, perfect timing for Christmas!”

Steven Mayhew, CBA

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and raised in Mesa, Arizona, Steven was introduced to balloons through his first job as a children’s entertainer for parties. Moving to Los Angeles in the early 2000’s, he opened and ran his own balloon decorating company before transitioning to the corporate world of the balloon industry. Later Steven earned his CBA®(Certified Balloon Artist™) and began teaching the art of balloon decor at seminars and conventions around the world.
Combining his many years of experience in balloons and graphic design, Steven developed this new medium where the art of storytelling and balloons come together.
He now dedicates his time to bringing new products and educational materials to life through the fun and colorful world of balloons.

I am really excited for Steven, I think that anyone who can turn their dreams into a reality should be very proud of their accomplishment! And to think it all started with a Qualatex balloon! 

Happy Ballooning!

Sue


To sign-up to be notified of when you can order the ABC Balloon Book and for more information about Steven Mayhew’s Balloon Workshop visit: www.TheBalloonWorkshop.com

Follow Steven Mayhew’s Balloon Workshop on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Balloon-Workshop-975952179125383/
Twitter @ balloonwkshop
Instagram @ balloonwkshop
YouTube: The Balloon Workshop