Wednesday, January 25, 2017

International Balloon Art Festival India

I recently had the privilege to travel to New Delhi, India, to work with Fiona Fisher, CBA, of Worldwide Balloon Decor in Portadown, Ireland. Fiona was commissioned by Select Citywalk to build India’s largest balloon sculpture in one of the country's prestigious shopping malls. The Hot Air balloon sculpture took centre stage as part of the first International Balloon Art Festival that was being held from the 14th to 27th of January, 2017.

Fiona is no stranger to building large balloon sculptures and has won a number of industry awards for her incredible balloon sculptures. Fiona believes that competing at industry events, such as the World Balloon Convention gave her more confidence in her abilities, allowed her to move out of her comfort zone, and provide the opportunity to make things that she would not normally be able to build, primarily because of the space required and the costs involved. But she feels that the most invaluable thing was the ability to take fabulous photographs of her work that she uses to show prospective clients.
In  2013, Fiona was commissioned to build the most iconic ship in the world, The Titanic, on the 100th anniversary of its sinking.

To find out more about this incredible sculpture, check out my post Building the Titanic - an interview with designer Fiona Fisher.

Day 1 - Framing.
It was agreed that it would be more exciting and enjoyable for the visitors and shoppers to watch the sculpture being built from start to finish. So on the first day, we marked out a large space in the centre of the shopping mall and started work on building the frame for the hot air balloon. 

Not only did Fiona have very detailed plans and drawings of the frame to be constructed, she also pre-built the entire frame in Ireland prior to the trip to ensure that everything worked as she expected! It also gave her the opportunity to work out the exact balloon sizes we would need to make for each section of the design.

By the end of day 1, Fiona with her team had built the upper half of the frame, ready for the first balloons to be added the next day.

Day 2 - Ballooning the frame.

Having built the frame, it was now time to add balloons. Using the new Premium Twin-Air Inflators, thousands of Qualatex® balloons, and an eager team of helpers, we got started. 

Just seeing the first balloons on the frame really started to bring the balloon sculpture to life, and of course, it attracted a great deal of attention from the shoppers and mall staff. 

Some of our amazing helpers! 

By the end of day one, we had completed the top half of the balloon. It felt great, and we were totally on schedule!

The hot air balloon was not the only balloon sculpture that was being built and exhibited at the festival. Designers Rama Krishna and Pratap Puli of Balloon Experts in Vijayawada, India,
designed and built four smaller, well-recognised Indian sculptures that were displayed around the shopping mall.

Rama Krishna and Pratap Puli of Balloon Experts

Days 3 & 4
It was now time to complete the full balloon frame, and bring it up to its full, magnificent size. A winch and chain had been installed to allow Fiona to move the sculpture to whatever height she required it to be whilst adding the balloons, and then to its ultimate final position.

Day 5 - Finishing Touches

Our mission was almost complete. We had finished the hot air balloon and its basket, all that remained was to add a few characters and to shroud the base of the basket within balloon clouds. During the past five days we had attracted many admirers and now the balloon was finished. Many took the time to come and tell us how wonderful they thought it was. Fiona’s magnificent sculpture also made the news with a fabulous article featured in India’s number 1 newspaper - The Times of India.

I know that Fiona has been working on this project for some considerable time. It can take a great deal of time to share the vision of such a huge project, plus all the negotiations and fine detail to work through. Projects like this do not just happen; selling the dream takes hard work and determination. 

Fiona Fisher 

Here are a few statistics:

The hot air balloon stood 30 ft. tall with an 18 ft. in diameter. Fiona used approximately 10,000 balloons and 70 lengths of 10 ft. aluminum rod for the frame. The balloon took five days to complete from start to finish with the help of a fantastic team!

Congratulations to Fiona Fisher and a big thank you to Qualatex, Jag Dhillon, Lois Devlin, Party in a Box, Gaurav Chadha, Rama Krishna, Pratap Puli, Rohit Mathur, and all the wonderful Qualatex Balloon Boutique owners who came along each day to help! It was an absolute honour and pleasure to work on such a wonderful project and to work with such a fabulous and passionate group of balloon artists! 

Happy Ballooning!


Sunday, January 15, 2017

It's official: "Organic Balloon Decor" is a trend that is here to stay.

So what exactly is organic balloon decor?  If you look at Pinterest and type "organic balloon decor," you will see an array of designs including Arches, Swags, and table runners that use different balloons inflated to a variety of sizes with accent elements such as tissues, flowers, and foliage. This style of decor breaks all the rules that we would normally strive for in terms of elegant, precise lines and consistent balloon sizes.
Wedding Arbour by Sue Bowler, CBA.

If I am honest, I don't believe that it's a totally new trend. It's like fashion; they come and they go. Looking back on some of the designs that we made when I was part of the Conwin design team, the organic look was definitely present then, but maybe not to the same extent as it is today.

I asked a few of my wonderful ballooning friends if they would give their interpretation of this style of balloon art.

Anne McGovern, CBA, of Elegant Balloons in New York, U.S.A.
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"I still have a problem with this whole 'organic'  thing, but it is definitely growing on me. I believe that it started with a half balloon Arch that a non-balloon person made. I think it was for a photo shoot! And it seems to have been evolving from there. I still have a problem making designs like this because it goes against everything we are taught! But one thing I have learned is to NOT overthink it and to walk away, because it's never going to be perfect, which is the point I guess! 
One thing that I found is to make the basic Columns or Arch first using the 4-balloon duplets of different sizes to different sizes and make the Column or Arch like you would normally make.  After it is made just add balloons as needed, but try not to go overboard using a lot of smaller balloons for the Arches, Columns etc., so you do not need to use as many balloons. 
Table Runner by Anne McGovern, CBA.

For the table runner, I made a regular square pack Garland,  and because I wanted it to sit flat on the table,  I made the square pack all same size, rather than the random sizing that I would use for a Column or Arch. I then added the 'organic' look to it with the random-sized balloons and greenery."

Tina Giunta, CBA, of Shivoo Balloons in Melbourne, Australia.
"A few years back I received an email to quote on that dreaded purple hanging balloon arrangement! It was obviously a DIY design, and I just couldn’t bring myself to copy it as it was in the picture —all I saw at the time was a clump of messy, unevenly-sized balloons! Although, I did really like the idea of mixing in the tissue paper puffs. So I convinced the client to let me come up with my own version. I also didn’t want the hassle of hanging the design, so I made my version a centrepiece.  I spent so much time perfecting this first piece, I was trying really hard to make it messy, but my brain kept telling me to fill in the gaps and neaten it up! All these years of conditioning to size my balloons perfectly was really difficult to fight. Suddenly, everything you know gets thrown out the window and you have to do the exact opposite!

Because of Pinterest, more and more clients started to ask for this style of decor, so I made the conscious decision to stop fighting it and take every opportunity to experiment.  I’m now at the point that I prefer to do organic decor because I really love the look of it! Even if I’m just adding a collar to a balloon or creating a balloon cluster as a base, I prefer to vary the sizes, mix in pearls, or clear confetti balloons with standards. Or, add a little greenery or a tissue paper tuft. I love having the freedom to be more creative. I actually find it far more rewarding. 
To some it may seem easy to throw together some randomly sized balloons to make a Garland or Arch, or whatever it may be, but it’s still important to make the piece look balanced and harmonious. All the principles and elements of design still apply.

I still fall into the trap of fussing too much at times and over working the detail, but I’ve learnt the trick is to walk away! And when you come back with fresh eyes, you look at the design as a whole piece, not at the detail.
I find it quite easy to sell organic to my clients because it’s still seen as something new. And really, social media has made it so easy for us! With all the beautiful work floating around at the moment it sells itself. All I need to do is post my versions of it on my pages whenever possible to remind clients that we do this style of work."
David Mahoney of Balloons Everyday, Carrollton, TX, United States shares his opinion on this technique.
"Organic is a Pinterest monster, but it is also a very PROFITABLE monster when priced right. So many misunderstand how to properly look at this design and charge for it.
I was talking to the girls in my office, and one of the girls asked why it cost so much. I asked them to compare it to something they know. I asked them how many balloons do we need to use when we do a standard size Column or standard size Arch. They said 4 or 6 bags depending on the pattern. I asked them how many balloons do we use when we build an organic. They said for each color we have to order 5", 11", 16", 36", plus clears and printed balloons in all those sizes sometimes, too. 

In this picture, the client just wanted pinks—there is Wild Berry, Rose, Coral, Pink, Pearl Pink, Pearl Magenta, and Diamond Clear. So in an organic design, I have to order in 26 to 36 more balloons to create that effect versus a standard design.
That is 8 to 9 times the number of balloons and cost in an organic design verses a standard design, and that's before I have even inflated a single balloon. That is why we charge so much more for anything organic ($55.00 per foot verse $12.00 per foot for standard Columns and Arches). Plus, we charge a much bigger setup and delivery charge on organic decor.
I hope that helps others to maybe look at what they are charging when it comes to organic and consider if they are charging enough."

Sarah Courtney of Belle Balloons in Melbourne, Australia tells us what she thinks about the organic trend.

"What is organic decor to me? Well firstly, I'm not sure I love the term 'organic.' It honestly just reminds me of food, and I can assure you as much as I love to do 'organic' balloon work my diet is far from organic! 
I like to say that my work reflects my life. I don't live to a schedule, my life is fast-paced, and I create big impact quickly, getting through as many things as I can in a single day. Basically, that is exactly what I am doing with balloons. I envy those capable of patience and detail, but have also drawn a conclusion that to do well in life, you have to find assets in your flaws.

I am new(ish) to the industry. My first balloon class was one of yours (Sue Bowler) about 4 years ago in Melbourne. I absolutely loved it, so I say all of this without judgement, as everything I know has come from learning the basics of traditional balloon work. 
To me, it seems that for a long time people have used balloons to create something else, be it a Column an Arch or a clown! For me, this 'organic' style of work is about using the balloons as a medium to create art. Taking something as simple as a balloon and using its various sizes, colours, shades, and tones (Metallic vs Standard vs Jewel) to create a piece.  Then on top of that, we have started adding in new textures using a second medium, be it flowers, paper decorations or something else. For me, this style of work is simply about using balloons as a medium to create something visually pleasing or at least interesting to the eye.
What do my Customers think of this style of work?  I guess I haven't asked anyone directly, but from what I can tell, this new style has opened people's eyes to the possibilities that are balloons. For so long, balloons have been put in the 'kids' party box, and only the brave would risk adding them to an adult event. Now with this 'organic' style of work and the increased use of oversized balloons, we are seeing sophisticated and edgy designs perfect not only for the likes of your at home 50th birthday party, but also for weddings and even your high-end corporate functions. 
The word 'balloon' scares people in the event industry, but I see a shift in that. I hear it from many of my regular customers. They say when they suggest balloons to their clients, the client wrinkle up their noses or laugh at the idea only to be shown a few images and instantly fall in love with this new modern twist on balloons. 

Do I think this will be a passing trend? Absolutely not. Yes, balloons have taken a recent spike in popularity, but I think that's come into play due to social media and its ability to create awareness. Previously, if you went to an event that had beautiful decor, you and the other guests saw it and then maybe went away and booked something similar for your next party. Now, a single event can have thousands of secret onlookers. Through sharing and tagging we are now exposed to beautiful ideas from inside people's homes to behind closed doors at invite-only events! That has never happened before. Second to that, social media has allowed people from all different creative backgrounds to draw inspiration from each other's work. I made my first 'organic' Garland two years ago, and it was done based on a floral arrangement.  I just created it with balloons. That's what's so wonderful about social media. It gives us the ability to share and grow our work, drawing on inspiration and inspiring others! When it comes to balloons, I truly believe people just didn't know how amazing they could be, and slowly but surely through the powers of sharing, everyone will be shown."

Personally, my own experience with the organic look is limited. Last year, I made an organic-style frame with Vanessa Moscardini that we used as part of a window display. I definitely felt uncomfortable using random- sized balloons, but I think I would like to work on this style of decor more this year. My first challenge will be Spring Fair in February, where I have decided to create two designs using the organic look as part of my window displays! So watch this space. I will be keeping a photo log on how it goes and will share it with you after the fair!

A huge thank you to Anne McGovern, Tina Giunta, David Mahoney, and Sarah Courtney who all very generously share their experience and wisdom working on this style of balloon decor!

Happy 'Organic' Ballooning!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Qualatex® Event Slovenia makes a big splash!

Alberto Falcone, CBA. 
Late last year I had the pleasure of teaching at the Qualatex Event Slovenia. I love to teach at this event, not only because it's hosted in a spa hotel, which makes for a fun and a very lively welcome party, but also because I get to meet up with so many of my wonderful ballooning friends from around the world. This year was no exception. We had more than 150 delegates from more than 23 different countries.

For me, the event started with nine delegates from across Europe and Israel taking their CBA exam. The room was filled with anxiety and nerves at the beginning of the exam as always, but after a few short minutes everyone relaxed and did their best work. And of course they were awesome, with everyone passing!
A huge congratulations to:
Nikita Fric, CBA.
Roland Repaski, CBA.
Maayan Guri, CBA.
Zsuzsanna Ernst, CBA.
Erika Zeke, CBA.
Itai Yekoutiely, CBA.
Mike Hurst, CBA.
Iren Ille, CBA.
Barbara Tocaj, CBA.

Welcome to the CBA family!

CBA exam in progress.

CBA exam designs.

Whilst we were working away on the CBA exam, others were busily working hard to make the decor for the opening "Pool Party" headed by Colin Stewart, CBA, of SBB World Class BalloonART in Alliston, Ontario, Canada. 
Decor in the making.

Colin leading the decor on the move.

Entrance decor.

Ceiling palm tree's with fun monkeys.

Here are a few photographs from the party. It 's looks like those monkeys got everywhere!

Some of the new CBAs celebrating Hawaiian style.
Fun and frolicking in the pool!

This event has a variety of competitions. One of my favourite is the Wedding Table competition, where competitors create an unforgettable wedding table design. Here are a few of the amazing designs, starting with the winners.

1st Place - Wedding Red Passion by the Manola Team.

2nd Place - Grape Wedding by Team Russia.

3rd Place - Coral Light by Smileyland.

Flamingo by Poklon Shop Balon.

Tender Pearl by Belarus Team.

Just Married by Alon Balon Group.

White Love by Avital Shechter.

Butterfly Dream by Lufipark.

Filigree Fantasy by Frank Jeschke.
 Medium sculpture competition with the theme "love."

1st Place - Just Married by Sdshar.
2nd Place - Time for Love by Avital Shechter.
3rd Place - Throwing Hearts by Frank Jeschke, CBA.
There are so many fabulous photographs from this event it has been so hard to choose, but here are a few more that really show off this event as being such an amazing, fun, and exciting event to attend!

Renata and Nikita Fric of Magic Baloni and Party Shop.
Niko Fric with Nikita
Nikolett Forray of Balloon World Hungary with Marie Gransbury of Pioneer Europe.

Congratulations to all the amazing instructors; Alberto Falcone, CBA, Colin Stewart, CBA, Niko Fric, CBA, Zsolt Dömötör, Olga Baranova, CBA & Olga Samoylova, CBA, Nikita Fric, CBA, Maayan Guri, CBA, Vladimir Mikek, Andrea Nemeth, CBA, Romana Kolenc, CBA, Andrea Noel, Pieter van Engen, CBA and Sue Bowler, CBA. I was very proud to be part of such an amazing team of international instructors!

A huge thank you to Renta, Niko, and Nikita Fric, along with Nikolett Forray for organising and hosting this fantastic event! I hope to see you again next year!

Credit must also be given to the fabulous photographers Damjan Pajk and Gregor Sulejmanovič.

Happy Ballooning!