Friday, April 28, 2017

Medium Sculpture Competition BACI 2017

I have just returned from BACI — Balloon Arts Convention Italy, held in Florence, Italy, from the 24th to the 26th April 2017. Once again, we were wowed by some truly inspiring and talented balloon artists who took part in this year's Medium Sculpture Competition. This year's theme was "Once Upon A Time," and all the entries interpreted the theme in very exciting and different ways.

The balloon sculptures had to be built within twelve hours, with a maximum of seven people in each team. The space allocated for each sculpture was 2 x 2 x 3m high.

This year's winners were the Russian team headed up by team captain Vadim Shushkanov, CBA

  • Title: "The Eye of Sauron"
  • Description: Captain: Vadim Shushkanov
  • Copyright: © Silvia Ingrid Cotellessa ©TheDarkroom
Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

To experience a little of the fun and excitement from this competition, check out the video below!

Here are all the other amazing entries.

In second place, Alberto Falcone, CBA. 
Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

  • Title: "Il Tempo a volte e' solo un secondo"
  • Description: Captain: Alberto Falcone
  • Copyright: © TheDarkroom/Simone Serio

In third place,  Barbara Biagioni, CBA.

  • Title: "Nascondino (Hide-and-Seek)"
  • Description: Captain: Barbara Biagioni
  • Copyright: © TheDarkroom/Simone Serio

Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

Alessandro Patane', CBA.
  • Title: "The Mogways"
  • Description: Captain: Alessandro Patane'
  • Copyright: © Silvia Ingrid Cotellessa
Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

Carlo Vavenotti, CBA

  • Title: "Asteroide B-612"
  • Description: Captain: Carlo Vavenotti
  • Copyright: © Silvia Ingrid Cotellessa

Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

Sara Zampini, CBA.
  • Title: "Paths"
  • Description: Captain: Sara Zampini
  • Copyright: © Silvia Ingrid Cotellessa

Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

Mariann Nagy, CBA.

  • Title: "The Secret of my Teddy Bear"
  • Description: Captain: Mariann Nagy
  • Copyright: © TheDarkroom/Simone Serio

Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

Alberto Nava, CBA.
  • Title: "Everyday Princess"
  • Description: Captain: Alberto Nava
  • Copyright: © Silvia Ingrid Cotellessa

Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

Tania Torre, CBA
  • Title: "We'll make a lovely dress"
  • Description: Captain: Tania Torre
  • Copyright: © Silvia Ingrid Cotellessa
Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

Jose' Luthman, CBA

  • Title: "The flute player"
  • Description: Captain: Jose' Luthman
  • Copyright: © Silvia Ingrid Cotellessa
Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

Federico Onida, CBA.
  • Title: "La volpe e l'uva"
  • Description: Captain: Federico Onida
  • Copyright: © TheDarkroom/Simone Serio
Photo by EVGENY BAGRETSOV ©Darkroom

Congratulations to all the teams! Every sculpture was truly amazing and beautiful; it must have been very difficult for the judges to choose the winners. In my eye's, you are all winners. A huge thank you to The Darkroom Academy who took all these amazing photographs. For more fabulous photographs from this year's BACI, click HERE.

Happy Ballooning!



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Giant Balloons, Confetti Balloons, Tassels, and Organic Decor — Modern Balloon Styling by Shannon Kilford, Born to Party, Sydney, Australia.

We are all becoming a little organic crazy And it would appear that in Australia, they are pretty good at it!  

Shannon Kilford's ballooning career started when she applied for a job to manage a little party shop called Born To Party, in Sydney, Australia. Little did she realise that on her first day that she was going to be learning how to make balloon Topiary Balls and that one day the shop would be hers!  

I recently met Shannon through working on one of my blogs, A Look At Colour Trends for Spring 2017. Whilst doing my research, I discovered some of Shannon's fabulous designs on Instagram, and I was very inspired by her style.
"My very first organic design was to decorate a stand at one of Sydney's largest makers markets that happens twice a year. I inflated way too many balloons, so I took them back to the shop and made them into Garlands for our table and to float off a giant balloon. This was two years ago. It took off from there!" 

"For this Garland, we were approached to create a super glamorous embellished Garland in navy, white and silver for a client's 40th birthday. We used a combination of Pearl White, White, Silver, Pearl Midnight Blue, and we double stuffed Onyx Black into Jewel Sapphire to create the shiny navy balloons. We then embellished the Garlands with honeycomb balls, silver tassels, silver fringing, and 16" silver confetti balloons! Originally our party girl only wanted one Garland but because of the layout of the room, we had to go for two gorgeous Garlands for symmetry. We finished the room off with giant silver confetti balloons decorated with mini organic style collars and our handmade tassel garlands. I love walking back into the room when we are finished packing up. If I am in love, I know our client will be too!" 
Shannon Kilford
"Eighteen fabulous years ago I first started working with balloons. I did the beginners workshop through Qualatex® Balloon Company in Australia and got to attend my first Australian Balloon Convention in the first year of being employed at Born To Party. Once I knew the basics and a few advanced techniques, I was able to figure out a lot of the designs for myself and I grew from there by experimenting and taking time to 'play' with balloons. I always try out new designs and ideas and use them in our shop window displays. There is so much education happening this year in Australia. It's super exciting! After so long in the industry, it's exciting to be still learning and enjoying all the new trends in balloon world!"
I asked Shannon to tell me a little about her business.
"Born to Party is a brick and mortar store that has been open for twenty eight years this year! The shop specialises in boutique partyware and modern balloon styling. We still do classic decor, but we have chosen to focus on the modern goodies for now. I am the shop's fifth owner and have now owned it for nearly twelve of those twenty eight years. I have five employees. One is my newbie and is full-time. The other four are permanent part-time, and all have been with Born To Party for the long haul. We are a family-run store and our staff are like family, too. My dear Mum works with me, as well as helping in the shop, helping look after my little ones. She also does the admin side of things for me as it is not one of my hidden talents. She is my godsend! I couldn't do this without her or my other staff members for that matter, either." 

What do you believe has worked well for you to grow your business?
"We worked hard at getting the word out that we specialise in the more modern type of balloon decor that is sending Pinterest and Instagram crazy! We do expos, work on collaborations with some of Sydney's most loved stylists on styled shoots, and got involved with an influencer/blogger. We are currently working on a complete makeover. We've just launched our new logo. We are also having all of our stationary re-designed and our new sparkly website is currently under construction. I want our new website to take us to the next level, so watch this space! 

I am also a passionate Instagram user! This social media platform has literally changed my life and my business! 90% of our customers use it and come to us with pictures off our Instagram account requesting a particular design. I also find it useful for instant messaging and sending images back and forth to my clients. Not many days go by when I'm not using direct messages to communicate with my clients this way! As our account grows, so does our business. It's definitely not a coincidence. You are welcome to check out our Instagram here;
We also use Facebook, and in the beginning it was a great tool for growing our business. But since Facebook made changes to its reach for business pages, it is not nearly as good as it used to be so we don't focus on it as much  as we used to."

What do you believe are the essential tools for running and marketing your business?
"Running essentials; that would be my Conwin machines! We get twice the work done than in old days when we used tanks, regulators, basic air inflators, and hand sized everything. We also use top quality balloons, Qualatex of course! If we try a new product and it's not up to scratch, we simply won't use it no matter how much money we save. 
Marketing essentials; for me, it's social media and our commitment to producing good quality beautiful work with a smile! The best type of marketing is free! Provide an amazing service with an equally amazing product and your customers will spread the word for you — and they will return time and time again! We don't pay for any advertising except for on kids party vendor websites. We literally get the majority of clientele from repeat business, word of mouth, and Instagram!"

 What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
 "Educate yourself! Not only in the fundamentals of balloon art, but educate yourself on how to price your work. You don't want to work for free! Only use 'The Very Best Balloons' and associated products. Don't be tempted to cut corners to save a penny; the end result and possible disaster most definitely isn't worth it. Find yourself a network within the industry. Having friends in the industry is invaluable. You never know when you might need a friend or two to come to your rescue, give you advice or just listen to you rant. I could go on and on, but my other piece of advice is don't be afraid of competition. Use it to your advantage to hone your craft, come up with new amazing designs, and up the ante on your customer service skills! Rise above it and become a savvier business person at the same time."
"1st birthday parties are certainly becoming very luxe! For this special little girl's birthday, we created nearly 15 meters of Garland in 2-meter sections so we could fit it in the van. We used a beautiful combination of Pearl, Fashion and Standard Pinks with Pearl Chiffon Lemon and Gold in 5", 11", 16", 3ft, and 30"! This is one of my favourites, and this is also my personal favourite colour combination! We also collaborated with Michelle from Party Splendour on this job. She created another Garland to mirror this at the back of the room and supplied a heap of 3-footers and tassels. We have worked on a couple of very cool jobs together."
"We mostly work for private clients and amazing event stylists on special occasions. At the moment, our biggest and most lavish events we are working on are mostly christenings and 1st birthdays. 40th birthdays seem to super popular to celebrate in a big way at the moment as well. We are having loads of fun!"

What types of balloon decor, colours, or themes are most often requested?
"Giant balloons, Confetti Balloons, tassels, and organic decor are all by far our most requested designs. It's still all about pinks and gold, and we are seeing navy, gold, and white becoming popular for our boys. Burgundy and pinks are also starting to trend!  We go through twice as many pink balloons as any other colour and a tonne of gold confetti. Gold confetti is everywhere. It even comes home in my pockets!"
 Organic style decor is really popular at the moment, and you do it very well. 
" I love the freedom and creativity of blending the colours and sizes to make it perfect and have that beautiful organic flow. Every piece is so unique. It is beautiful watching them take shape."

Do you have any tips that you would share when creating an organic style design?

"Select your colours carefully. Make sure they are complimentary.
Make sure your balloons are nice and round. They tend to stick out if they are inflated to their true size.
Use many sizes! We tend to use 8 - 10 different sizes in our garlands. For us, this seems to produce our nicer looking garlands.
Where possible, use different types of balloons to create different textures in your colours. In a lot of mine and other artist's Garlands, you will notice we use a combination of Pearl, Fashion, and Standard balloons. I do this to create depth, texture, and interest in a design. It doesn't always work, but that sometimes comes down to colour choice."
 "I love the 3ft balloons, especially Diamond Clear. I love any opportunity to dress them up with confetti. We have over 60 different types: all the colours, different sizes and shapes. I love adding flowers, tassels, honeycombs — anything to make them super special and fun."

Pantone Greenery inspired Garland. 
"This job was inspired by a watercoloured foliage invitation for a bridal shower in a pavilion directly on the beach! We had only thirty  minutes to install the 8-meter Garland, which was super tight, but we did it even though it was howling with wind and pouring with rain! We surprised the client by adding ferns at the last minute, and I'm so glad we were able to do this extra element as it really bought the Garland to life and they were stoked! We used Qualatex Spring Green, Winter Green, Dark Green, Pearl Emerald, Pearl Mint Green, and Pearl Teal. We also double stuffed Onyx Black into Jewel Emerald 3ft balloons." 

I would like to thank Shannon for sharing her wonderful ballooning story and for certainly inspiring me and hopefully many others with her modern balloon styling!

Happy Ballooning!

Sue Bowler

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Alberto Falcone, CBA. Is On The Road For The Qualatex World Tour!

I love this display. Alberto created this for an exhibition trade stand for a baby clothing company. The use of his fabulous flowers is pure art and
injects so much colour and vibrancy to the display. 

Who cannot love the fabulous work of the very talented artist, Alberto Falcone, CBA? Alberto's balloon career started 20 years ago after attending an event organised by Balloon Express in Florence, Italy. For the first few years, like so many of us, Alberto's balloon career started out as a hobby. But after many requests for event decor, Alberto felt it was time to take his hobby more seriously!

Alberto loves to work with all Qualatex® balloons, but at this time he favours Quick Link Balloons™. When I asked him why, he told me that he has so much to discover, each time he uses them it is a surprise for him.

Alberto is one of those artists who appears to be able to turn his hand to all ballooning skills. His balloon sculptures are breathtaking, filled with exciting detail and so many different techniques. He is equally competent twisting balloons to create fabulous designs, making super cute characters or exotic flowers.

I asked Alberto where does he get his design inspiration from?
"From my old and new experiences. From nature, traveling. The occasions to be inspired are anywhere you are able to catch them." 

Although Alberto uses social media to help promote and grow his business, he still believes that word-of-mouth is a great marketing tool, along with high-quality materials, techniques, and services. "It is wonderful to hear your clients being excited to speak about a job that you have done for them." It's important for Alberto to revisit his clients once or twice every year to keep in contact with them, and nurture these relationships.

Alberto is currently sharing many of his awesome skills and is teaching as part of the Qualatex World Tour Instructors team. He has already taught classes in Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Kansas City in the U.S. 

Balloons and Bears in Kansas City.

Alberto's next World Tour stop will be on the 9th & 10th of May, 2017, in Cheshunt, England. Alberto will be teaching his fabulous Birthday Decor and More and Delightful Distortion classes. He will then head off to Ireland in June where he will teach these same two classes. He will also be teaching in Budapest on the 25th September. To find the locations, full details, and to book your spot, click HERE.

Birthday Decor & More

More than 19million people around the world celebrate a birthday on any given day of the year! So birthday bouquets and designs can quickly become the cornerstone of any business. This course will cover everything from centerpieces to decor, and even balloon surprises for birthday parties!

Delightful Distortion 

Learn different distortion techniques to create characters and charm your customers during this one day masterclass. Delegates need to have a good working knowledge of balloons in order to follow this fun and hands-on class that will be divided into four parts:
1. Bean Distortion. Get inspired with this unique distortion that is suitable for a wide range of applications. 
2. QuickLink Busts. Impress your customers by giving them a very personalized product with this simple but effective technique. 
3. 321Q Distortion and More. Learn and implement a new distortion technique that will amaze you for its simplicity and effectiveness in creating amazing shapes using exclusive 321Qs from Qualatex.
4. Bubble Chain. Give strong decorative accents to your daily compositions with this distortion technique applied to the Bubbles and Deco Bubbles.

I asked Alberto what role he believes that industry education events have in a business.
"I believe that it is very important that we have an industry that takes care to give you the tools to improve your skill, art, and business.
I have attended so many events as a delegate. And I had the opportunity to win so many awards which gave me the morale boost to continue with passion.
Even someone who has been in the balloon industry for some time can benefit from training. It's never too late, and many times it is beneficial to make change, introduce new products, and renew your business model. The Qualatex seminars are more and more business oriented, so try to attend some of them. You will get good advice and the opportunity to make contact with other entrepreneurs like you."

Alberto will be teaching classes at BACI - 23rd to 26th of April, 2017, in Florence Italy. He will also be teaching in Cape Town, South Africa, at a Qualatex Workshop on the 23rd & 24th of May, 2017. Click on the links for more details.

I hope that you manage to catch-up with Alberto at one of these amazing events. He truly is a talented and inspiring instructor!

Happy Ballooning!


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Qualatex® World Tour Has Started - Enter the Mystery Box Competition to win a free registration to WBC 2018!

The Qualatex® World Tour—#QualatexWorldTour17—has officially started! With sixty-six stops scheduled across the globe, this is going to be one amazing worldwide Qualatex event! 

Tina Giunta, CBA and Chris Adamo, CBA kick off the Q-Tour in Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Australia and New Zealand opened up this amazing tour with classes being held in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide, Australia plus Auckland, New Zealand.  In Europe, the tour kicked off in Belgium, closely followed by Greece! The U.S. tour starts in Miami on the 30th of March! To find out all the stops and class details click HERE for the U.S. and HERE for the rest of the world.

So what is the tour all about? 

This year sees Pioneer Balloon Company celebrating 100 years in business! Wow, what an amazing achievement! As part of this celebration, this fantastic education program is being taken around the world, and hopefully to a location close to you! To set this tour apart from a regular training day, a fabulous competition —
 the Mystery Box — has been introduced for each location. Not only will this add excitement and fun to the day but it will also link all the locations on the tour together! See below for more details on the Mystery Box competition.

The Classes: 

The tour is made up of a number of different fun and exciting class topics, and will slightly vary from one stop to another. 
So in one location, you might see Birthday Decor and More or the Best of Bubbles, or maybe Advanced Quick Links, or it could be the Twisted Tour! Each day is packed with fabulous, trendy designs and demonstrates many techniques. Plus, there will be marketing and business tips to grow your profits, and of course, a delicious lunch!

Qualatex World Tour Belgium.
The Instructors:
An all-star cast of fabulous world-renowned industry instructors has been selected to excite and entice you with a fabulous range of new designs and many fantastic techniques. To see who your instructor your instructors are, just click on the location and you will get all the relevant information.

David Taylor, CBA, teaching in Auckland, New Zealand.

The Mystery Box:

This is your opportunity to shine! Have you ever wanted to enter a competition but have not had the courage or been to an event where competitions are being held? The Mystery Box competition is the perfect opportunity for you to show off your skills and enter a worldwide balloon competition! A maximum of 10 entries are allowed per stop, so signing up early is essential! Contestants are given a box of balloons to create an innovative, eye-catching design in the span of only 30 minutes. An entrant may compete as an individual or as teams of two. The top entry of each stop on the tour will receive a prize and advance to compete with the winners of all the other tour stops. A grand prize of a free registration to WBC 2018 will be awarded to the world champion Mystery Box winner!
Please note, there are six different theme boxes, so even if you see photographs posted on social media, you cannot be sure which theme you will get, so be prepared for any theme!!

A big "Cheers" to Ines Lambert and Steven de Maesschalck, our Mystery Box winners at the Belgium stop! 
The rules are simple; each competitor will be supplied with a Mystery Box and  each box will contain the same selection of balloons, but it is not a requirement to use all the balloons within the box. Please note that the Mystery Box themes will change from location to location keeping the element of surprise!
In addition to the balloons supplied, there will be a Balloon Store where limited additional balloons will be available on the accessories table. This will include 160Qs, 260Qs, 350Qs and 646Qs. There will also be Deco Bubbles, 5” White, 5” Black, 12” Blush Quick Links and any other balloons that could complement your design. It is not a requirement to use any of these balloons; they are available for those who wish to use them.
The accessories table will also supply, Hi-Float, balloon ribbons in various colours, balloon weights, and helium with balloon inflators suitable for inflating foil, latex, and Bubble Balloons.
Competitors are requested to supply:
  • Hand pumps
  • Scissors
  • Markers/Pens 
  • Wires and tape. Any accessories that are non-balloon related that you may be able to use with your design. However, the box themes will not be disclosed prior to the competitions.
So if you want to use Lomey or a Plexipole to make a centrepiece, for example, you are welcome to provide this yourself. 

So what are the judges looking for? 
Knowing and understanding the judging criteria is very important and can help you to score highly!
  1. Overall Impression: Visual impact, originality, uniqueness.
  2. Overall Design: Does the celebration design illustrate effective use of Colour and Balance? Is there a good use of Rhythm and Line within the display?  Is there a good knowledge of Proportion and Scale demonstrated? Have elements and principles of design been applied and used effectively?
  3. Construction: Is the celebration design easy to transport and present to the recipient? Is the design stable and durable? Does the design demonstrate high quality of work and meet professional standards? Are mechanics well hidden? Has the design been well constructed? Will the design last for more than 48 hours?
  4. Use of balloons: Has the competitor created a design that uses a good selection of the Mystery Box balloons? Have they been used in an exciting and creative way? 
  5. Unity & Harmony: Do all the elements appear to belong together, resulting in a strong sense of oneness (a feeling of belonging together)?
  6. Adherence to All Rules, Regulations, and Guidelines: Was Smart Balloon Practices/ California Law rules followed? Was the design completed within the 30 minutes? Did all unused items get returned to the Balloon Store as per the rule? The Balloon Store has a range of additional balloon stock that will give competitors the opportunity to expand on what they have available in their Mystery Box. Items are limited, items, therefore it is important that these are selected carefully and not simply taken. Items selected from the Balloon Store must be used or returned to the store to give other competitors the opportunity to use if needed. Points can be deducted from a competitor's score if items selected from the Balloon Store have not been returned if not used during the competition. 
Luc Bertrand, CBA, teaches his World Tour class in Athens, Greece! 

Here are some great group shots from the tour so far!

Qualatex World Tour Brisbane, Australia

Qualatex World Tour Belgium

Qualatex World Tour Greece

If you have any questions about the tour or the Mystery Box competition, please ask. We are happy to help!

We hope to see you soon at one of the world tour stops!

Happy Ballooning!