Thursday, February 16, 2017

Luc Bertrand, CBA, shares his fabulous "Celebrating 100 Years" design - Step-by-Step.

Last week I published a blog showing the fabulous balloon decor created by Luc Bertrand, CBA, of wAw Balloons in Vichte, Belgium. Luc created a fabulous, unmissable focal point for the Pioneer Europe trade stand at the Nuremberg International Toy Fair that took place a few weeks ago in Germany.

Luc has very kindly offered to share with the readers of The Very Best Balloon Blog how he made his design — "Celebrating 100 Years."

If you own the fabulous AeröPole System®, here is a great alternative way to use it! 

  • Using five of the poles from the AeröPole System, connect these together to form a ring. 
  • Start by covering the ring with a 5" Garland, with the 5" balloons inflated to 4.5".
  • To fill the centre, use 6" Qualatex® Quick Link Balloons™. Luc shows the plan clearly below.
  • Once you have formed your Quick Link frame within the ring, you can add in your 5" duplets, inflated to 4.5".

Here are some additional photographs that should help you.

Step 1. 
Add the clusters to the frame. Luc also added two hooks that enabled him to secure the ring to the stand.

Step 2. 
Fill the centre of the frame using 6" Quick Links.

Step 3. 
The finished design without the final numbers added.

The finished design.

A huge thank you to Luc for sharing this stunning design idea. I am sure that many of us will be able to sell this idea to our customers!

Happy Ballooning!


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pioneer® Balloon Company celebrates 100 years at Nuremberg International Toy Fair and Spring Fair, NEC, Birmingham.

"Celebrating 100 Years" by Luc Bertrand.

Visitors attending the Nuremberg International Toy Fair in Germany and Spring Fair, National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, U.K., would be unable to miss the fact that Pioneer Balloon is celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year! 

Two of our top industry designers, Luc Bertrand, CBA, of wAw Balloons in Vichte, Belgium and Fiona Fisher, CBA, of Worldwide Balloon Decor in Portadown, Ireland, were given the brief to create stand decor "that would show the excitement of this amazing landmark, celebrating 100 years in business. Reflecting the present day modern trends of colourful confetti and the organic look."

"Celebration Cakes" by Fiona Fisher.

Both Luc and Fiona did an incredible job at each of the shows,  creating stand-out decor  everyone is talking about!

Pioneer Europe Trade Stand at Spring Fair, NEC, Birmingham.

Pioneer Europe Trade Stand at Spring Fair, NEC, Birmingham.

Here are a few more photographs showing some of the beautiful new Qualatex® balloons that were exhibited at each of these shows.

"Birthday Rainbow Confetti" - This awesome new range of balloons is vibrant and
fun, with Milestone Birthdays from 18 to 100!
Window display designed and created by Sue Bowler, CBA 

Gender reveal is hot hot hot!
This window display by Sue Bowler shows the fabulous new 24" "Baby Footprints" Deco Bubble Balloons filled with feathers, mini 5" balloons, and if you look closely, a 14" Baby Girl and Baby Boy balloon!
U.S. Patent No. 6,782,675

Pink and Gold are definitely the hot colours for 2017! 
These stunning "Birthday Pink & Gold Dots" and "Happy Birthday To You Pink & Gold" are going to be
top sellers this year!
Window display designed by Sue Bowler. 

Visitors to these shows also had the opportunity to see demonstrations and received top tips from Luc Bertrand, Keith Stirman, CBA, Dominic Cassidy, CBA, and Sue Bowler. With a huge "Thumbs Up" from Luc, Keith, and Dom. I have no idea what I was saying, but it looks like it was about that long!

Celebrating 100 years in business is no mean feat, and the entire Pioneer Team is excited about the future, with new ideas and opportunities.  Owners Ted A. and Betty Vlamis also want us to remember and reflect upon the past and honour those who successfully faced challenges and triumphed. 

Ted A. and Betty Vlamis were presented Champagne and a cake by the 
Spring Fair management.

You, too, can be part of this wonderful year of celebrations. You can join us on the first-ever Qualatex World Tour! Action-packed classes full of valuable designs, techniques, and competitions. To find out where your nearest tour stop will be, click HERE.

I hope that we see you soon at one of the World Tour locations!

Happy Ballooning


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Roses are Red and Valentine's Day is nearly here!

Did you know that Valentine's is now being celebrated across a whole week and not just one day? Here are a few lovely ideas to celebrate the week, starting on Tuesday, 7th February, with Rose Day! 

Rose Day: Tuesday, February 7th, 2017.
"I Love You Red Rose" #24489

We can make beautiful roses by twisting 160Q balloons. I love this twisted rose. It can be used simply as a display in a vase, or as an accent detail in a design!

Twisted Roses in Vase by Sue Bowler, CBA.

Teddy Bear holding Rose by Sue Bowler, CBA.

Here is a design that I made a few years ago of a teddy bear holding a single red rose.

As many of you know, I love to make Fantasy Flowers, and the rose is one of my favourite. To find out how to make a single red rose, watch the video below.

Fantasy Flower Rose by Sue Bowler, CBA.

So if Rose Day is the start of Valentine's week, what are all the other days?

Propose Day: 
Wednesday, February 8th, 2017.

Create your own personalised balloons using
vinyl and a die-cutting machine.

Chocolate Day: 
Thursday, February 9th, 2017.
"I  (Heart) U Donuts" #21829

Teddy Day: 
Friday, February 10th, 2017.

"Teddy Bear Love" #16453

Promise Day: 
Saturday, February 11th, 2017.
"Bee Mine" #21837

Hug Day: 
Sunday, February 12th, 2017.

Disney Mickey & Minnie I Love You #21892
U.S Patent No. 6,782,675

Kiss Day: 
Monday, February 13th, 2017.
"Big Red Kissey Lips" #16451

Valentine’s Day: 
Tuesday, February 14th, 2017.

"Valentine's Arrows & Hearts" #46048

I wonder if this is a tradition that we have not heard of, or simply a marketing tool to make Valentine's an event bigger event? For those of you with shops and stores, I would certainly embrace it and use it as part of your social media campaign!

Wishing you a fantastic and profitable Valentine's!

Happy Ballooning!



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.
Add caption
"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!