Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Getting Started with Balloons

As you read through the patterns on this blog please remember that balloon sculpting is not an exact science.  We've made every effort to keep the instructions as simple and as accurate as possible.  Still, there are a few things that may keep your sculpture from looking like the one in the picture.  

1.Not all balloons are the same.  Nearly all are usable, but there are some major differences to be aware of.  (all of the balloons pictured here were primarily made with 260 balloons from Qualatex, a readily available brand)
a.  Different brands are different lengths.  All 260s are supposed to be 2 inches wide and 60 inches long.  They're not.  Some brands are a bit wider or narrower and it's pretty rare for them to be 60 inches long.  In our experience they range from 45 inches to 58 inches.

        b.  Different types of balloons can be harder to twist.  Metallic and neon balloons  both shorter than the other types.  Metallic balloons are often a bit narrower.  The same stuff that makes them glitter keeps the latex from expanding as much and also makes them a bit more difficult to twist.  Cool? Very.  For beginners?  If you can be patient and don’t let yourself get frustrated.  Neon balloons have a tendency to slip when you make certain types of twists.  They're great when you're using a black light, they're just not so great to learn on.

2.Not all hands are the same either.  Each of the artists at Oh Wow!! has a different way of holding and squeezing the balloons.  Some prefer to work with harder bubbles, some with softer.  It's not important that you do things in exactly the same way we do.  It is important that you do them in a way that's comfortable for you.  If looking at the bubble sizes in inches makes you crazy, try looking at them as small, medium, large and so on.  A half inch bubble would be very small and 6 inch one would be extra large.

3. Relax.  We can guarantee that you will pop balloons.  That's what balloons do, they pop.  The more you fear the popping, the more it will happen.  Buy a big bag of balloons and say “So what?” next time one pops.  There's more where that one came from.

4.Don't expect perfection the first time you try a new design.  Practice makes perfect and even imperfect creations are amazing to someone who has never made them.  

As you read the instructions you will notice that bubble sizes are in parentheses.  3 (1/2 inch) bubbles is much easier to read than 3 1/2 inch bubbles.  If you find you need to vary bubble sizes to make your sculpture look the way you want it to, vary the number inside the parentheses, not the one outside them.

Some Basics

Types of Balloons  - There are many types of balloons.  For this book the balloons used will be 260 or "twisting" balloons.   These are the standard long skinny balloons you see in kits and at party stores.

Buying and Storing Balloons - Balloons are a natural, biodegradable product.  You will get the best results when you purchase the freshest balloons possible.  Order from a balloon supplier or buy from a store with a quick turnover.  To keep your balloons fresh, store them away from light and heat.  A ziplock bag in the fridge can make your balloons last a very long time.

Other things to have on hand - For drawing on the balloons a permanent marker or dry erase marker works well.  A pair of scissors is good to keep around for the times you need to get rid of excess balloons.  (or just to get rid of the evidence when you make a mistake) They're also handy to have when you are learning to make pop twists.

Inflating and Burping Balloons - It is certainly possible to inflate 260 balloons by mouth, but for many people it is much easier to use a pump.   Hand pumps are cheap and readily available.  A two way pump will cut your work in half, so be sure to choose a pump that inflates on both the up and the down stroke.  

Most balloon sculptures will not require the balloon to be fully inflated.  It is important that you leave enough of a "tail"  for your sculpture.  As you twist the balloon air will move into this tail.  Too little space and you won't be able to finish your sculpture.

Before you tie your balloons be sure to "burp" them a bit.  Burping is the process of letting out a small amount of air before you tie the knot.  Doing this will keep your balloons soft enough to work with and reduce popping.  It also makes the balloon much easier to tie.  Try not to overdo it unless the directions call for a very soft balloon.  

Before You Twist - Always start twisting from the knot end.  Air will move towards the tail as you make each twist.  Start from the wrong end and it won't be long before you run out of room and your balloon will pop.

It doesn't matter which way you turn the balloon when you twist it as long as you do it the same way every time.  If you switch directions you will untwist previous bubbles as you make the new ones.  It's also important to turn each twist at least 3 full turns.  

Safety - Balloons can be a choking hazard for children so always keep them out of the hands (and mouths) of babies.  It's a good idea to keep them out of your mouth too. Accidents can happen and a balloon scrap in your windpipe may be impossible to dislodge.

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