Balloon twisting – balloon modeling
Tom twists | models balloon figures: animals, flower, hat & heart
Balloon figures are not only loved by children. When presented in the right way, by adults as well. They can be used creatively as a part of a show act or by themselves. A simple balloon hat or crown suddenly has significance when done in the colors of a company or sports team. I often joke that while I can make 500 different animals out of balloons! But 470 of them look like a dog. There is of course some truth to this joke. A handful of basic techniques are mostly used, but the variations are almost endless.
One can make a 3 pronged jesters hat or a heart with 2 kissing doves – a certain hit for any wedding. A parrot sitting on a circular swing or even a unicorn with wings. Not sure where that last idea comes from but the kids ask for it and are happily surprised that I can make it. Dog, mouse, giraffe, elephant. polar bear, parrot, butterfly. lion, horse, rabbit, crocodile. turtle, dinosaur, snake. Or what I can do the fastest, after decades of hard practice – a worm.
No balloon swords!
What others do that I don’t is to make swords. I joke that I don’t make weapons for kids. No swords, knives, guns, bombs or poisonous gas. Bush’s presidency is past and while I’m an American, I’m no weapons merchant. Some might find this overly ideological. But many boys automatically ask for a sword and the result is always the same. They start slashing around and set a tone of battle and aggression. This often has a big impact on the atmosphere at an event.
Some parents even pressure me to make their kid a sword. I refuse. They think this will make kids happy and they’ll have their peace. But when they start fighting each, one observes the opposite is true. But with balloons hats, helmets and a multitude of animals; the kids have the material to create more peaceful types of play. In the end, people are almost always thankful for me influencing the kids in a positive direction.
Are balloons appropriate to the event?
A couple of things to consider if asking for balloon twisting are whether it’s appropriate to the situation. Some events might be fancy or solemn. Kids running around with balloons doesn’t fit. One wouldn’t really want kids with balloons at a funeral. But then they probably wouldn’t want a clown either. I’ve been on fancy wedding where they wanted balloons and the kids all got their faces painted. At other gigs; no face painting, no balloons so I guess the kids had to be happy there was at least a clown show.
Or if I am at an event with 300 kids all wanting balloons at once – that doesn’t work well. One can make about 30 to 40 balloons an hour. If one starts to make balloons after a show, there should always be time so that ALL of the kids get one. Otherwise they will be disappointed. Thus having an hours’ time for those 300 kids is going to mean? Answer; 40 happy ones and 260 ones that feel cheated. In such cases, with insufficient time, one needs to have them either hire more balloon makers. Otherwise, just skip doing balloons altogether. Having enough time so that all get a balloon is critical.
Balloons for adults?
A controversial subject is balloons for adults. In general, I don’t suggest them for an exclusively adult audience. Yet I’ve been to many a private or company party where an adult asks for an animal to take home to their child. Then suddenly someone wants a flower or heart for their partner. Then people get a bit drunk and want to dress up in balloon hats. The event where the organizer felt balloons were not fitting suddenly becomes a madhouse of adults going crazy for balloons! Doesn’t always happen of course but it’s not uncommon. The fundamental key? Get people loosened up and having fun! This often brings the hidden child out of even the shiest of individuals.
Here is a visual example of some of the many balloons Clown Tom Bolton can make for your party or event:
How long will balloons last?
I often get asked; „how long will a balloon last?“ This is a difficult thing to answer. I practice and make balloons at home and as long as my cat Niko doesn’t attack them, they’ll sit in a corner and slowly shrink. Most will last a week or two, sometimes more. There are a couple of things that are deadly for these poor balloon animals. These are some of the reasons your balloon might not last so long at an event. Small kids tend to simply pull them apart. But you have to either accept this or take the balloon away and only let them look at it. Kids tend to throw or drag them on the ground. This predictable ends sooner or later with a big bang.
But also strong sunlight is bad for the latex. So best to put them in a bag or somewhere out of the sunlight until you can get them home. I’ve heard comments that it must be my fault, I am using too much air or using old balloons or poor quality. No, I only use Qualitex balloons, the best quality that exists. I order them in smaller amounts every couple of months and store them in my cool, dark cellar. Thus they are fresh and optimally cared for.
Static electricity, balloon biggest enemy
The biggest risk, however unexpectedly, is static electricity! That little shock you get sometimes especially walking on carpets is like an atomic bomb for balloons. You manage to keep them from being pulled apart, dragged on the ground or left in the sun; safely home and boom an abundance of static electricity destroys them. This can be very annoying because sometimes I am at a gig doing nothing but balloons and there is an abundance of static electricity and the balloons will blow up one after another before I even finish them.
There is a trick to neutralize static electricity that some balloon modelers use. It’s standard hair spray. One sprays it in the air around you and is generally effective. Unfortunately, for maybe 8 to 10 minutes and then it needs to be repeated. This does not smell good and is not something very practical if one has to do it for an 8 hour day. Yet, for a shorter time and in a situation where making the balloons without having to keep starting over is important then it can be a help. This is probably more helpful to any fellow balloon twisters than the public but it’s the only tip I have for combatting the static electricity problem.
Balloons: dangerous for small children
Another thing to mention is the danger of balloons. There is even a warning on the bags saying that they are not intended for small kids. What? Balloons ARE for kids, you’re probably thinking. They are not poisonous but theoretically a small child could choke on one. I can’t predict the likelihood of such an occurrence but it’s always better to be on the safe side. Thus, I always try to tell people with kids under 3 to take the balloon away as soon as possible if it breaks.
I think the modelling balloons that I use are less of a danger than round ones. They’re thinner thus less likely to block one’s breathing. Also, because of their length, they would be much easier to get a hold of and pull out in case of choking. Yet, a reminder: Don’t leave small children unattended with balloons and if one breaks, take it away immediately!
✓ Children friendly ✓ Entertaining ✓ Funny
Balloon-twisting, balloon modelling
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Clown juggler Tom Bolton’s original clown website contains addition information and photos, also in English, and includes some more private insights to his experiences on the world stage and is available at: www.clowntombolton.com