Balloon modelling

Balloon modelling or balloon twisting is the shaping of special modelling balloons into almost any given shape, often a balloon animal. People who create balloon animals and other twisted balloon sculptures are called Twisters, Balloon Benders and Balloon Artists. Twisters often perform in restaurants, at birthday parties, fairs and at public and private events or functions.

Two of the primary design styles are “single balloon modelling”, which restricts itself to the use of one balloon per model, and “multiple balloon modelling”, which uses more than one balloon. Each style has its own set of challenges and skills, but few twisters who have reached an intermediate or advanced skill level limit themselves to one style or another. Depending on the needs of the moment, they might easily move between the one-balloon or multiple approaches, or they might even incorporate additional techniques such as “weaving” and “stuffing”. Modelling techniques have evolved to include a range of very complex moves, and a highly specialized vocabulary has emerged to describe the techniques involved and their resulting creations.

Some twisters inflate their balloons with their own lungs, and for many years this was a standard and necessary part of the act. However, many now use a pump of some sort, whether it is a hand pump, an electric pump plugged in or run by a battery pack, or a compressed gas tank containing air or nitrogen. Twisters do not generally fill their creations with helium, as these designs will not usually float anyway. The balloons for twisting are too porous for helium and the designs are generally too heavy for their size for helium to lift.

The origins of balloon modelling are unknown. The 1975 book by “Jolly the Clown” Petri credits “Herman Bonnert from Pennsylvania at a magician’s convention in 1939” as being the first balloontwister. Val Andrews, in Manual of Balloon Modeling, Vol. 1, An Encyclopedic Series, credits H.J. Bonnert of Scranton, Pennsylvania as being the “daddy of them all”. Jim Church III states, “Frank Zacone from Youngstown, Ohio was doing a balloon act during the 1940s and had been doing the act for some time.” Another candidate for first balloon twister is Henry Maar.

History of Balloon Modeling
Balloon modeling probably began around 1920 in the US as part of trick art show programs. First mentioned in writing is a certain Mr. HJ Bonnert from Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA, who modeled on balloons in 1938 at a magician’s convention in Pittsburgh.

The modeling of figures from a single balloon probably goes back to the Englishman Wally Boag, with stage name Windy Blow from 1945. In February 1953, he published a detailed description of a one-balloon animal figure in Max Andrew’s Magic Magazine.

After 1945, long thin balloons were first produced in Japan and imported to the US in masses at very low prices. Simple instructions on the packs showed how dogs, giraffes, hats, planes, etc. could be created. However, the quality of the rubber was so low that few could follow the instructions without destroying the balloons. Due to material and shape, the balloons were also very difficult to inflate. Nevertheless, they quickly became a commercial success in the US. US companies took up the idea and began marketing their regular Zeppelin balloons as modeling balloons. For example, there were packs for making a balloon dog, each with three short and one long balloon.

In the late 1950s, some manufacturers in the US began producing modeling balloons, which are still in use today. The material quality has been significantly improved, the colors are now brighter, and moreover, the balloons were easier to inflate. They were also a lot cheaper than the previously used Zeppelin balloons, and their new length opened up new design freedom.

Type of balloons
A balloon sculptor uses several types of balloons:
Balloon modeling (long balls): 160, 260, 350, 646 and bee body (or 321)
These numbers represent the size of the balls, and 160 means that the balloon, when inflated, measuring a diameter of 1 ” (1 inch, or 2.5 cm) for 60 “(60 inches, or 152 cm) long.
Round balloons (the famous balloons) which can also be of different sizes: 5 “, 11”, etc.
Shapes: Hearts, Blossoms (Flower), and Donuts (O- Ball).

Latex balloons do not support heat and light, and a cool, dark place is better for storage.

The quality of manufacture is also essential for the accomplishment of the most complex works. Thus “cheap” balloons, sold in toy stores or in stores, quickly prove to be unusable (resistance too low, so strong tendency to burst)

There are several balloon manufacturers, but balloon sculptors mainly use 2 brands:

Betallatex (or Sempertex in Europe)
Balloon Pub (French manufacturer)

Two essential items are required for balloon twisting:

An assortment of balloons, usually in various colors. Balloon sizes are usually identified by a number: the most common size of twisting balloons is called a “260”, as it is approximately two inches in diameter and 60 inches long. Thus, a “260” is 2×60 inches and a “160” is 1×60 inches when fully blown up. Although these are the most common sizes used, there are dozens of other shapes available as well.
An inflation device. The most common methods are air pumps similar to bicycle pumps, electric air compressors, and via the mouth. Inflating a balloon via the mouth is difficult and can be dangerous. Particularly well-trained and talented twisters, however, can blow-up several balloons at once, and some can even blow up 160s, which are much more difficult to mouth-inflate than the more common 260s, as their narrowness requires a great deal more strength and breath pressure to inflate.

Modeling balls are very difficult to inflate, it is necessary to favor the use of a pump rather than the inflation to the mouth which can involve risks due to the pressure (syncope, absorption of talc contained on the internal walls, etc.).).

Many sculptors use hand pumps of various sizes. Some models of hand pump are able to fully inflate a size 260 balloon in one go. The tip of the pump is essential, it must allow a good introduction of the ball without damaging it. Thus a pump can be more or less adapted to a precise size of balloon (160, 260, 350 etc.).

There are even electric pumps, to connect to mains, or standalone on battery. These usually remain very noisy.

The explosion of the balloon is always possible during inflation. You have to pay attention to your eyes and ears. The wearing of glasses is recommended for inflation by the mouth. Younger children may be frightened by detonation or even crying, which can compromise the quality of a possible benefit.

To model a carving balloon, do not inflate it 100%. The uninflated part will naturally fill with air as you begin your first twists on the inflated side. This is why it is necessary to define the desired model before inflating the balloon. The amount of air to inflate is one of the first difficulties in any new creation of the artist.

It is advisable to slightly deflate the balloon before knotting it to be soft. It will be easier to carve.

As mentioned above, mouth inflation can be a risk.

However, there are ergonomic techniques to limit these risks.

Never insist and force more than two seconds. because beyond these two seconds

you put pressure in your brain that can give you headaches, dizziness or even fainting uncommon cases.

shoot the ball with your second hands at the same time to blow.

the breath must be a sudden blow. the goal is to inflate it before the two seconds of security that generates the risks.

It is important to leave a minimum of time between inspiration and expiration.

uses a kinetic energy that increases the inflation capacity.

Some technique is only achievable by inflating the balloon to the mouth like: inverted inflation or spiral

Some balloon professionals suggest that puffing can be a microbial source for children who are given

the balls. Some others think that they are good excuses not to embark on this very difficult training.

Modeling Technique
The modeling techniques range from single-balloon design to multi-balloon modeling. Complex techniques have been developed, as well as a special vocabulary to describe the applied technique and the achieved result.

Some twisters inflate their balloons themselves, which was standard and part of the show for many years. Today air pumps are used more often. The balloons are usually not filled with helium, as the figures usually do not need to float and the material is too porous for helium. Also, the creations are often too large in comparison to the filling volume for helium to carry.

The balloon sculpture technique uses different nodes, bubbles and loops.

Nodes and loops
There are different nodes and loops:

Classic knot: This is a common simple knot used to close the ball.
Classic Loop: This is a simple loop performed on the ball.
Ear loop (or pinch twist): A bubble is turned on itself to form an ear similar to a bear’s ear.

As well as different bubbles:
Simple bubble: It is a bubble formed on the balloon.
Bubble tulip (or apple twist): The valve balloon is pushed into it and a twist of the ball keeps it inside.
Bubble hook (or hook twist): Ditto to a bubble tulip, but the ball valve is pushed further into it, which has the effect of bending the ball shaped hook.
Combination with 3 bubbles (or bird body): Two long bubbles are twisted together and a third is then passed through the first two.
Bubble in “S”: Ditto to the bubble hook but a change of direction of the valve inside the balloon during its introduction allows to give an S shape.

Balloon constructions
The techniques of using balloons are very diverse.

The assembly of several sculpted balloons forms the models. Several balloons can thus be attached to each other, or twisted together to obtain the desired composition.

The balloons can also be braided together to obtain large surfaces when making dresses or hats.

The more or less important pressure on the balloons during construction allows to play on their size and shape.

Common models

Single balloon
Basic four-legged animal: Three locking twists. The first forms nose, ears/face, and neck; the second, front legs and body; the third, back legs and tail. Different proportions can be used to represent a dachshund, a giraffe, etc.
Elephant: A hook twist trunk followed by a bean twist face and two large “elephant ear” twists, finished with two locking twists as above.
Helmet: Three bubble roll through sized to fit a person’s head.
Sword: Twofold twists form the cross piece, with one short and one long bubble forming the handle and blade.
Tommy gun

Multiple balloon
Monkey on palm tree
Big dog
Bear on heart
Mask to wear
teddy bear

In France, today (07/2008), there is no school to learn balloon sculpture. However, there are a multitude of books (found in bookstores) and DVDs. Often these learning materials are in English, but there are some books (book and DVD) in French. These are usually found in magic shops but also in some juggling / joke shops.

Balloon sculpture requires learning basic techniques, then we can move to the realization of more or less complex models. The main thing being at first, to assimilate the proportions in order to have well-balanced achievements, it is mainly this criterion that will make sculptures immediately recognizable and pleasant to look at.

Another way to learn is to participate in various meetings and congresses on the theme of the ball. There are some in France and abroad.

In France, since 2006, every year, “ballooning” artists from all over the world gather at a congress that is exclusively reserved for them: “The Qualatex Event France”. Open to all (amateurs and professionals), the artists share their knowledge and experience in both balloon sculpture and balloon decoration.

A congress also takes place some years in Belgium, It is about Millenium Jam, this one is organized by IBS and took place in Mol in a famous holiday village. This is an opportunity for many sculptors to meet for 5 days and learn the different techniques of sculptures, balloon creations stretched, braiding etc. in contact with the best artists.

A new meeting is organized in French-speaking Belgium, this is Carolo Balloon Jam. The first CBJ took place on November 11 and 12, 2011 in Monceau-Sur-Sambre. It brought together talented trainers (such as Bidou, Pascal Grooten, Flipo, Cat, Mikado and Piccolo). All aspects of the balloon were discussed (sculptures for beginners, for experienced artists, braided dresses, deco and balloon stretch). It was even a world first, as it is the first convention with workshops, which was completely free !!! This meeting was organized by Clown Piccolo de Roux, with the support of IBS. A new Carolo Balloon Jam will be organized again during the second half of 2012…

Since 2013, La Compagnie Tontonballons organizes the balloonapark in Villeneuve la Garenne (92) at the end of May to the beginning of June and offers instructors such as Pascal Grooten, Antonio Becares, Hyungu Park, Rachel Fournet Fayard, Claudia Espina, Benoit “tontonballons” Deschamps, Maxime Duby The ballooning convention closes with a grand street parade where more than 30,000 balloons wander around the city’s festivities.

There is a way to learn balloon sculpture.

on the youtube channel:

there are video tutorials of any level to progress

Balloon sculptures
Many sculptures represent animals, flowers or hats, but we can almost represent everything. The multitude of sizes of the balloons available today as well as the wide variety of colors allows, by combination, the realization of true works of art.

A balloon sculpture can be made with a single balloon (the best known being the little poodle), but one can use several balloons, or even make giant sculptures with several thousand balloons.

Balloon artist
As a balloon artist, an artist is referred to, who creates balloons – as part of an entertaining demonstration – figures. Mostly balloon artists are used for children’s entertainment. Often you can find a balloon artist as an entertainment program at business events such as opening, open house, trade show or trade shows.

It was in the 1930s that the magician Henry Maar first presented a balloon sculptor’s number at a Music Hall (Vaudeville in the United States). He was followed by Herman Bonnert, who was the first to publish a book on balloon sculpture in 1939. There was also Frank Zacone who presented a very popular issue in the 1940s. All these artists were the pioneers ballooning.

In Europe, in the 1950s balloon sculpture numbers began to be fashionable, Freddy Fah will be one of the main instigators, soon followed by other artists such as Pierre Jacques, Béniton, Maurice Pierre, Jean Mad. Later, in France, in the 1980s Jean Merlin will make a real cabaret number.

Nowadays, there are more and more artists who practice balloon sculpture. The most famous balloon artists come mainly from the United States (Roger Siegel, Marvin Hardy, Don Cadwell, Ralph Dewey, Ken Stillman, Larry Moss etc.), but there are some in the whole world (Patrick Van de Ven in Holland, Antonio Becares (Spain) Jean-Philippe Atchoum in Spain, (Belgium) Oliver Ley and his balloon bar, Luce for Gavroche Ballons in Switzerland, etc.) Great French sculptors are also famous in France and abroad. (Bidou, Jean Merlin, Fabrizio Bolzoni, Magictom, Claude Kapp, Arthur Tivoli, Manon Dudziak, Lili One (author of several introductory books), Tontonballons, Charlie Toon and his musical scooter, etc.

Source from Wikipedia