If You Take Your Balloons Seriously – You Can Have Lots of Fun.
It has been conservatively estimated that in excess of 20 million balloons are sold in Australia/New Zealand every year. If you consider a further 50million plus, are sold in California alone and then if you add the remaining US States, the still expanding markets of Europe, Asia, Russia and of course the rest of the world the total number would surely give a new meaning to the global inflation rate.
These incredible figures make it feasible to say that, every day, somewhere around the world thousands of people are decorating with and enjoying the friendly, non-threatening nature of the humble ‘party balloon’.
Balloon decorations have changed a lot over the years. I can remember a time way back when I was just a boy, (mid lastCentury) that if you were really lucky you had a couple of balloons to decorate your party. Back then they only came in a few basic sizes and shapes, perhaps half a dozen colours and were usually considered to be a simple decoration accessory along with the once mandatory paper streamer. More often than not the inflated decoration was nothing more than a couple of weak coloured, over-inflated rubber bubbles Special tapped to the wall. Deflating, to say the least.
Today, things are a little different, with many variations between the brands there are dozens of colours and textures, shapes and sizes and a seemingly unlimited number of theme prints available on the latex balloons. These numbers can easily be multiplied several times over when you count the thousands of shaped and messaged foil balloons available.
Incredible as it may seem, these balloons are being inflated, tied together, bunched and twisted by thousands of balloon decorators, entertainers, clowns, office workers, mums and dads, marketing people, retailers, and of course your average everyday party animals whooping it up around the world every day.
Today, with a little attention given to the design and construction, the many colours, shapes and sizes of balloons available make it possible to create anything
Historically balloons in one form or another have been around for thousands of years. The Egyptians are known to have used animal bladders as a balloon/ball for the amusement of children and it has been recorded that Galileo used an inflated pig’s bladder to measure the weight of air.
Rubber was first used to make a balloon in1824 when Professor Michael Faraday shaped a balloon bag for his experiments with gases and raw rubber at the Royal Institute in London. Balloons for various applications were being sold in Europe and the United States as early as 1889 with commercial manufacturing beginning in the US in 1907.
In 1912 the world of balloons changed dramatically with the introduction of the first non-round balloon being a cigar shape. This balloon must be the original ‘sausage balloon’ which eventually inspired the development of ‘balloon twisting’ which, although it’s not discussed at length in this particular article is an incredible art form in its own right.
The balloon market was expanded once again in 1931 when and American Neil Tillotson manufactured and sold a toy/novelty party balloon that he had produced in his home workshop from the sap of a rubber tree. Fashioned from a cardboard mould his first balloon was shaped like a cat’s head. Success with other shapes and sales came quickly. In the 1960s he revolutionized health care when he created the first ambidextrous, surgical rubber glove.
Because of their 100% biodegradability latex balloons are vulnerable to the elements and can lose their shine, deflate or even worse, they could burst when exposed to the weather or a rise in temperature for prolonged periods. Unlike ‘traditional art’ that is expected to maintain integrity for years balloon displays are considered to be ephemeral ….a kind of, ‘air today and a pile of latex tomorrow’ sort of deal.
Balloon decorations have changed a lot over the years. The above photos show various versions of balloon art from what looks like the50s and ’60s in Melbourne Australia. (dates are unconfirmed) Helium was not easily obtained in the days of black ‘n’ white photos so large and small balloons tied in mass were the call of the day. The balloons were either tied to a line and hung for room decor or simply attached to cane stick and put in clusters to make table décor.
In Australia, the manufacturing of balloons began in 1956 when Newton Sanbrook set up shop in a small factory in Ringwood, Victoria. Although they produced many latex products the balloon variety was limited in the beginning. The local marketplace became a little needier when overseas brands of balloons along with additional celebration/party products become more of a feature on retail shelves in the early 80s and the ‘balloon market’ in Australia began to emerge.
The introduction of colourful products such as plates, serviettes, tablecloths and hats, in turn, provoked the desire to ‘decorate up’ your function. With the addition of many exciting design ideas regularly floating in from the Americas, balloon decorations rapidly become the ‘in vogue’ obvious choice for celebrations and promotions.
Oh! how the smell of latex in the morning can be an infectious thing and since that basic ‘ knot and float on the ceiling’ decorating days back in the early 80s thousands of enthusiastic event decorators around the world have attended workshops and conventions promoting, selling and most importantly sharing innovative techniques to both new and vintage balloon Twisters and Stackers.
According to my (totally unbiased) version of the story, the forever expanding world of balloon decorating took on a new convenience in 1997 when Sanbrook/Premier Balloons developed and released the world’s first two ended party balloon. This new decorating tool which had been prototyped for its inventor the longtime Melbourne balloon decorator/artist Jean Michele Lucie was first called the Link-O-Loon © It is now available from several additional brands under various names and has become a major player in the world of event decorating.
‘Connect 2 Loons’ (two-ended balloon) have allowed a whole new generation of decorators to easily create and quickly install decor that was once laborious and excessively expensive.
The introduction of the ‘two-ended balloon allows the artist/decorator to tie balloons together in a continuous chain to easily create arches and bunting or wrap them in a weaving pattern to produce many new design possibilities. This versatile balloon revolutionized the market and brought together the once separate worlds of Balloon Twisters and Stackers to blend their creativity and techniques to produce outstanding sculpture designs.
Although the balloons themselves have changed in many ways over the years one thing that always remains the same is the excitement generated by a room full of balloons.
A helium-filled 30cm latex balloon will float for approx 16-20hours depending on the ambient conditions.
It is possible to coat the inside of the balloon before inflation with Hi Float ©, a water-based liquid that seals the thousands of microscopic holes in the latex preventing the precious, lighter than air gas from escaping and thus prolonging the float time for as much as several weeks.
Because the particles of air are larger an air-filled (untreated) display could remain inflated for a few months. If treated with Hi Float it is possible that it could maintain its integral size and shape for much longer.
To look its best a balloon decoration should be inflated/installed as close as possible to the time of the event. A late setup time can create many logistical problems for both the professional and amateur decorator. Over the years I’ve seen many decorating disasters at trade shows, product launches and private functions.
To the professional decorator it is disappointing to see balloons, due to either, time restraints, the decorator’s knowledge perhaps even their care level, that was inconsistently inflated and shabbily arranged. This type of scruffy decoration only cheapens the entire presentation which defeats the purpose of using balloons in the first place.
In many cases, someone has purchased a D-I-Y Balloon Kit, from a party shop, event hire company or gas depot. These kits typically comprise of a cylinder with a measured quantity of helium, (or Balloon Gas, as it is often referred to in Australia) balloons and ribbons. The cylinder is for hire and you purchase the gas, balloons and ribbons. Unfortunately, all too often, it appears that far too few people know exactly how to get the most out of a ‘kit’, of course, there is never a Balloon Professional around when you need one.
A good or bad balloon display will always attract some sort of attention, that’s a fact. But before you get anywhere near presenting a stunning display you have to obviously first inflate your balloons. It does not matter if your filling with air or helium the inflating is the first step.
If your balloons are consistently under and overinflated the whole display can look perfectly UGLY, no matter how artistically you arrange them. With a little knowledge, effort and care, anyone can create an impressive and professional looking balloon display.
Most professionals use expensive digital inflators to inflate and size their balloons but there are a couple of ‘old school’ methods that are respectably accurate and can avoid the purchase of costly equipment. Consistent sizing and careful arranging of balloons can save both time and money and can make the difference between your presentation having that WOW! factor or just looking like a left-over mess.
Undersized balloons will not float for the expected 16-20 hours. Oversize balloons use too much gas and reduce the balloon-fill quantity from a cylinder, thus wastes your money. Overinflating is not only ugly it also puts stress on the integrity of the balloon’s membrane and leaves it vulnerable to bursting when ‘brushed’ against objects, is zapped by static electricity or the gas inside expands due to a rise in ambient temperature.
To make your decorating efforts easier when you’re filling balloons I have presented a couple of ‘manual inflating’ techniques in the graphics below.
These methods have been regularly used in my own business for the past 35years and have laid the foundation for many of my displays.
They explain the common sizes of gas cylinders and desired shape of a balloon and three old school ‘manual’ ways to inflate and size a balloon with consistency. Information regarding the arranging of the balloons in uniformed bunches is featured in BALLOONease Part 2:Environmentally Speaking & Arranging Balloons.
There are many methods available for decanting a gas into a balloon the difficulty comes when trying to sustain a consistent size for each balloon.
Below are 3 methods One for measuring the ‘length’ (neck to top) and two for measuring the ‘girth’ (around the middle) of the balloon. Balloons are generally sold in sizes that relate to the length of the balloon.
I prefer my balloons to be ‘pliable’ and not ‘inflated to the max’ For consistency I always measure the girth of my Round Balloons. Although for some applications I also find the need to measure Connect2’loons by the length ‘tip to tail’
I hope you find these tips of use.