Gerry Giovinco is an acclaimed artist, cartoonist, and entertainer. In his clown persona, Captain Visual, he performs and teaches the craft of balloon sculpting throughout the country. The Big Book of Balloon Art is simple enough for kids, and it's great for parents and teachers too. Even seasoned performers will find it a practical and fun-filled way to improve their skills.
|Product dimensions:||8.10(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.40(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
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One of the first questions a bystander might ask a balloon artist is "Are they special balloons?" The answer is "Yes and no." Most balloons used for sculpting are made out of a type of rubber called latex. The quality of the latex may vary between manufacturers, but basically all latex balloons have the same stretching and twisting properties.
Though sculpting balloons are made of similar material, they are not all shaped the same. Different balloons are designed to expand to specific shapes and sizes when they are inflated. Some will be big and round; others will be small and round. Some will be long and skinny or short and fat. There is a variety of unusual, specific-shaped balloons that include hearts, bear heads, bee bodies, flowers, donuts, spirals, and caterpillars. There are even balloons that are designed to link end to end for various purposes and many that are produced with printed images or patterns. With so many styles of balloons available, it is important to know that it is the shape and size of the balloon, more than any other factor, that will dictate what you can do with it once you begin twisting.
The long, skinny balloons known as animal, twisty, or pencil balloons are those designed specifically for sculpting; they come in various sizes depending on your creative needs. They are officially named with numbers that describe their width and length after they are inflated. The most commonly used balloon is the 260 . The "2" refers to the width, which is approximately two inches in diameter, and the "60" refers to the length, which is approximately sixty inches, end to end. Most of the designs in this book require 260 s, unless otherwise stated. In many cases, the 260 can be substituted with balloons of varying widths and lengths to create the same designs in smaller or larger scale.
As you discover more about designing with balloons, you will realize that you can incorporate almost any balloon shape into some type of design. Because of this, I am including this handy-dandy guide to most of the popular balloon styles. They are all shown inflated.
Balloons are made by several different manufacturers, and some may not make all styles of balloons. Experiment with a variety of brands to find the balloons you enjoy working with the most. Fortunately, because balloons have become so popular, it is now easier than ever to find the many different styles and brands of balloons. Good places to look for balloons are party stores, toy stores, magic shops, and the internet. It is best to buy balloons by the bag. Most manufacturers bag balloons in quantities of 50 and 100 and sell them in assorted or solid colors.
As you begin to use larger quantities of balloons, you will certainly want to order from balloon distributor websites that offer bulk prices and shipping discounts. How you store your balloons will also become important to you. Latex balloons are naturally biodegradable and, given time, will eventually lose their durable qualities. They may acquire small holes or become brittle, making them more likely to pop. Light and heat do the most harm and will be sure to deteriorate balloons quicker than usual. To prevent balloons from going "stale," store them loosely in a cool, dark place. Many balloon artists prefer to store their balloons in a refrigerator to keep them "fresh."
When you are working with your balloons, be conscious of your environment! The weather will have instant effects on your balloons if it is too hot or too cold. Try to work in the shade, and store your balloons in an insulated pouch or container. Also be aware of the effects that you are having on the environment. Always clean up after yourself, leaving your work area as it was when you arrived. Broken or discarded balloons can leave a very unsightly mess that can be dangerous to small children and animals that may try to eat balloon scraps.
Note that there are other types of balloons made of mylar that are very popular for their shimmery foil surface and wide variety of shapes and printed color images. These balloons are not meant for twisting, so I will not cover them extensively in this book, but, along with latex balloons, they can be incorporated into some very creative designs frequently used by balloon decorators.CHAPTER 2
Blowing up the balloon is the most important part of making a balloon design. The amount of air that is used will determine the initial size and shape of the balloon and how much twisting can be done to it. This is true of every style of balloon but is most important when using the long, skinny, twisty balloons which we will refer to as 260 s throughout the rest of this book.
Most of us have inflated round balloons by mouth and have found it to be not very difficult to do. Blowing up a 260 by mouth, however, because of its narrow shape, is much more difficult, so much so that it is not recommended. Blowing up 260 s by mouth may appear flashy, and many professionals prefer to inflate them this way, but it subjects the balloon artist to so many health risks that it is not worth doing. So if you can't do it, don't feel discouraged!
Today there are many p ump s that are available specifically for inflating 260 s. The easiest p ump s to find in stores are hand p ump s. They can be found at most p arty or balloon stores and can inflate a 260 fully with about three or four strokes. These p ump s come in fun colors and are made by a number of different manufacturers. They are generally inexpensive. Some are more durable than others, so be selective when you buy. A good rule of thumb is that shiny plastic is less durable and more likely to break. The better hand pumps will allow you to op en them up. Your p ump will last longer with proper maintenance, so keep it clean and lubricate and inspect gaskets and O-rings regularly. It is also a good idea to have a backup p ump available should your p ump stop working in the middle of a project or performance.
Because of their relatively small size, hand pumps can be carried easily in a large pocket or a balloon bag. This has made them popular with clowns and other strolling entertainers. Some like to attach a strap to their hand pump and hang it over their shoulder while they twist.
Another hand pump that is very easy to find is the sport-ball pump. It can be found in almost any store that sells sporting goods. This pump is small and narrow and usually comes in packages with two types of nozzles: a needle for inflating basketballs and footballs (also great for inflating the tiny 160 balloons) and a cone-shaped plastic nozzle for inflating vinyl toys and balloons. Always check for this balloon nozzle before purchasing this pump, because some manufacturers do not include it in the package. This pump is also usually inexpensive. It is usually made of plastic but has a metal shaft that makes it more durable. This is the smallest of the hand pumps and requires more strokes to inflate a 260.
The pumps that have been mentioned are the most popular and the easiest to find in stores. They are perfect for beginners and professionals alike, but they may not be the best pumps for every occasion. As you grow as a balloon artist, you may find that you are inflating large volumes of balloons and getting too much exercise! Many professionals will find themselves with long lines of children waiting for balloons, in which case the hand pump is not fast enough to do the job. Fortunately, other pumps exist to meet these demands.
The upright pump was originally designed by Tom Myers for use by clowns and magicians. Now, this type of pump is made by a few different sources and is available online and through magic and balloon distributors. These durable pumps, made of PVC or another strong plastic, stand on the ground and are about waist high. The user pulls up then pushes down for air, which comes out of a nozzle at the top of the pump, inflating a 260 easily with just one stroke. These pumps really get the job done and are useful for establishing your work area when working in a crowd.
Other pumps that are great for volume twisting are electric pumps. Many are made for different purposes than balloon sculpting, and some are not strong enough to inflate 260 s, even though they may inflate other types of balloons easily. Many of these pumps need to be plugged into an outlet, while others are battery-operated and rechargeable. The battery-operated pumps are usually very portable, and some can be worn in a hip pouch. The duration of power may be different from brand to brand, but it is always advisable to have a backup battery. Electric pumps almost always make some type of noise, some louder than others. You may wish to search for a type that is compatible with your working conditions.
A final source for inflating your balloons is compressed air or gas from a tank. Most of us are familiar with helium tanks for inflating balloons intended to float. Some people like to use compressed air for its silence and speed, though it usually requires a large tank, a hose, and some type of nozzle with a trigger. Small tanks or cartridges can be used in special circumstances and can sometimes be concealed to make a balloon seem to magically inflate.
One note about helium: Resist the temptation to inflate your 260 with helium and expect your creations to float. 260 s do not contain enough cubic inches of space in relation to the weight of the latex to allow your balloon to do much more than hover slightly. Believe me, I tried.
Remember, each pump is best suited for certain circumstances. Learn to use them to your advantage.CHAPTER 3
Getting to Know Your Balloons
Before you begin any balloon creation, it is important to know the balloon or balloons that you are working with. The balloon becomes your partner in the creation, and you must know that you can depend on it and work with it. Style, color, quality, and freshness all become important factors that must be inspected before starting your design.
Style or type of balloon, of course, depends on what you plan to create. As I mentioned earlier, most of the designs in this book are made with 260 s, so we will be focusing on that style of balloon in this section.
Color is usually easy to determine. You may choose a color just because you like it, or because it will help to define your design, by making a pig pink or a swan white, for example. Most colors will be easy to notice in a bag of balloons. Some of the darker colors, like purple, green, and black, however, may be harder to identify because, uninflated, their pigment is condensed and they will all appear to be black. They can be more easily distinguished by inflating a small bubble or by stretching the balloon near the open end to reveal the color. As you develop as a balloon artist, you may wish to buy balloons in packs of solid colors, especially for colors you use most. You will notice that manufacturers make different shades of each color and that some are easier to identify uninflated. You may choose to work with a different shade of green, purple, blue, or brown just to avoid confusion with other balloons that may appear to be black when uninflated.
The quality of the balloon you are using may not always be easy to determine until it has been inflated. Before inflating, however, look for defects, which may appear as tears, holes, or clumps of latex. A balloon with these imperfections is going to break, so discard it immediately. Even after close examination, however, it is not always possible to detect imperfections before inflating. Always be cautious when inflating, being careful to keep the balloon away from eyes, which can be harmed by bits of rubber thrown from an exploding balloon.
Once the balloon has been inflated, check for leakage of air. If your balloon has leakage, you will see the balloon slowly shrinking or hear a little hissing noise. You should release the remaining air and discard the balloon.
You may discover that all the balloons of a certain color in a bag are much weaker than balloons of the other colors. Red balloons from one bag, for example, may almost always pop while you are twisting them, but the other colors all seem fine. If you see this trend, avoid using the color in question. It may indicate a bad batch. Most likely, the next bag you open will not have that problem.
Balloons that are not fresh will give you the most trouble. It is hard to tell just by looking at them if balloons are old. They may have some discoloration, and they may feel limp or less resilient than new balloons, but you will know for sure when you inflate them! You will have a high percentage of breakage, and no single color will be a factor. It is time to buy new balloons!
Be comfortable with the balloons that you are using. Relax and get over the fear that they may break. I can guarantee that you will break balloons. Expect it. You will break less if you are not tense from worrying about them breaking!
Once you have selected a healthy 260, hold it out and wiggle it. You have just created your first balloon animal: a Worm! This may seem silly, but that is how simple it is to imagine and suggest animals and objects with balloons. Notice that your balloon, like the worm, has two ends: the mouth, which you will blow the air into, and the tail, which is the section that will inflate.
Do not stretch your balloon! Stretching weakens the latex. It is a practice that makes it easier for someone to inflate by mouth, but it sacrifices the quality of the balloon for the sake of theatrics. If you were to take a balloon and stretch just about an inch of it in the center, that weaker part would inflate first when you pumped air into the balloon. It is for this reason that when checking for color, you should only stretch the area near the mouth of the balloon.
Now that you have selected, inspected, and are comfortable with your 260 , place the mouth of your balloon over the nozzle of your pump. Continue to hold the balloon on the nozzle so that the air does not blow it off when you begin to pump. As you start to pump, try to channel the air so that the balloon begins to inflate about an inch away from the mouth of the balloon. This will give you plenty of room to tie the knot.
Inflate the balloon until it is about eighteen inches long with about a six-inch tail. Continue to hold the balloon tightly at the open end so that no air is released, and remove it from the pump. The inflated area of the 260 is the "body" of the balloon. The uninflated portion is still considered the tail.
After you have removed the balloon from the pump, release a small amount of air from the balloon. This is called burping, and you will know why when you hear the sound that the balloon makes! The balloon is burped to release some of the pressure in it so that it will not break as easily. Do not release too much air, or there will not be enough tension in the latex to make an effective sculpture. With practice you will develop a feel for how much air is appropriate. Some balloon artists prefer to work "tight" and release no air. They are careful to work the air back into the tail of the balloon as they twist. This relaxes the balloon as they work.
After you have inflated and burped your balloon, it is time to tie a knot in it so that the air can no longer escape. Tying a knot is simple. Continue to hold the balloon so that the air can't escape. With the other hand, stretch the mouth away from the body of the balloon and create a loop around one or two of the fingers with which you are pulling. Cross the stretched area over itself and tuck the mouth of the balloon back through the opening in the loop. Pull gently on the mouth of the balloon, tightening the knot. Do not pull the knot too tight, because you may damage the balloon.
This is just one way of tying the knot. If you have a way that works better for you, use it! As with anything creative, there is not just one right way to do it.CHAPTER 4
Let's Do the Twist!
Transforming your partially inflated balloon into a recognizable design requires creating bubbles of the same or different sizes, then locking them together and arranging them in a particular order. The bubbles become your building blocks with which to create. There are only a limited number of ways to twist, bend, or lock bubbles, yet so much can be created with them — and you are in control!
Before we begin with any designs, we should warm up with some twisting exercises. Pick up your partially inflated balloon and start at the knotted end. Focus on a spot about three inches from the knot and gently squeeze it between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. With your other hand, grasp the remaining portion of the balloon near where you are squeezing and twist the body of the balloon away from you, turning it three to five times to ensure the quality of the bubble you are creating. Continue to hold both ends of the balloon, or your bubble will unwind. This method of creating a bubble is called the pinch and twist.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Big Book of Balloon Art"
Copyright © 2019 Gerry Giovinco.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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