Read for the Record 2012: Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad

Every October, Jumpstart helps kids around the nation get a jumpstart on their reading.  Jumpstart is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing literacy to underprivileged children in the United States.  Their national headquarters are on the sixth floor of the Boston Children’s Museum.  This office also happens to be next door to FableVision Studios, an educational multimedia animation studio where I work during the week.  So I’ve become friends with a lot of staff at Jumpstart over the years, because, you know, we share an office kitchen and bathroom.

Anyway, Amy Schroeder at Jumpstart noticed my balloons at a FableVision event one year and contacted me about helping created some large balloon sculptures for their Read for the Record Event held every year in the auditorium at the Boston Public LIbrary.  This is a pretty large venue so we’re not talking about dogs and flowers.

Last year, the Read for the Record book was Llama Llama Red Pajama and I recreated baby llama and Mama Llama for the event (with some help on Mama’s apron by Sara Krakauer).  Jumpstart had a full-size bed on stage for the event which helped really recreate the scene from the book that we were depicting.

This year, the book was Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad and I decided to pull inspiration from this page of the book.

 This sculpture is probably one of my biggest installation pieces.  With internet and phone wisdom of some talented balloon decorators, Johnna Perry of Up, Up and Away Balloons and Lauren Beigel, I created 3 green columns for the backdrop of the sunflowers, using over 100 11inch round standard green balloons.  I stacked the columns on wooden bases with two 7 ft tall polls and fishing wire.

Next, I created 3 extra large sunflowers.  The sunflower design was my original design, with some inspiration from photos on  It was my first time experimenting with 321s, which I used for the leaves.  These balloon shapes were all the rage at Twist and Shout 2011, so I may be a little behind in incorporating them into my work.  But that’s one of my favorite reasons for doing these big sculptures:  I always learn new and interesting techniques and expend my repertoire. So, yay!

Once the sunflowers and backdrop was built (and completely took over my bedroom!), it was time to build Ladybug Girl herself. Ladybug Girl has so many parts of her that are so fun to do with balloons–her skirt, wings and antenna, especially.  But one thing I struggled with and (hopefully) fixed in the end, was how to make her face big and also cute.  Many twisters far more talented than I have a large repertoire of types of balloon faces that they can do.  My friend Rob Balchunas is amazing when it comes to this and can do caricatures that are really likenesses of the person.  This is an area I’m hoping to improve on and will hopefully get some pointers when I attend the Florida Super Jam in January.

Anyway, In the end, I decided to stick with her being big because I thought it would have the best impact in a large room. Up close maybe she wasn’t as cute as she is in the book, but Amy and her crew seemed very happy, which is what made me satisfied.  So I loaded her and sunflowers up in the van!

So another great event and great gig with Jumpstart!  Looking forward to hearing what the 2013 selection will be so I can start planning!

The Big Birthday Barter

I love a good trade.  When no money has to exchange and both people get something they want, it’s a good deal in my book.  So I was super excited to participate in my first balloon gig barter for Sylvia’s birthday party.  I had contacted Heather Mansfield of Music Together to see if she would be available to do a little sing-along for Sylvia’s 2nd birthday party this year.  Unfortunately, the date I picked was also the weekend of her son’s Ian’s birthday party.  Bummer, right?  Heather was actually looking for some birthday party entertainment for Ian’s party and when I joked that maybe he’d like balloons, she said, “Actually, that’s a great idea!”

Heather and I coordinated the parties so that I could come do Ian’s Train-Themed-But-Eventually-Became-Pirate-Themed party on Saturday and then she would come do Sylvia’s Music-Themed party on Sunday.  A perfect trade!

Here are some fun pictures from both parties.  It was a great weekend of birthday fun for everyone!