Let me bring you up to date!

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog (isn’t that always the case?) so I’m going to give you the highlights since last time I posted and then we’ll be all up to date.  Sound good?

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  • I did a beautiful and very fancy first/third birthday party at the Four Seasons Boston.

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  • I learned how to make a balloon Hello Kitty and my daughter was very pleased.
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  • Not balloon related: I had a baby!  He turned 1 and wore a balloon hat.

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Now I’m all up to date and hope to keep it that way!

Thank You, Teachers

More often than not, we forget to thank people who really make a difference in our lives.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt particularly thankful for my daughter’s teachers, the four amazing women (and their support staff) who I entrust several times a week to keep her safe, happy, nurtured and loved while I’m off at work.  Maybe it’s because I’m reflecting on how much Sylvia has grown and changed in the past few months that she’s been at school.  Maybe it was because of the recent events that suddenly thrust teachers into the role of lifesaving heroes that made me realize what unsung heroes teachers are on a daily basis.

As an end-of-year thank you gift to Sylvia’s teachers, I made each of them an individual flower bouquet.  I made woven vases to hold the flowers and chose to do different colors and patterns for all four.  The vases were weighted down with a small water-filled balloon (what better way to nourish balloon flowers than with a water balloon!) and I made a variety of different flowers to go in each vase.  The result was a burst of color that I hope made all four of them smile.  It always feels good to give, but it felt extra nice to do something personal and special for these wonderful women for all they have done for Sylvia and our family this year.

 

 

So many babies!

Did you know that my husband Matt and I have a little balloon-related side business?  Well, our business, Alphaballoons, is booming mostly because our friends are booming with babies!  Here are some of the custom name prints we’ve been making for all the new babies in the world.  We hope these will be special additions to their bedrooms in Florida, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio!

If you would like a custom name print, a letter print, baby announcement cards or thank you cards, please check out our Etsy shop!  We are selling custom digital files as well as printed canvasses and cards.

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 BalloonHq.com.  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!

   



Some gigs are more special than others

Over the past ten years, I’ve gotten used to a routine for my gigs.  Send out contract–check.  Load balloon bag—check. Put on balloony T-shirt and comfy shoes—check.  Take TUMS to overcome some inevitable pre-gig jitters–check.  Type address into GPS—check.  Arrive at gig, meet client, start twisting!

But once in a while, I do a balloon gig that’s extra special.  An event that’s more than a job.  One that feels like a real “mitzvah”–a good deed.  One that makes me remember just how fortunate I am and just how important it is to give back to those who are less fortunate than me.  One that makes me feel so good about my ability to make balloons and bring smiles to people’s faces.

This past week, I was invited to make balloons at an outdoor picnic for United Cerebral Palsy of MetroBoston.  My client had informed me before the event that there would be a lot of wheelchair-bound guests with severe physical disabilities.  I responded that people were people and they all like balloons!

I have done gigs for organizations like UCP in the past, but for some reason this time I was particularly impacted by the guests.  Maybe in my head I was thinking about a friend who recently fell ill who I was worried about.  Maybe I was thinking about my daughter and how I want her to have a good long life of health and happiness.  Whatever it was, I was so happy to be able to bring smiles to the guests that evening.  So much so that I almost forgot I was being paid.  At the end of the night, the smiles and vocalizations of happiness I received were as much of a gift to me as my balloon kitties, dogs, lions, hats, mermaids and vampire hats were to them.

Freshly Squeezed

I often think of my Grandpa Joe (of blessed memory) when I’m building large balloon sculptures. He passed away before getting to see some of my favorite big pieces (llamas, Today Show likenesses) but he used to keep photos of the hawks in his own portfolio because he said he was proud of my artwork as if it was his own.

My Grandpa Joe himself was an incredibly talented woodcraftsmen.  Although always proud of his work, he was always very humble. One time, after completing a particularly awe-inspiring creation (an ark to house the Torah for his synagogue), I remember him looking at the sculpture and saying to me:

“You know, sometimes I can’t believe I made this.”

That’s how I felt about the dress I built for FableVision Studios Creative Juices Art Show this year.

 

 

 

Every year, the staff at FableVision Studios puts on an art show to showcase the creative talent everyone in the office does outside the office.  It’s always a great show, full of everything from food art, knitting, felting, wood painting, animation, illustration, puppetry, photography and, of course, my yearly contribution of balloon art.  This past February, I began to learn the craft of balloon couture at Twist and Shout and made my first dress.  I decided I wanted to get better at balloon couture and took on the challenge of making a better dress for this year’s art show.  And since I work with a bunch of crazy fun artists, I knew I would be able to convince one of them to wear the dress at the show.  And I did!  Thanks, Taryn!

The theme of this year’s art show was “Freshly Squeezed,” so I decided to make the dress have lots of bold and bright citrusy colors.  But I started out by making a “test dress” with whatever extra colors I had around.  I used the test dress to work out some kinks in the structure, size and shape of the dress.  Taryn came over to try on the test dress on Tuesday night and I figured out how her size matched up with the bust model I was using.

One of the trickiest parts of building balloon dresses is the very end, when you “unbutton” the dress from the bust and then have to twist right on your human model to make it fit just right.  Luckily, the test dress try-on session helped me figure out what needed to be changed for the final (a wider and longer bodic, and a more full skirt).

Another very tricky thing about building balloon dresses is that fact that you have to build it pretty quickly because balloons (especially the type of balloon-160s-that make up most of the dress lose air pretty quickly over 24 hours.  So Wednesday night, I got started on the real thing!

Anyway, the final dress probably took me about 6 hours total to build (so about 10+ hours twisting over the course of the week–my fingers and arms hurt by Friday!) I’m so happy with how it came out!  I accessorized the dress with a little flower on the bodice, a balloon corsage and a tiny top hat. Taryn looked amazing in it and seemed to have a great time wearing it the whole night.  Structurally, it held up very well, which I was very proud of, and several times through the evening, I did look at it and say:

“I can’t believe I made that.”

Celebrity Sighting #7: Bucky the Beaver

Over the past 10 years of twisting, I have had the pleasure of making balloon animals for a handful of celebrities, including Al Roker, Hoda KotbKathie LeeAdam SandlerSusan Olsen (“Cindy Brady” of The Brady Bunch) and Sir Paul McCartney.  It’s fun to make balloons for anyone really, but when you meet a celebrity, it’s always more fun to have something to tell them or show them, rather than just ogling and saying “I’m a HUGE fan!”

Today I added another celebrity to my list of balloon recipients: Bucky the Beaver, the MIT Mascot.  The fun thing about this celebrity encounter was that Bucky sought ME out instead of the reverse.  Bucky waited online behind about a dozen kids, waiting patiently in line for his balloon.  And as all good character walkarounds do, he did not break character and speak to ask for his balloon; he just looked at me and, well, smiled his usual smile.  So I made him a cute little Bucky likeness as a reward.

I was totally Buck-struck.

 

 

A Blue and Green Zebra

The adorable little sisters in the photo here were some of my best customers at Bjorn’s 3rd birthday party.  They were very sweet and chatty…and very happy to walk away with a rainbow, a butterfly, a cat and a dog (both on leashes).  They also requested I make a fish in a bowl, which I tried to do, but ultimately decided that would go on my “to learn” list.

Bjorn the birthday boy was a little shy on his big day so I wasn’t able to get a photo of his balloon requests, which were up there as some of the my all-time favorite creative requests.  Bjorn asked for: a blue and green zebra, a blue flashlight and a green flashlight.  He wasn’t worried at all when one of his friends said that there was no such thing as a blue and green zebra.  So I gave him just that (and the flashlights) and he smiled and went off into the backyard, barefoot, with balloon flashlights in hand, in search of something.  A purple and green lion?  A red and pink giraffe?  Who knows what you can find when you have a 3-year-old’s creative imagination.

Anakin and Darth Vader

I did a Fireman-themed birthday party today for 3-year-old Sam and all of his friends who were so excited about firemen, they spent most of the party putting out fake fires in the backyard!  Since it was a small-ish party, I had the time to really talk to the kids (I met a little girl whose name was also Naomi; we high-fived about that). I spent some time making two sculptures for this friend of Sam’s, who loved Star Wars even though he had never seen it.  He wanted Darth Vader and then Anakin.  When I asked him if he could hold both up so I could take a picture, he said:

“They’re not friends, you know.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that they were actually the same person…