Monday, August 29, 2011

World's First Fantasy Flowers

     "Making It With Balloons" BLOG

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You might not expect a major innovation in methods for creating balloon sculpture to come from the problem solving play of a balloon neophyte; but it did.


You know from my last post that when I began playing with balloons early in 1983  that I started right in bending, twisting, stretching and stuffing all kinds of things things into balloons.  You probably did not realize that my play is where balloon "Fantasy Flowers" began.

Many of my balloon creations were simply the result of playing with this new medium of latex, air and imagination.  But the internal structuring I used to make those first Fantasy Flowers was also the result of my search to solve some practical problems.

  1. Balloons tend to lose air pressure over time and collapse. I wanted them to stay up longer.
  2. Fully inflated balloons are bulky and vases intended for normal flowers will hold only a few normal balloon stems.  I wanted to display more flowers in one vase while keeping balloons for stems.
I found that something as simple as a drinking straw inside a long balloon, or a round balloon for that matter, would allow me to get elegant shapes that were thinner than the normal balloon when fully inflated.  And, another advantage was that as the air volume leaked out of the balloon the internal structure kept the balloon the same length and generally in the same position. This was great for flower stems and for more abstract leaves and petals.  The result was that my balloon flowers with internal structures were more elegant, lasted longer and more of them fit into normal flower vases.


Rigid, straight structures like drinking straws and dowels, however, did not give the ability to curve and create more fluid designs. I soon discovered clothes hanger wire.  This, of course, was in a time when wire clothes hangers were the standard.  They just seemed to multiply like rabbits in the closet. Actually, new ones came in all the time from the clothes cleaners.

Now that plastics have pretty much taken over the market for clothes hangers, you will have to broaden your search for metal wire.  A good source in our community is rolls of wire from the hardware store. Check out your local hardware store or building supply.  Also, check into floral wire.  It is usually what is recommended in books and classes today on Fantasy Flowers.  It comes in a variety of weights/thicknesses and is usually about 12" long.  If you want heavier wire or longer wire for stems or bigger plants, then I encourage a trip to your hardware store.


Here are two examples from early in 1983 where the curved wire is used with great effect.  The partially inflated balloons are stretched over long sections of wire to create elegant stems.  Also, the stems becomes the base of the flowers.  Even if a stem were to lose all its air pressure, the flower would still stand in the same overall composition.  No additional base or vase is required at all.

In this second example nine balloon flowers come out of the neck of one narrow necked vase.  Fully inflated #260 balloons would not work as stems for all these balloon flowers in this situation.  And, of course, the internal structures in the stems mean that the flowers will stay up longer while keeping the fact and the look of balloons.


Next time we will take a look at one of the occasions when a simple drinking straw inside a balloon is particularly useful for balloon flowers.


Meanwhile, if you would like a quick overview of the first seven years of Fantasy Flowers, you may enjoy this article:  Fantasy Flowers - The Beginning of "RIBS" For Balloon Sculpture. 

If you would like to learn and play hands-on with some of these "RIBS" techniques to build awesome, abstract sculptures like the ones to the left then join us in Detroit, Michigan USA September 20-22, 2011. Register for BALLOONstitute and attend the "RIBS" class.

Thanks for joining us here on
"Making It With Balloons"  Blog

Your Host,
Graham Rouse
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