Whenever I waited in line with my kids at some event for their turn to get a balloon animal, I always wondered where these people got their magical powers to transform balloons into works of art. I was amazed when my friend, Summer, twisted some balloon swords for her son’s ninja party. When asked how she learned to do that, she said her godparents were professional clowns. So I persisted in this idea that balloon twisting was some kind of top secret skill and there was a code for it like the type that magicians have when it comes to revealing their tricks. Then one day, while at the library, I found a children’s book about balloon twisting and dropped by a party store near my house and I was making balloon animals that very same day.
The first thing I made was the dog.
It’s a very basic balloon animal and just by mastering that, you can create other similar animals such as the mouse, the horse, and the giraffe. You just need to change the proportions, the balloon color, and the Sharpie lines but with balloon animals, you are trying to get the idea of the animal not the actual details of it kinda like a Sumi-E brushstroke. You are getting the essence of the animal, the dog-ness of the dog. It’s all very minimal and zen-like. Below is a giraffe which is just a dog with a long neck and some markings. When you think of an alligator, you think long jaws, short legs, short body, short legs, and then long tail. Then you just put the eyes on top and some lines to show the sharp teeth. You can can also draw rectangles on his back or use another balloon to add small bubbles to show the plates on his back but in a pinch, this will do.
The materials I had to buy were the long balloons (there are different kinds but the 260 is the traditional ones you see), a balloon pump (also at the party store), small round ones, big round ones, and some Sharpies. The balloons have a lot of characteristics which actually helps you twist them into shapes. When you blow a balloon up, inflate it a little more than you need then burp it (letting some air out so the balloon is softer and easier to twist). When you twist two balloon pieces together, the twisting tightens the balloon so the air trapped pushes harder against the ballon skin and the friction of one part pushing against another helps it keep from unfurling. The book says to twist each shape 5-8 times which I do but if you watch videos, the really talented balloon artist just do just two or three twists. You can also do amazing things just by bending the balloon a certain way and then holding or rubbing it. The heat from your hand helps it keep its shape.
Here are some other balloons things I have made in order of difficulty:
Here is the flying mouse. You pull on the tail and let go and it flies in the air.
Here’s the bumblebee. Also can be a fly or dragonfly if you adjust the color and lines.
This octopus is pretty simple. Just twist the arms together and then attach the eyes and head. Not a lot of work involved though its size makes it look impressive.
I started with projects in the book but then branched out to internet videos. These are a bit harder.
I tried to do some hats but the kids did not love wearing balloon hats or crowns but you get the gist.
I told Andy, “It would be awesome if there was some kind of school that taught you party skills such as balloon twisting, face painting, magic tricks…”
He said, “So you want to go to clown school.”
And I answered, “No, not clown school… I mean… a place where you can learn how to entertain kids at parties… hmmm… yes, I want to go to clown school.”
I just hope clown school graduation is not like that Simpsons episode “Homie the Clown” where the mafia is going to kill Homer and Krusty unless they do a loop-de-loop while riding a tiny bicycle. Actually, that sounds awesome too.