Thursday, December 7, 2017

Balloons by Number: How Mike Hurst's Journey to WBC Inspired Him to Create Quick Link Numbers.

Designing a party is exciting but can also be challenging. Next week, I will be decorating a big corporate event with a fabulous team of balloon artists working with me. This year's theme is DISCO, and I am looking forward to us creating a room filled with "Mirror Balls" — 3' giant confetti-filled balloons that will reflect the coloured lighting within the room. In addition to this, the client wanted us to create decor for the stage. Last year, we made musical notes that we suspended against the star cloth backdrop. This year, I thought it would be great to make the word "disco" using Quick Link Balloons®. So, here is where my challenge really started. I am not a Quick Link expert. In fact, I am still very much a learner when it comes to designing with Quick Links! It was time for me to find a Quick Link expert! 




Earlier this year Mike Hurst, CBA from Reds in Brackley, U.K., ran an introductory webinar with BAPIA* showing viewers how to make a number "One" and to talk about the art of creating numbers using Quick Link Balloons. Due to great feedback and demand, he ran a one-day hands-on course, teaching delegates how to create all the numbers. Sadly I missed it! Mike is not someone that you would normally see on the teaching circuit. He only started working with balloons in 2013 when he attended the Qualatex® Fundamentals course



So when I visited Mike earlier this week, I asked what inspired him to learn how to design the numbers. This was something Mike did not have to think about, his response was quick - "The World Balloon Convention 2016 in New Orleans." Mike only decided to attend WBC at the last minute. He knew that he wanted to go, but Mike and his wife Jane were just about to move their business — Party with Reds — to a new location, and the timing was not great for him to be jetting off to the USA. 




By chance, Mike made a connection with Ziv Raviv, host of Balloon Artist Podcast and founder of balloon artist collegewho was running a WBC referral scheme at that time. Although the cost was a huge consideration, he knew deep down that attending WBC would benefit him and his business greatly. I asked Mike what he felt he gained.

"Firstly and very importantly, it was building new relationships and contacts that would and since have opened new doors and opportunities. Then, of course, the classes, learning new styles and techniques have proved invaluable. Plus it boosted my confidence greatly! I truly loved the networking. It's not something that you consider before you go, but you meet so many like-minded people from all around the world. Plus you get the opportunity to spend time with the instructors who generously offered advice and support." On return, Mike went into full-scale production making and selling designs that he had learned during his time at WBC. His newfound skills and art were received very well by his customers, and the designs were literally "flying off the shelf" before he had even had a chance to price them! I asked Mike how quickly he made a return on his WBC investment. "About a year. However, it would have been quicker if I had not also invested in great new equipment, a Premium Twin Air Sizer, that I knew would benefit me and the business greatly. Plus I also attended the Qualatex Event in Slovenia where I took my CBA exam!"

Mike's interest in making the numbers was through networking conversation at WBC and talking to David Mahoney about the yard numbers that he makes. Mike felt that this would be something that he could potentially sell in the U.K. On his return, he made a number "Three" for his godson's third birthday, but decided that working with Quick Links might be easier. Mike had learned how to work with Quick Links and how to make fabulous arches when he attended the Qualatex Magical Party Design course. "This has to be one of my favourite classes, it really gave me the spark to design and create the numbers."




For me, Mike was the perfect person to ask for help, and thankfully, he agreed and set about designing the word "DISCO" for the party. It was important for me to learn how to make the letters, so I spent an action-packed afternoon with Mike earlier this week, where we made the "I," which would be our template for height and then the "S," to ensure that the proportions where correct.



















This was somewhat of a challenge as the space in Mike's shop was limited, so we ended up taking the letters outside to see how they looked and we received some great comments from passers-by who were intrigued by what we were doing.










I asked Mike if he would be going to WBC next year in San Diego? "Absolutely! I would not miss it for the world! Once again, I want to gain as much as possible from my investment. This time, I have set myself a new challenge by entering three of the competitions with a fellow Brit, Samuel Stamp-Dod. I entered the Mystery Box competition when I attended the UK leg of the Qualatex World Tour with Aimee Smith and we won! It really gave me the push that I needed."

For those of you who are wondering how you can learn how to make Mike's Quick Link numbers, you will be excited to know that there will be an online course available next year, so watch this space. I will keep you posted! 

Mike has very kindly offered to share his first online webinar demonstration that he did with BAPIA showing how to make his number "One." It was an interactive class where the viewers made a number "One" at the same time. Cool idea! 




Other than attending WBC 2018 and entering competitions, Mike's next challenge will be to design the whole alphabet, which he will also make available online — he's designed five letters already. 😉

A huge thank you to Mike for helping me with my "Disco" dilemma, and for being such a great teacher! I wish him every success with his competitions at WBC and with his exciting ballooning journey!

I will report back after our event next week and show you how Mike's letters and the party decor looked!

Have a great week, and happy Ballooning!

Sue
www.suebowler.com
*BAPIA - Balloon and Party Industry Alliance


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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Small Snowflake Design by Luc Bertrand, CBA.

Every year, Luc Bertrand, CBA, of wAw Balloons in Vichte, Belgium, very kindly shares one of his festive designs. This year, he shares his lovely small snowflake!





Material List:

11 -  5" White balloons
12 -  6" White Quick Link balloons

Method: 

Step 1.

Inflate each of the 5" White balloons with two pumps on a hand pump and tie the balloons as close as you can to the nozzle end.



















Step 2. 

Squeeze the air from the balloon so that it inflates the whole balloon, including the neck. 
Now, make two small bubbles (see photo).














Step 3.

Bring the neck of the balloon up below the larger bubble and twist. Pull the neck of the balloon through the middle of the two smaller bubbles to hold these in place.


Step 4.

Twist each of the smaller bubbles into a Pinch Twist. 
















Step 5.

Repeat this process with all eleven balloons.

















Step 6.


Now inflate the twelve 6" Quick Links with five pumps of a hand pump and tie these into duplets.














Step 7.

Twist all the duplets together to form a Topiary.












Step 8.

Attach the 5" balloons to the tips of each of the Quick Link balloons with the exception of the top balloon. This will enable you to hang it easily.










Thank you once again, Luc, for sharing a wonderful design that we can use this festive season!

Happy Ballooning!

Sue

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Are You Ready For The Festive Season?

Make the most of the festive season with these top tips.

1. Get prepared

You may feel like Christmas is still a long time away, but before you know it, it will be mid-December! For some small businesses, Christmas can be the busiest time of the year, while others may find that things quiet down in the run-up to the new year. Whichever it is for yours, you need to plan accordingly — especially when it comes to finances. If you’re expecting Christmas to be one of your busiest periods, you’ll need to make sure you have the resources to meet demand — whether that’s time, staff members, products, or anything else.

How fabulous is this festive wreath designed by Tope Abulude, CBA and Dominic Cassidy, CBA! It would look stunning as part of a Christmas display. Did you know that if you are a QBN member you can download the recipe? Just visit www.Qualatex.com, log in,  click on Inspiration, then click on Explore Decor. It's quick to find if you refine your search to "Christmas" in Occasions.
2. Think about your festive marketing
Christmas provides plenty of opportunities for themed marketing events, no matter what kind of business you run. Pick something that works for you and your target audience to make the most of the festive season. Write a festive email newsletter to keep your customers up-to-date with any offers that you are promoting during the Christmas period. It is the best way to get hold of as many of your customers as possible without investing too much money.
For those of you who have a die-cutting machine such as a Silhouette Cameo, consider making window vinyls to display a message or special offers. Snowflakes and a message looks fabulous!


You can download some great files for free from DesignBundles.net, like this Merry and Bright design that would make a great window decal. When you download from FontBundles and DesignBundles, you will get the image in several formats including jpg, png, ai, and svg.




And don't forget to add a festive element to your website! It's amazing how many people forget to update their websites for seasonal events! 
Smilin Snowman by Cam Woody, CBA,
Pioneer Balloon Company
3. Arrange a Christmas Event


Everyone is going to be on the lookout for a great deal this Christmas, so consider arranging a Christmas event where you offer free gifts or special discounts. Offering a free gift when your customer spends over a certain amount in your store will have the power to increase your customers' average spend, as many people will spend over the threshold to get a free gift.




Quick Link Friendly Reindeer
by Cam Woody
















4. Be on-trend!

Think about what's hot right now! Giant balloons and giant balloons filled with confetti are one of this year's hottest trends! Make sure that your customers are aware that this is something you offer, along with confetti-filled Deco Bubbles, too! 











The NEW 24" "Frosty Snowflake" Deco Bubble will be a sure hit this winter!


24" "Frosty Snowflakes"
#52005
U.S. Patent No. 6,782,675

It's time to get creative and ready for a fabulous festive season! 

Happy Ballooning!

Sue
www.suebowler.com














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Friday, November 3, 2017

Will it be Pink or Blue? A Little Inspiration for Baby Gender Reveal Events.

Gender reveal parties are relatively new. Over the past few years, these have become increasingly popular around the world.
Photo Credit: The Story of Five
Wedding Banner Love



Gender reveal parties are a great way to celebrate and share the news of the baby's gender with family and friends before the baby is born. There are several ways that this can be done, either through cleverly staged photos or by throwing a memorable gender reveal party.




Here are some great ideas that I have found when researching through various social media channels. 

Box of Balloons

This seems to be one of the most popular ways to announce the gender of a baby. It's fun and very visual and gives you the opportunity to decorate and present the box in your own way! 


Photo Credit: Hellobabymomspeaking.blogspot.co.uk

Photo Credit - Inspiredbythis.com

Photo Credit: Deborah Nagai Photography

Photo Credit: Mandy Kay Photography - Wow, this lady takes awesome photographs!



Please consider Smart Balloon Practices when filling a box with helium-filled balloons. Rather than releasing and allowing the balloons to float away, keep the balloons tethered to a weight. 

To find large cardboard boxes, check your balloon distributor as many will carry boxes for balloon deliveries or use your friendly search engine and type the following keywords:


Where can I buy extra large boxes
XXL boxes 
Really big cardboard boxes




Popping Balloons

This also appears to be a very popular choice! Filling a 3' Black balloon with coloured confetti and 5" balloons to reveal if it's a girl or boy!

This is a fabulous video very kindly shared by Tope Abulude, CBA, of Balloon Inspirations Design Studio in Brentwood, Essex, U.K. This shows the fun and excitement a popping balloon can bring.







Photo Credit: Samdobsonwrites.com


This fabulous Qualatex® 3' "Question Marks" balloon # 43400 is perfect for gender reveal popping balloons! 




A popping balloon can be either helium-filled and secured to a ribbon and weight, or air-filled and suspended from the ceiling. Rather than just giving the couple a pin to pop the balloon, why not make a "wand"? This can be easily made by securing a pin to the end of a short wooden stick (protect the pin by placing a cork on it whilst it's not in use) This is also for health and safety reasons, too! Decorate the stick with ribbons and a bow.

Pregnant Balloon Sculpture

And finally, here is another great idea! This fabulous pregnant balloon sculpture is the work of Abby London of Abby London Magic and Balloons in Lansdown, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Abby makes one of her fabulous balloon dolls, fills the belly with pink or blue silk flowers and once it's popped, the sculpture remains intact and gets her figure back! 





Here are some great balloons that would be perfect for baby gender reveal party decor.


11" "Baby Footprint & Hearts"

11" "He? Or She?"
18" "He Or She? Footprints"

11" Mustache & Bow Tie
11" Mustache & Ribbon 

Remember, this could be the start of a fabulous relationship with your client. After the gender reveal there is the baby shower, the Christening or naming ceremony, the baby's first birthday, and so it goes on. This could be a customer for a very long time, so make sure that you build a great relationship with them.


Happy ballooning!

Sue
www.suebowler.com


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How To Inspire Our Clients with Mood Boards and Computer-Generated Decor ideas.

Well, it's that time already, and I am sure that many of you have bookings for Christmas and New Year's Eve parties. Earlier this week I spent the day preparing mood boards and design ideas for a potential client and thought that I would share how I go about the process.


Mood Boards

Mood boards (sometimes called "inspiration boards") are used by a number of creative businesses, such as interior designers, where fabric swatches and paint colour samples are grouped together to show a homeowner what type of atmosphere the new decor will create. I find that I can use mood boards to collect a range of ideas that can offer both me and my clients inspiration.

When a client asks you to propose ideas for their party, we need to establish what style of decor they are looking for. Christmas, for example, can be traditional, contemporary, or have a wintery look. We should never assume the style of decor our clients are looking for, and therefore, we can use mood boards to help to establish this. Here are three Christmas mood boards that I have created using images that I have downloaded from Qualatex.com and then used PicMonkey Collage to create the boards.


It is so easy to download all the different balloon images from the Qualatex website, and they are in a png format, which means that they have a transparent background making it easy for you to drop it into a document or a design! 

PicMonkey makes creative tools for photo editing and graphic design. However, recently they started to charge a small monthly fee. An alternative that I have found that is free is iPiccy.com




Traditional Christmas Board




Contemporary Christmas Board


Wintery Christmas Board



Each one of these Christmas boards offers a different "look," and although these do not show the full product range available within each theme, it will certainly give a client the opportunity to select the style that most suits their needs.


Sometimes we want to show clients other ideas, maybe a trend, accessory, or a design idea of decor that you have never made. Pinterest is a great resource.  our customers use it all the time! Create a Secret Board, add any pins that you want to show your customer, then click on the "+" button that appears in the top right centre. This will allow you to invite people to join your board! Only you and those you have invited can see your board. You can also invite your client to pin ideas that they have seen, giving you both an opportunity to share ideas.






The Design Process

Once we have an idea of the style of decor and the balloons that a client likes, we now have to put our creative skills to work! It might be that you only promote or sell designs that you have readily available to show a customer, and once again, that is where the Qualatex website can really help you! Simply visit the Inspiration page where you can explore Balloon Bouquets and Balloon Decor ideas, and don't forget to use the drop-down menus to refine your search. Once you have found a range of designs that you feel will work for your client, download these and drop the design images into your quote to add visual value - a page of words and numbers is very uninspiring whereas a picture is worth a thousand words and we want to sell the magic of the decor. Using visuals will help to create that magic! 

For me, I like to create my own designs. Rather than pre-make everything with balloons (very timely and expensive) to show my clients, I mock-up my design ideas on my laptop! 

Here is a design that I created.  I have used the wintery theme for this example. I wanted to feature the Qualatex "Snowflakes & Sparkles-A-Round" 3' and 11" balloons and the new 24" "Frosty Snowflakes" Deco Bubbles to create this elegant entrance decor.




I know many of you will say that you do not have the skills to create images like these, but I can assure you that it really is not difficult.

I work on a MacBook in PAGES, which is, I believe, much the same as WORD on a PC. I simply use "Shape" to import the shape that I require for my design, in this instance, a sphere. From there I "build" my decor. You will need to learn how to arrange your shapes - that will allow you to group a number of the shapes together, or send a shape to the back or move forward.

Here is a screenshot of one of the Columns that I made. The pink sphere is the shape that I dropped into my document. I can then alter the shape or colour to suit my design. I then build the style of Column that I want to show to my customer. The 3' Snowflake & Sparkle-A-Round was imported from Qualatex.com




Here is an example of the same style of Column that I designed for a recent Black & White party. This shows the computer image next to the finished result. I think you would agree that this is the perfect way to show customers what you are planning to make for them.




It might seem like a lot of work, but to be honest, I find it so much quicker to do this rather than spend a number of hours face to face with a client trying to work out what they want, and in most cases, they have no idea and are looking to you for inspiration! 


I would love to see how you inspire your customers. Please let me know, and we can feature some of your ideas along with this post! 

Happy Ballooning!


Sue
www.suebowler.com



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fabulous Balloon Tassels by Kerry Ferguson, CBA, and awesome Confetti Balloons by David Taylor, CBA.

It always amazes me when someone comes up with a fantastic new idea or technique with products that we use every day. 

Kerry Ferguson, CBA, of Pioneer Europe Ltd. recently demonstrated how to make fabulous balloon tassels - one of this year's top trends - using Poly Ribbon during the recent Autumn Fair at the N.E.C. Birmingham, U.K. And David Taylor, CBA, of Mad balloons in Sydney, Australia, recently shared his wonderful technique on how to create confetti-filled balloons. They both have kindly offered to share their videos with The Very Best Balloon Blog! 


For the past few years, we have been seeing the growing trend of big balloons with festoons of tassels flowing from them. You only have to search "Balloons with Tassels" on Pinterest and Instagram to see some truly amazing photographs! 

Kerry shows us how to create fabulous tassels using a product that we work with every day - Poly Ribbon. We use Poly Ribbon to make bows, but did we ever consider that it would be perfect for making tassels, too! 

Balloon Tassels by Kerry Ferguson




Kerry's Top Tips:

  • Use 2" or #40 Poly Ribbon
  • Use one full pump of HI-FLOAT per 3' balloon
  • Inflate 3' balloon to 14" (approximately 35cms) with air before inflating with helium to give a helium-air mix. This will help to reduce helium cost without affecting the floating time of the 3' balloon.


We all love confetti-filled balloons, and so do our customers! Chris Adamo, CBA, showed us in an early blog Tricks of The Trade Part 1 how to make a confetti applicator - a fabulous tool to help us to fill our balloons with confetti. "Mad" Dave Taylor now shows us his wonderful technique to make confetti-filled balloons, and it's very different from previous techniques that I have seen. He also shows us how to save a little helium and gives some great safety tips, too!


Confetti Balloons by Dave Taylor



Dave's top tips:
  • Use 25 grams of confetti per 3' balloon.
  • Use one full pump of HI-FLOAT per 3' balloon
  • Dave uses the Conwin Stretching Tool to open up his balloons
  • Inflate the confetti balloon to 45cms (approximately 17") with air.
  • The overall size when inflated with helium, is 70cms (approximately 27.5")
  • 16" confetti-filled balloons he had named Confetti Puff Balls
  • Use half a pump of HI-FLOAT per 16" balloon
  • Use 10 grams of confetti per 16" balloon.
The great thing about this industry is that we love to share, and both Kerry and Dave have shared two amazing videos that will help us all in our businesses! A huge thank you to both Kerry and Dave!

Happy Ballooning!


Sue