Friday, April 9, 2021

What Inspires us to take part in a Balloon Competition?

Happy Birthday Bear by
Sue Bowler, CBA

I have always enjoyed entering competitions! There's a lot of reasons why, but I do know that without doubt I love the challenge! Competition is definitely something I very much enjoyed doing both at the start of and throughout my balloon career, and to be honest I believe it very much helped to define me as the balloon artist that I am today! 

I remember my first competition vividly! I attended a Qualatex balloon convention in Paris in 1996 - known then as the European Balloon Symposium (EBS). I decided that if I was going to travel to Paris to attend a training event, that I should push myself a little more and enter a competition or two as well! I actually entered three competitions!  I had an amazing time working on a large sculpture of a desert island with a palm tree, a skeleton and a treasure chest! I also made a centrepiece and a delivery design too! Sadly, I don't have any photos of these designs, as it was pre-digital and I lost the prints. I remember having a ton of fun and laughing a lot, and it was there that I met some amazing ballooning friends, who I am still in contact with today. Most of all, I learned so much! I was under no illusion that I would win anything, but I had a feeling that it would be a good start to my ballooning journey! 

One year later I went to IBAC, International Balloon Art Convention in Chicago. I entered three competitions once again, and this time I won first place in the centrepiece competition with the Happy Birthday Bear, which is shown on the left. This truly was a defining moment in my career, especially as it opened doors and led to many exciting opportunities! 

The 'Lamp' inspired by Tiffany 
by Sue Bowler

I have entered many competitions over the years. Of course, I love to win. However the preparation part is equally important, and it can be very exciting! Working on a competition piece can take many months of designing, planning and practicing. Competing and the work involved has definitely helped me in my everyday designing! It has helped me to better understanding the elements and principles of design, and what makes a design appealing and attractive!

The Lamp by Sue Bowler

The 'Tiffany' Lamp is one of my favourite ever sculpture designs. Large sculptures have always been my nemesis! Most of my fellow competitor friends absolutely love creating large sculptures, but I personally feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of them. However, when I made the lamp, I gave it much more time and preparation than any sculpture before, and that really paid off! I worked with an amazing team of BACI (Balloon Art Convention Italy) delegates, they are all fabulously talented, and generous with their time, and even better, they helped me to realise my dream

Federico Onida, CBA of Balloon Express Shop in Cagliari, Italy can always be found taking part in competitions at ballooning events! Federico's designs are always extremely beautiful, exciting and inspiring! I asked him why he liked to enter competitions and what was his favourite ever competition design.

Federico Onida

Federico said  "I like to enter competitions because I always use my work in competition with myself.

I'll explain. Every day I prepare designs for clients, and in any one, even the simplest, I try to do my best, as if I was doing it for my mother, for my son, for a loved one, for myself.

I always tend to do my best.

My parents taught me that. Always aim to the top, first in school, then in life.

It happens, and often, that reality leads to defeats, falls, and disappointments.

But if you get it wrong and you've done your best, your result won't discourage you anyway.

It will be a new starting point, one more reason to learn and continue or start again.

I think that's why I do love to enter competitions.

The challenge must stimulate you to bring out the best in you.

The path from the dream, to the idea, to the project, to the finished sculpture allows you to discover your abilities and your limits, and discover new paths and new point of views.

The collaboration with the team, whatever your role in it, makes you grow, first as a man, and then as a professional. Whatever results you get.

A tip: your goal doesn't have to be to win.

Your goal must be to give it your all. Only in this way will you win, always!"

George and the Dragon Sculpture by Federico Onida

"My favourite sculpture has to be St. George and the Dragon. A sculpture that at the World Balloon Convention 2010, brought together all the best talents in Italy, each with their own abilities and limits. A team spirit, a desire to create something beautiful. A sculpture, a success, born of friendship, collaboration, creativity, technique, work."

Another balloon artist whose ballooning skills and designs I am always in awe of is Vadim Shushkanov, CBA of Balloon Toy, Moscow, Russia. I asked Vadim what he feels are the benefits of taking part in balloon competitions. Ha said:

Vadim Shushkanov

"For me, there are two of the most important benefits of balloon contests. First of all, every competition is a great opportunity to create a sculpture you would hardly ever make in different circumstances. Almost all of the balloon competitions in the world relate to art, not business. With no customers with their wishes and requests, you don't need to think if somebody can buy your work and you are completely free to share your thoughts and ideas through balloons. This has to be the best option to feel like a true balloon artist. And secondly, each competition makes you improve your professional skills. If you would like to build an impressive sculpture, you have to solve a lot of problems. You need to search and try many colour combinations, balloon techniques, methods and materials for frames or create something completely new. This sort of experience always rises your professional level and gives a huge background for using in everyday work."

Vadim with his team!

Sadly with the COVID pandemic, and the lack of face to face events worldwide, there has been very few opportunities to enter and take part in competitions in the past year. Hopefully over the coming months, life will begin to return to some sense of normalcy and ballooning events will start to take place once again! Would I recommend for you to attend an event and enter a competition? I absolutely would! Even if it's just in one category, you will gain so much from the experience, and who knows where this might lead you in the future!

To see photographs from past World Balloon Conventions visit the Gallery or click HERE

Take a walk around the competition room at WBC 18! This is a great video taken by Nir Schechter of Nir Balloons in Israel.

There is also a fabulous gallery of photographs and videos from past BACI Events! Definitely worth a visit if you are looking for inspiration, or to simply view some of the most incredible ballooning work!


Circus by Sue Bowler
I loved making this sculpture! It was vibrant, colourful and simple! 

I consider myself to be extremely lucky! Not only have I entered competitions, I have also attended many events around the world where I have been asked to be a judge. This is a great honour, and I am always in awe and amazed by the creativity and techniques that are shown by the very talented competitors! 

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebowler

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Importance of Principles and Elements of Design in Balloon Art!

Earlier this week, I was given the honour of taking part in the Q Corner Convention as part of the Design Panel discussion group alongside Tope Abulude, Cam Woody and Aleks and Nelly Hernández. 

The first question we were asked as a group was "Which of the Principles and Elements of Design is the most important to a creation and why?" 

This got me to thinking... how many balloon artists actually consider the basic principles and elements of design when making their decor? Is this something that many of us naturally do, or should it be considered more frequently?

So, let me put this to you in a different way - have you ever made a design or decor that does not look right, and while you know something is not quite right, you can't quite put your finger on it? Knowing the basics can prevent this from happening!  

So what are the Principles and Elements of Design?

Creating the 'perfect' design is not something that just happens, at least not for most of us anyway!  There are a number of factors that can help to make a design 'perfect,' so let's take a look at what those factors are!

Principles of Design: The basic principles of design include words such as unity, proportion and scale, balance, rhythm and harmony.

Elements of Design: These are the physical make-up of the design. You can touch or see the elements of design. These include colour, line, shape and texture.

By applying the principles to the elements of design, it will bring them together into one design. How you apply these principles determines how successful a design may be!

Principles of Design

Sculptured Balloon Column 
By Sue Bowler
Proportion is one of the easier design principles to understand. Simply put, it is the size of each elements in relation to one another. Proportion signals what is important in a design and what is not. In he typical design, larger elements are more important than the smaller elements. 

Scale refers to the size of the overall design in relationship to its surroundings! If a design is too big in its space, it will look overpowering. Too small small, it will look insignificant.

Balance is the visual and physical stability of a design. The visual stability of a design refers to how the mechanical stability of the design, and whether or not it will easily fall. A design with symmetrical balance should have the same amount of visual weight on both sides. Designs with asymmetrical balance will not mirror the design on both sides.
Remember that darker colours will have more visual weight than lighter colours; therefore, the darker colours belong at the base of your design since they appear heavier.

The spaces between repeating elements can cause a sense of rhythm to form, similar to the way the space between notes in a musical composition creates a rhythm. There are five basic types of visual rhythm that designers can create: random, regular, alternating, flowing, and progressive.

Movement refers to the way the eye travels over a design. One essential element should lead the eye to the next element and so on. This is achieved through positioning; the eye naturally falls on certain areas of a design first.
Table Centrepiece Design
By Sue Bowler

Unity refers to how well the elements of design work together. Visual elements should have clear relationships with each other in a design. Unity also helps ensure concepts are communicated in a clear, cohesive fashion. Designs with good unity also appear to be more organised and of higher quality than designs with poor unity.

Elements of Design

To effectively use colour in design, it is important to understand what it is and how it works. Colours are visually perceived as advancing or receding. Warm colours such as red, orange, and yellow advance, or appear closer.
Cool colours such as green, blue and violet recede or appear farther away. When making a design, the goal is to create colour harmony. The four most basic colour harmonies are monochromatic, analogous, complimentary, and triadic. 

The centrepiece design shown is using a monochromatic colour harmony. A monochromatic colour harmony consists of one hue (colour) and its tints, tones and shades.

Texture relates to the surface quality of each component of a design. Contrasting or opposite textures should be used (e.g. rough and smooth, shiny and matte) to create impact within a design. While balloons themselves have limited textural differences, there are many other ways to create texture within your designs. The texture of latex balloons is smooth and soft, but by adding elements such as tulle, ribbon, fabric, flowers, or feathers, you can create contrasting texture and a greater visual impact.

The design shown has a number of varying textures, such as shiny confetti inside the Deco Bubble and the addition of greenery and flowers within the design - all of these elements adds texture to the design.

Space is the open area, or void around each element of a design. Space allows each element to stand apart so it can be seen and appreciated while still giving the impression of unity. Without space, the eye can have difficulty finding the focal area or rhythm of a design. There are two types of space: positive and negative space. Positive space refers to the shape of an object or the area that is being utilised by balloons and other decorative elements. Negative space is the empty space surrounding the design components.

A line is the described path in a design that the eye should clearly follow. The line provides the framework or outline of an arrangement, as well as a visual path to follow. 
A design can have one line or a combination of lines with one being dominant. 
Lines can be: 
Vertical - creating drama
Horizontal - representing tranquility
Diagonal - expressing uncertainty 
Curved - reflecting grace

Form refers to the shape of each element in a design. Form can be divided into three separate categories. 
Round: A round composition is one of the most common shapes. It is designed to be viewed from all sides. Round designs are often used for centrepieces on circular tables.
Triangle: Triangular designs are usually viewed from only one side, so they are often used as a focal design on a pedestal or banqueting table.
Oblong: Oblong shapes are low, long and horizontal and usually symmetrically balanced. This style of design is especially suitable for a rectangular space.

And finally, Harmony
Harmony is the physical compatibility of the elements within your design. In other words, it is how the Design Elements (form, line, space, texture, and colour) relate to one another in an agreeable way. Creating harmony within a design also helps bring about unity. Every element within a design should coordinate and complement each other. Harmony. is created when all the Elements of Design are applied successfully! 

So in conclusion, to make the perfect design you need to consider and apply the Principles and Elements of design and if for any reason you are unhappy about a design that you have made think about why and what you can or could have done to make it better! 

I will be 100% honest, it took me quite some time to fully understand and have the ability to apply the principles of elements of design to my own work, and I can promise that I do not always get it right! But having an understanding can really help you to master design and become an even better balloon artist! 

Thank you for reading this post and I hope that it has helped!

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebowler

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Balloons and the Environment - How do you communicate Environment-Friendly practices to your customers?

Keeping your customers informed and giving them information on how they can enjoy their balloons responsibly is essential for all in the balloon industry, especially customers and balloon professionals. Sharing this information can be done in several ways:

Care Cards

A care card highlights the importance of enjoying balloons responsibly to best protect the environment. These are perfect add-on to give to your clients with their balloon purchase. Cards such as these highlight the following messages:

Please don't release helium-filled balloons outdoors - helium balloons should always be secured to a weight. Always dispose of balloons responsibly.

Balloons are a much-loved product that brings joy and helps us celebrate the special moments in life.
As a responsible balloon business, we want to protect our environment from any unnecessary litter. We have therefore made the decision not to support the release of any balloons into the environment. We encourage our customers to support this position and not undertake or endorse balloon releases of any kind. 

To remove the risk of injury, always use a balloon pump and NEVER inhale helium.

Uninflated or burst balloons can present a choking hazard - please supervise small children at all times.

Balloons made of natural rubber latex may cause a reaction in those with latex allergies. Look out for symptoms and seek help if required.

Remember when you've finished with a balloon, simply snip the end of the balloons with scissors before placing in a suitable bin. 

Pioneer Europe, in conjunction with the European Balloon and Party Council (EBPC), has developed a collection of environmental marketing materials that we can use freely within our businesses to educate consumers to enjoy balloons responsibly, promoting the message: "Don't let go."

There are five downloadable flyers that you can use:

Posters - these can be displayed in your shops and stores.
Leaflets - Gives even more information than the Care Card
Carecards - see above
Weight Labels - Weight Stickers will stick on the underside of many commonly used balloon weights.

These are available in 24 different languages. Click on the appropriate language and it will take you directly to the link.

Social Media Posts

Having a variety of posts is important for any business, and sharing environmental posts especially will be a very positive thing to do. It will act as a regular reminder to your customers and followers that you take environmental issues seriously! 

Once again, there are some great pre-made posts that are available from, which can be found in the SUSTAINABILITY section on the website. 

Here are a few examples of the types of posts that are available.

Have you ever seen a social media post from EU Partysafe? I would expect not, as unless you know about them, you probably won't be following them... start following them today! EU Partysafe is a consumer-facing page run by the European Balloon & Party Council, a Non-Governmental Organisation that represents all the key players in the balloon & party industry. Their aim is to raise awareness & educate consumers on balloon and party-related  products.

Here are a few examples of posts that EUPartysafe shares, and you could do something similar or even better! Sharing their posts on your business page clearly reinforces the message and will potentially guide your customers to their website, which gives even more consumer information on balloons and the environment as well as other information relating to party products.

EU Party Safe posts are succinct, and always feature important facts paired with an eye-catching photo. Free photo stock can be found on the Qualatex website in the Marketing Material in the Inspiration tab. CANVA has some great photo stock, some of which is free. Using an eye-catching, and appropriate photo will help to attract attention to your posts and hopefully their important messages too! 

Did you know ❓
Latex balloons are plant-based 🎈
✅ In fact, they are made from the sap of rubber trees, NOT from plastic as is sometimes reported

Always re-use before you recycle ♻️
🎈 foil balloons are not biodegradable;
🎈 flatten and store your foil balloons when possible;
🎈 re-use your foil balloons. You may be surprised how good they will look!

Here are a few more important websites that will help you to source balloon-related environmental information and messages that you can use. 

The Balloon Council -
Pro Environment Balloon Alliance (PEBA) -

Let us all enjoy the magic of balloons for many more years to come, but we need your help to make this possible! Please help us to promote the responsible use of balloons! 

A huge thank you to EBPC for allowing me to share material from their Facebook page.

Happy and responsible Ballooning!

Follow me @suebowler

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Ballooning Tips & Tricks - Learn a Few Tips about Mixing Helium & Air, is Static a Friend or Foe, How to Resolve a Closed Foil Balloon Valve and Much More!

It can take a very long time to learn and build up knowledge in any area. Experiencing those "light-bulb" moments is very much part of the learning curve, I know well from my own personal experiences; like when I was decorating for an event and the 5" balloons inside a 3' helium-filled balloon unexplainably started popping... I had to find out why! Today, I would like to share some "tips & tricks" that will help you when working with balloons! 

Let's start with the popping 5" balloon story!

Mixing Gases

I am not sure is this is a tip or trick, but it is certainly something that we all need to know! 

Helium, or Balloon Gas is lighter than air, and air molecules are much bigger than helium molecules. Each of these gases react differently inside balloons. 

Helium inside a latex balloon moves around and gradually escapes (diffuses) over a period of time through the natural pore of the balloon. That is why the average floating time of an 11" helium-filled latex balloon ranges from 18-24 hours, as the helium escapes, the balloon will start to get smaller and eventually fall down.

Air inside a latex balloon lasts much longer, as air molecules are big and it takes a longer period of time to escape from a latex balloon - weeks and months, rather than hours. The balloons will gradually get softer but they stay inflated for a much longer period than a helium-filled balloon.

So when you put 5" balloons inside a larger balloon, it is essential that you use the same gas in both balloons! 

When you put helium-filled balloons inside an air-filled balloon, the helium escapes (diffuses) from the helium-filled balloons and the balloons will go down, the same as they would if they were outside of the larger balloon. Have you ever tried putting helium inside a 5" balloon? It will float for around 2-3 hours before it gently drops down.

When you put air-filled balloons inside a larger helium-filled balloon, a process called 'diffusion' occurs. This is when the helium naturally moves and filters through and into the latex of the smaller balloons, which causes the smaller balloons to expand and eventually pop! This is exactly what happened to me! 

Static - friend or foe? 

Static can definitely be a problem when it comes to balloons! I have heard of balloons randomly popping due to high levels of static in a room.

Static does not like moisture or humidity, and therefore water can be used to reduce the amount of static in a room, a humidifier works well, and a fine water mister spray will help when working on site. Dryer sheets can also reduce static on balloons. Some decorators carry Static Guard with them on balloon jobs, as this can eliminate static and help prevent it from building! 

To prevent static on your balloon ribbon, wet your scissors before using them to curl the ribbon. (Dip the tip of your scissors in water).

Static is definitely a friend when making confetti-filled balloons. To make confetti stick to the inside of a balloon you will need to build a little static within the balloon. With air-filled balloons it's easy; simply rub the side of the balloon with your hand, a cloth, or even better, bubble-wrap packaging - this works every time for me! I have also heard that placing balloons inside a plastic bag will help to build the static. When making helium-filled, confetti-filled balloons, you will need to ensure that you add a small amount of air into the balloon, as static cannot build in pure helium! Simply use a hand-pump and add a few pumps of air - not too many as it can make the balloon too heavy and it won't float!

If you would like to learn how to make a confetti-filled Deco Bubble, check out the great video below. 

What should you do if the valve on a foil balloon does not open easily?

When the valve of a foil balloon does not easily open, first be ultra-careful not to damage it. Sometimes these appear to be stuck closed, but with a little help, we can usually open them. The temptation is to try and open the valve using a pencil or straw, but be aware that the valves in foil balloons are very delicate and can be easily damaged. For best results, use something thin and flat such as a folded floristry wire. Hold the valve between two fingers and gently slide in the wire with the folded side. This should go very smoothly without ruining the valve. If you don't have any floristry wire, try a flat beverage stirrer, like the wooden ones supplied in coffee houses. 

Using a floristry wire, bend in half and carefully
insert it into the valve of the foil balloon.

Cold Latex Balloons

Latex balloons last longer when they are stored in a cool and dark environment, as this helps to preserve the balloons shelf life for longer. However, if balloons get too cold, they can become hard to the touch and almost impossible to inflate, like the three balloons on the left. You can easily resolve this by warming up them up! Either put the balloons somewhere warm, like on a radiator, or place them into a tumble dryer for a few minutes - et volia,  your balloons will be back to normal and as good as new! 

Stretched Balloons

Here is another great tip about warming up balloons: when you pre-inflate latex balloons, they becomes stretched and lose their original balloon shape (see below left.) These balloons are still perfectly good, and can be used for your decor and balloon design. However, if you want the balloons to return to their original balloon shape, simply warm them up using either of the techniques above.

Making a balloon round rather than traditional balloon shape.

Some balloon decor styles, such as Balloon Columns and organic décor, look better when made with a rounder shape rather than the traditional balloon 'teardrop' shape. This can be easily achieved by how you inflate the balloons. Check out the video below to see how you can achieve this. If you do not have an electric pump, you can achieve the same results using a hand-pump, following the same principle.

Did you find this post useful? I would love to get some feedback! 

Happy Ballooning Everyone and thank you for reading the Very Best Balloon Blog! 

Follow me @suebowler

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Mother's Day Social Media Marketing Ideas- Are you Ready?

Are you ready for Mother's Day? Contrary to popular belief, Mother's Day is celebrated on various dates around the world. However, with less than two weeks until we celebrate Mother's Day in the UK, it's important that we spend this time ramping up our social media activity to ensure maximum sales! 

Firstly, have you updated your Business Facebook Page cover? A Facebook cover is the equivalent to a shop window for a business page. Online shoppers look at it for a second and make a decision whether to stay on the page or not. Moreover, it can also work as a small landing page, a call-to-action visual and an event announcement. You can easily make your own Facebook covers using Canva: I made the one above and it took me about 5 minutes. If you would like to learn how, watch the 7 minute video below.

If you don't feel confident enough to create your own, Qualatex has impressive ready-made covers available for anyone to use! Simply visit the Marketing Materials section on the Qualatex website. They are free, and quick and easy to download! There are many different covers to choose from, for all occasions! 

Social media posts are really important to remind everyone that Mother's Day is on the way! 

Here is a selection of different styles of posts. It's important to keep them varied and interesting! 

Make sure your visual content is appealing. With all the content that you share with your audience, you always want share your best. Make sure your visual quote looks attractive and nice.

I made this visual quote once again using Canva, I found the quote that I wanted to use and then framed it using one of the pretty borders in ELEMENTS. 

Qualatex has even more applicable ready-made marketing materials that you can download. The great things about these materials is that once you have downloaded them, you can personalise them any way that you want! You could add your company name and details, or maybe quickly draft a message and a reminder that Mother's Day is coming! To find all the social media posts click HERE or visit

Don't forget to use creative #hashtags to get your posts noticed! Here is a selection of #hashtags that you could use:


Remember that Mother's Day is a celebration for women in all walks of life, so maybe create a posts that celebrates;

Mum's to Be

I hope that has helped you even just a little and I wish you every success with Mother's Day!

Happy Ballooning!

Follow me @suebowler 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Mother's Day 2021 Idea's and Inspiration

Mother's Day comes early for many of us this year! In the UK, the date is linked to Easter, which is different each year as it is determined by the lunar calendar. Many Eastern European countries celebrate Mother's Day on the 8th March, the same day as International Woman's Day! The majority of countries celebrates Mother's Day on the 9th May. 

This was a variation on a design that I created for my Expression of Love on-line webinar a few weeks ago, and made a Mother's Day version using exactly the same techniques! 
Click HERE for a link to the class.

Cam Woody and Eve Antonello share balloon idea's, designs, and inspiration on their bi-weekly live show on Tuesdays at 1:00pm CST on Mr Q's Facebook page or over on Instagram at @eveantonellocba

Just in case you missed these two fantastic classes with Cam and Eve, I'll share them with you here so that you can catch up! 

Happy Hour with Cam & Eve: Mother's Day Designs (Part 1)
Say "I Love You, Mom!" with these sweet Mother's Day designs that are perfect for any day of the year!

Happy Hour with Cam & Eve: Mother's Day Designs (Part 2)
Say "I Love You, Mom!" with these sweet Mother's Day designs that are perfect foray of the year!

Here are a few more appealing designs perfect for those very special mother's on Mother's Day.

Mother's Day Stylish Stripes  -  Show Mum's how much we love them with this fabulous chic delivery design. Design by Garlis Bolivar, CBA, of La Gloria, Mexico City, Mexico.

To create this stylish, air-filled design, begin by creating a base of four 5" Gold latex and four 6" Rose Hearts, both ties into a 4-balloon cluster.Tie in a White 350Q to the clusters, then add Gold and Rose clusters on the other end of the 350Q to complement the base. Tie the “Love You M(Heart)M Stripes” Microfoil in to the top. Add value by tying on Onyx Black 160Q stripes and finish with Gold and Rose vinyl dots.

Mother's Day Spring Blossom CentrepieceMake the most of Mother's Day with this centrepiece featuring a "Mother's Day Pink Peonies" Bubble Balloon® from Qualatex®. Designed by Cam Woody, CBA, Pioneer Balloon Company, Wichita, KS, USA

Queen For A Mother's Day - Treat Mom like the queen she is with this beautiful bouquet.
Designed by Brenda Fink, CBA, Party Magic & Gift, Bethalto, IL, USA

Zahraa Jawad, CBA of Forever Balloons Boutique in Beirut, Lebanon always impresses with her amazing designs! Zahraa loves adding eye-catching details, much like I do! Simply adding a beautiful satin ribbon bow can really add value to a design! I also love how Zahraa creates the word MOM using the Northstar 16" letters and the 16" Jelli Balloon Number 0! 

If you would like to learn how to make a Six Petal Balloon Flower, like the flowers used in Zahraa's design above, check out Jackie Ochitwa's video below.

Watch out for my next post when I will be sharing some great marketing ideas for Mother's Day!

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me @suebowler