Monday, April 30, 2012

BACI - Balloon Arts Convention Italy - The Sculpture Competitions

This year BACI took centre stage at the 76th edition of 'Art', the International Arts & Crafts Exhibition at the Fortezza da Basso, Florence, Italy.

The theme for BACI 2012 was ARTS & CRAFTS throughout history (in Italy “Arti & Mestieri”)…from the Big Bang to Bunga Bungafrom the gladiator to the aviator, Christopher Columbus to Barak Obama, from Leonardo da Vinci to Albert Einstein, from poets to astronautsBuffalo Bill to Bill Gates, from rain dancersto lap dancers!

The large sculpture competitions are an integral part of BACI, where there are two catagories:

Championship Master for those people who have won an Italian or Internationally recognized competitions, and the BACI Championships, which is open to anyone who wants to create a large sculpture at BACI and does not fall into the Championship Master category.
(to view the complete rules follow this link: The Rules)

This is quite an unusual competition, as it is a requirement that  BACI instructors compete and create their very own large sculpture... and if you know anything about me, you will know that large sculptures are not my speciality and if I am really honest, I find them very daunting!

Why? I suppose the shear scale, the mechanics and structure, timings... give me a centrepiece any day!!

I have spent the past year or so trying to overcome my 'fear' of creating large sculptures, I attended Luc Bertrand's Sculpture Course which I found extremely helpful and sought advise and help from some of the best sculpture artists in our industry. Rodney Fisher gave me some really great help regarding frame building and working with Fiona & Rodney Fisher on their amazing Titanic sculpture really gave me the confidence to tackle my own large sculpture!

I started my preparation many months ago, when I was informed that the sculpture theme was 'Arts & Crafts'. I knew instantly that I wanted to build a 'Tiffany' style lamp and that the lamp really would fit well within the theme "Arts & Crafts".
The Tiffany Lamp that I used for my sculptures inspiration.

It would allow me to work with the Qualatex Starpoint and Taper balloons which I really wanted to do (for the colours, textures and of course the shapes, which for me look like the cut glass used within a Tiffany lamp).

I spent many many hours designing and preparing. I practised many of the techniques that I wanted to use, like heat sealing foil balloons to create new 'custom' shapes rather than leaving new techniques to chance during the 24 hour build time and potentially running into problems!

I experimented with colour and created some really great and intense colours using the double stuffing method, Pearl Sapphire Blue inside Sapphire Blue, for a truly intense shiny Sapphire Blue, Chocolate Brown inside Gold for the metal work, Onyx Black inside Sapphire Blue, all worked really well when used with the shiny texture of a Microfoil balloon!

The Competition

The competitions officially started on Thursday 19th at 2pm, when teams had 6 hours to  check their product and build frames and structures... but no balloons could be inflated until 8am the next day, not all the competitors used framework in their sculptures... so a few found other things to 'amuse' themselves during this time!

Robbie Furman's Thursday afternoon 'creation'.

I have made a short video that really shows all the stages of the sculpture building from start to completion, it's amazing to see how each of the sculptures evolved...  I hope you enjoy it!

I can honestly say that I really 'enjoyed' building my sculpture. I worked with a truly great team, who embraced every task they were given, including double stuffing many many 100's  of 5" balloons and the continuous layering of 'Balloon Shine' they had to apply - a tip that Fiona Fisher shared with me when we were working on the Titanic to ensure that the balloons remained really shiny and to protect them to!  I would also like to give a huge personal thank you to Peter Berggreen from Denmark, who not only volunteered to help me build my sculpture a number of months ago, but also spent many weeks learning how to 'Tak' weave to create the column for the lamp... and he did an amazing job and to Linda Ceccon  from Sweden who worked as part of my team last year and came back for a second year to help me!

Peter Berggreen
Peter at work!

The Teams

Alessandro Patene


Alessandro Patane
Monica Pengo
Leonarda Rombi
Roberta Scionis
Alfio Sapia
Simona Carbone
Pasquale Cinotti
Jamaica Longo
Elenora Gori

Team Russia

" Buon Compleanno Balloon Express"

Dmitry Tishenko
Olga Kosova
Svetlana Kolyvantseva
Elena Monshnikova
Yuliya Andreyyeva
Vadim Shushkanov
Alexandr Solomatin
Olga Boranova
Olga Samoilova
Maxim Tsymbal

Enza Mondello

"MIIII..... Che Pasticcio!!"

Enza Mondello
Leo Mondello
Valter Saladino
Matilde Tortorici
Elisacetta Bennardo
Cristina Mura
Tiziana Arena
Lara Maratta
Antonino Saracino
Maria Vittorio

Manon at BACI

Barak O Barak

Manon Dudziac
Ester Cuono
Stefano Cammisa

Robbie Furman

"She has Sung"

Robbie Furman
Graziella Onano
Massimo Armando
Pasqualina Simonelli
Valeria Fraschini
Massimo Coello
Antonella Fanelli
Angela Casaccia

Sue Bowler & Team

"The Lamp - Inspired by Tiffany"

Sue Bowler
John Bowler
Anna Elisabetta Auletta
Iris Ball
Davide Mercurio
Andrea Papolino
Peter Berggreen
Milena Raino
Anna Paladini
Linda Ceccon

Fiona Fisher and Team

"Balloon Artist at Work"

Fiona Fisher
Rodney Fisher
Carmel Galea
Sharon Galea
Cristina Mura
Angelo De Francesco
Kerenina Lykins
Ben Lavis

Alberto and Team

" Anonimus"

Alberto Falcone
Simone Falcone
Luisa Verlezza
Roberto Cataldi
Lucia Frezzaroli
Tiziana Zanero
Loriana Liuzza
Fabio Valentini
Ludmila Mek'nik
Andre De Olivera

Alberto Nava and Team
Alberto Nava

"Anyone Can Cook!"

Alberto Nava
Milko Stefani
Teresa Antinoro
Mirko Laporta

Federico Onida

"IL Coraggio Del Toro"

Federico Onida
Carlo Vavenotti
Veronica Onida
Ester Onida
Massimo Castangia
Mauriizio Aru
Cristina Usai


Keith Stirman
Tanya Joselowsky
Elisa Helman
Marina Ferranti
Svetlana Lugovaya

" The Temple"

Hui Chuan Huang
Kuan Chuana Chen
Hsiu Chung Chen
Ling Hua Hsiao
Keng Hung Lu
Chia Chang Chan
Yuan Chang Cheng
Shu Chuan Chen
Ya Ting Chang

Elisa D'Onorio

"Essere O Non Essere Superdany"

Elisa D'Onorio
Emanuelle Del Vescovo
Alessandra Romano
Nicola Catanzani
Sara Zampini
Anna Di Febo

Yi Wei Chen


Yi Wei Chen
Sheng Tang Lee
Kou Yi Lee
Chia Chiano Lee
Jiun Kang Shiu
Yueh Shuan Lee
Meichun Chan
Cheuk Lam Leung
Hsuan Chun Lin
Yu Li Sun

If you have never worked on a large sculpture, I strongly recommend that you do. It is a huge learning experience and a great way to meet new people, and you never know, one day you might be building your own large sculpture!

I would like to thank The Darkroom, for taking and sharing such great photographs and to Balloon Express for hosting another great BACI!

Thank you for reading this blog, I hope you enjoyed it!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How Tope Abulude designed the 'Very Best Balloon Show on Earth' Costume Party!

I would like to start this blog by declaring that I am totally in awe and full of respect for all those who design and create amazing large sculptures and large scale decor for parties! The amount of pre-planning and work involved is incredible and should never be underestimated!

Many months ago, Qualatex threw down the gauntlet and sent out a Worldwide Challenge to balloon artists offering them the opportunity to create the party decor that "only dreams are made of," where the balloons are unlimited and you have a full staff to bring it all to life!

What an amazing opportunity, but how does someone even start to plan for a party such as this?

WBC 2012
Tope with Norma Roberts
10 years ago there was a young man from London, England called Tope Abulude, CBA of Balloon Inspirations, who did just that, and back then, he created the Medieval themed Thursday night costume Party at IBAC (International Balloon Arts Convention.)  I remember It well as I also worked on this party creating King & Queen "Dance floor Darlings."

Once again Tope rose to the challenge and was declared the winning designer to create this year Thursday night costume party at the World Balloon Convention 2012 -

'The Very Best Balloon Show on Earth'!

How do start the designing process for a party such as this Tope?

"The design process is usually the more interesting aspect for me...I approach room design (regardless of how big it is) like it's a big centrepiece design. Then I will treat each component like they are centrepieces in their own rights. It's always back to design basics for me. The elements and principles of design are my anchor, so using space, colour, line, form etc. and how these come together in unity, harmony, rhythm, proportion to each other to define the final whole of whatever project I work on. I think taking the time to understand these fundamentals of design, and the application is what makes the difference between a decorator and a designer in any art form.Once I had submitted my drawings, I decided I was going to enjoy the journey/process this time around".

Tope was asked to submit sketches to depict decor for the following areas of the party.

Detailed sketches of specific decor elements fitting the circus theme for each of these areas: 
1.        Entrance/foyer 
2.        Stage/backdrop, including sides of stage and video screens 
3.        Ceiling treatments (ceiling height: 17 feet) 
4.        Room perimeter/focal point decor 
5.        Table arrangements for buffets/centerpieces 
6.        Special effects 
7.        Photo backdrops 

Here are a few of Tope's original sketches!

Tope Abulude

Tope Abulude

Tope Abulude

Tope Abulude

How did this party differ from the one that you did 10 years ago?

"I overworked myself during the preparation and I couldn't enjoy the party 10 years ago, ( I didn't even bring my own costume to Chicago.) This time I paced myself better and I was more organised.

I focused on my strengths and I chose to delegate a lot more than I did 10 years ago.
I arrived in Dallas early to start work on the Monday. I took breaks when I needed, and I had a fantastic team around me and a good project manager."

Tope selected the Polka Dots & Dots Bubble (15608) to create his colour palette for the party!

Here are a few photographs from the early stages of prep...

WBC 2012

WBC 2012

WBC 2012

WBC 2012

Tope's amazing team at work!

WBC 2012

WBC 2012

WBC 2012
more Monkey's! 

WBC 2012

WBC 2012
Tope's awesome team!
The Party!
It's great to see that so many people dressed up! It really does create the best party atmosphere...

I asked some of the newly qualified CBA delegates from the World Balloon Convention to tell me some of their WBC highlights, as you can see the party featured very highly!

"The costume party. The decor by Tope was fun and rich and it was great to see everyone parting and just having a good time"!   -  Malachi Robinson CBA
"The Gala and Circus decorating was amazing"! -  Tracy Hawes CBA
"The WOW Factor of all the Decor, I have only seen in magazines and online - it was so much more impressive and the techniques were easier to comprehend". - Amanda Pierce CBA
"Circus theme party and Gala dinner where everyone dressed up for the occasion"! - Annabelle Claire Tan CBA
"Helping to build the decor for the special events". - Elaine Holmes CBA
"Blown away by the Circus theme, absolutely fantastic"! - John Brew CBA

WBC 2012
The awesome Clown entrance arches!!!

WBC 2012
The 'Big Top' and Clown Head...

WBC 2012
'Circus' Stage Wall

WBC 2012
Looking across the room

WBC 2012

WBC 2012
Room decor with the stage 'Circus' wall and some very cool lighting!

WBC 2012
Fantastic costumes!

WBC 2012
Guess who... this IS Ted & Betty Vlamis... looking great!

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Tope Abulude and his amazing team, the decor and party was truly awesome. I would also like to thank Tope for sharing such great information, his early plans & details on how he worked to create yet another truly memorable event!

WBC 2012
Tope Abulude CBA,  Balloon Inspirations, London, UK
Tope has asked me to to add his own personal thanks to the following people: 

"I would like to thank contributing artists Cam Woody, Keith Stirman, Dom Cassidy, Connie Iden-Mounds, Dmitriy Tishenko, Andrey Osokin and David Debustos,  the WBC staff and Volunteers (too long a list to name) and it was a pleasure to work with Nick Otis (and his team) and LaDonna Belcher".

Before I started to write this blog, I truly wondered how you would even begin to start planning for an event on this scale? I would also have said that my own personal creativity comes in 'small, easy to handle packages', any bigger and I feel totally out of my comfort zone! However, I really liked how Tope says that he treats all his jobs like a big centrepiece design and builds each component of the decor in a similar way... wow, that really makes sense...hmm, maybe I could one day design decor on a large scale?

Well, I am off to 'BACI'-  Balloon Arts Convention Italy, where I will be making a large sculpture with 'Team Bowler'! I am hoping that they will have 'livecam' during the sculpture build again this year (Friday 20th April & Saturday 21st April), if they have, I'll make sure that I post it on the Qualatex Facebook Group page!

See you soon with some great new blogs!

Happy ballooning!


Friday, April 13, 2012

The power of saying thank you!

How often do we remember to say, thank you?
  • A thank you to a member of your staff for doing a great job!

  • Thank you to a referral source.

  • Thank you to customers.  

  • Thank you to a fellow balloon artist who shares a design, techniques or photograph on a socail media group?

Those two “magic words” can say a lot about you and your business!  

Let's begin with staff. Think back, the times when you were an employee that you felt under-appreciated? 

Never underestimate the value of saying "thank you", it goes a huge way towards employee motivation and job satisfaction. Just make sure that you are consistent and fair with your rewards, recognition, and praise, or it may have a de-motivating effect on your staff. 

Don't forget to pass on customer gratitude, let the whole team know when a customer sends in a thank you note or express's their gratitude to you of a job well done.

Do you work with hotels and venues on a referral system? I know that when I ran my balloon decorating business, I was regularly given referrals for wedding work at a local venue. We should never get complacent, their recommendation is worth so much to our businesses. So, I recommend, that whenever a referral source sends you a client or a potential job, send them a thank-you note.

What will the result be? At the very least, the referral source will be impressed. You will stand out from the other businesses whose manners are not as nice as yours. You may even get a thank you for your thank you. And, you will be remembered, so the next time the referral source needs to make a recommendation, he or she will think of you!

Whilst we are talking about thank you notes, timing is of the essence if left too long they can lose all the impact and meaning, and do not forget that there is nothing quite like good old-fashioned pen and paper, so easy to send and yet so powerful!

Now let's look at thanking our customers, we can do this every day! If we have an online business, we can thank our customers for their orders and if we have a shop or store, thank them for shopping with us today! We may even want to extend our thanks a little further. For example, if we decorate a wedding you may want to leave a small gift such as a 'fantasy flower' using the wedding balloons to make the flower or a small 4" Microfoil Heart beautifully gift wrapped, with a little hand-written note congratulating the newly married couple and thanking them for choosing your balloon company to decorate their very special day! Don't forget that one of your best referral sources are your customers... the power of word of mouth recommendations are huge!

Balloon Hearts by Sue Bowler
Gift wrapped 4" Hearts

We have the perfect product to say thank you with. Balloons are memorable, and will always make people smile! Maybe your local paper has written a great feature on you, or you did a great corporate job and you want to say thank you!
How about sending a 'Smile in a Box', what better way to be remembered and to say thank you!
"Smile in a Box"

How about this fun way to send a thank you note! I recemtly found a great App called Touchnote. It is a UK based application, but I expect that there are other applications worldwide that would work for you. Simply take a photograph of the event that you have just decorated and send that picture as a postcard to your client with a thank you note from you on the postcard! 

And finally, saying thank you to those around us who help us every day. How often do we see requests especially on social media sites for help? Help with idea's and inspiration, pictures and much more. It is so very important that we remember to thank those who have taken the time and trouble to help us. I must admit, I think that the Qualatex Facebook Group is a great community of sharers, with some truly inspirational designs being shown to help others, along with tips and hints and personal experiences too! 

And let us not forget our families and friends who support us greatly each and every day!

So, let's try and use those two amazing words more often, you will be surprised at how effective they are in so many ways! 

Happy Ballooning!