Thursday, May 10, 2012

As a 'Balloon Artist' how can we find our Inspiration?


We all need to be inspired sometimes, in everyday life we need find some inspiration, what to cook for a dinner party, what to wear for a special occasion, what special gift to buy someone... the list goes on and on!
So how can we draw on inspiration and come up with fresh and exciting new idea’s for our work?

Firstly we need to learn how to be inspired or find our creativity! I have heard many balloon decorators say that they are not creative people or that they find being creative hard.

Creativity does not just happen, sculpture, centerpiece and balloon dress designers to name just a few don’t just ‘make’ their creations, in many instances a designer can research and work on a design for many months in advance, I know, I have been in that situation myself when I have entered competitions!

Sue Bowler
This was my competition entry from IBAC 13, I worked on this design for many many weeks before I was happy with the end result.


If we have a theme to work on this is a huge help! Before we even start to think about balloons we need to do our homework!

The internet is such a huge asset for everyone today, prior to the internet (now that makes me sound very old)! We would use libraries or go on ‘inspiration’ days out, that would involve looking in store windows especially around seasonal periods, such as Christmas, Halloween and Valentines. Some of the big stores have huge merchandising budgets and have the most incredible displays, I know of a number of International designers who have re-created competition pieces from designs that they been inspired by that they have seen in a store window!

The Internet

As most of us are fortunate to have access to the internet, this would be the logical starting point for our research.

Google is a great starting point when I am looking for inspiration!
Google is probably the best search engine and I have to confess that I rarely use any of the others,  as it offers us so many options!

Just type and from there we can either read through the many 1000’s of entries or click on the word Images which appears at the top of the page and see every image that is available on the internet that is related to that subject.

This is how I started my research for my large sculpture that I created at BACI 2012

Once we start looking through this vast array of information we will be able to start to understand and visualize our theme in greater detail. It’s very important to have an open mind when working with a theme as there can be many routes that we can take and not necessarily the most obvious!

Collecting Information

We now need to start collecting information, pictures and idea’s, again, at this stage none of these are necessarily balloon related. Now make an ‘inspiration’ board. Many creative industries will use the same process from interior decorators to fashion designers, we all have the same aim of being creative and designing something fresh and unique!

An Interior Designers inspiration board

A Lilac & Purple Wedding theme inspiration board
For those of you with IPAD's there is a great App called 'Moodboard', I use it all the time to create collections of photographs and images. Perfect for inspiration boards but also to group pictures together when making up proposals for clients!

What should we be looking for to put on our inspiration boards?

Subject to the theme that we are working on we should be able to start identifying certain things such as:

In most themes there will be a dominant use of certain colours.
For example:
Mardi Gras; Green, Purple and Gold
Halloween; Orange, Black, Purple and White
James Bond; Black & Gold
Casino; Red, Black & White

This is a simple mood board that I created to help inspire me for a Mardi Gras design. Mardi Gras has 3 very domineering colours, Purple, Green and Gold, by simply using these 3 colours along with some very simple elements such as beads and feathers you can create a strong Mardi Gras theme design.

Shapes & Forms
Again, in many theme’s you can quickly identify reoccurring shapes and forms.
For example:
Arabian Nights you can see many uses of curves, swags and Moorish arches.
Casino will heavily reflect the use of  Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades.
Grecian themes can easily be identified through the use of elegant columns.

Key Thematic Elements
Strong elements that instantly identifies the theme.
For example;
Christmas; Snowmen, Christmas trees, Father Christmas....
Halloween; Black Cats, Bats, Pumpkins, ghosts....
Mardi Gras; Masks, beads, feathers...

We can also see what others have done, visit sites such as Balloonhq and photo search your theme (you might need to be a member to do specific searches) Seeing other artists work can often inspire us, it does not mean that we want to copy but it can help, especially if we are really struggling with a particular theme. The Qualatex Group facebook page is full of inspiring designs, it is a great way to share and inspire others!

How do we turn our idea’s into balloon decor?

With our ‘Inspiration’ board and a copy of our Qualatex catalogue we need to see what’s available, designs, colours and shapes. We might be lucky and find a whole range of balloons and products that fits nicely within our theme... Qualatex have some great theme balloons!

2012 Qualatex Everyday catalogue

Who’s our client, what are we making? Room decor for a clients party, a competition sculpture or a top selling delivery design for a peak holiday such as Valentines?  If we are designing for a client we may need to consider the customers budget, there is little point spending many hours designing complex decor for a party if our customer has a very limited budget, it would be far more constructive to design simple but effective decor that will fulfill the clients needs and expectations to the full, but don’t forget to add that little ‘extra’ that they really cannot decline but at extra expenses!


We still don’t need to touch a balloon at this stage, I suppose it really depends on what you are planning on making. Some designers sketch out their designs first or others of us reach for our keyboards! Hopefully if you are reading this you have access to either a PC or Mac, and therefore you should have either WORD or Pages, either one of these programs will give you the ability to start designing. Just use the shapes to create your balloon shapes, in WORD to find the shapes, click on VIEW and then TOOLBOX, when that opens click on DRAWING, that will give you a new toolbar that has everything that you need, use FILL to colour your shapes, CUT and PASTE to re-create more of the same, ‘hey presto’, you have a very basic design package, I can assure you I still use it today when I am designing anything from room decor to a centrepiece! Father Christmas started life as a computer generated design, this method saves time and materials and 99% of the time, work out just perfectly when recreated with actual balloons! I am sure that there are many clever people out there who know how to work with Coral Draw and other sophisticated design programs, that is my dream one day, but I know that as with anything new it will take a while to work out how to do it, so for now I am keeping to the simple way!

Sue Bowler
I created this just by simply using round shapes and filling in the colours!

Fresh Idea’s

I think I can say with confidence that ‘Fresh Idea’s’ will flow once you start to draw inspiration from sources away from the balloon industry, doing a small amount of research will help.

Tips & Hints

If you know that a customers budget is limited and you have a big space to fill, use Classic Balloon Decor every time! Columns and arches will quickly fill a room and create the greatest impact, use dominant colours and shapes that are synonymous with that theme.

Avital N Nir Shechter
This stunning arch created by Avital N Nir Shechter - Israel

Carmel & Sharon Galea
Beautiful shopping mall decor created by Carmel & Sharon Galea  - Party Goods Malta

Colin Stewart
Starpoint Decor created by Colin Stewart - Canada

Colin Stewart
Another great design by Colin Stewart

Lily Tan
Stunning entrance decor created by Lily Tan

Use bigger balloons for bigger impact! If using 16” or larger balloons make sure you work with a Conwin 60/40 valve to save on helium costs, especially if it's a 1 day only event!

Look out for current trends, see what’s going on in other industries such as the floral industry and see what’s new! Colour trends and even material trends such as feathers and beads,

Keep it simple! Keep your designs simple, don’t be tempted to over complicate them, minute detail is not important and takes too much time and therefore does not make it profitable.

Work smart! Work with the best equipment available to do the job, working with precision equipment will significantly reduce your labour time and costs. The quicker you work the more profitable you will be!

I would love to hear how you find your inspiration, please email me

Happy ballooning!


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