Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Balloon Industry Heroes and Inspirers. Part 2

Heroes and Inspirers! 
Part 2

Ted & Betty Vlamis - Pioneer Balloon Company
I am so excited to present the second part of this blog. Just in case you did not read part 1, I asked some of my balloon industry friends to share with me who their ‘heroes or inspirers were? I limited each person to a maximum of three people knowing that it would be hard to select only one, but easy to list many! As you will see, not everyone stuck to the rules of only 3 heroes :)

Once again, if you would like to add your own personal heroes please feel free to add them to this post in the comments section below. 

Robbie Furman CBA - Remember Our Balloons

Wow...that is a hard question.  So many people in so many different ways have done so much for me and have inspired me in what I am doing.   I have started typing this 6 times so I better just talk from my heart.

1.The teachers who teach from their heart.  The ones who spend months and even years on a design getting it just right...and when they do, SHARING it with the world.  These teachers are my hero's because they LOVE what they do, they know that the design they are creating will HELP the students grow in their businesses.

Breakfast at BACI

2. Ted and Betty Vlamis.  These two WONDERFUL individuals have made my life better through the decisions they have made a long time ago.   Whether it was a new balloon color or size, whether it was promoting more education or was it a decision to help grow our industry in so many ways...these two individuals have changed my life FOREVER and I love them for that!

Robbie with Alex Arroyo with students.
3. My most biggest hero’s are the STUDENTS! The ones that have overcome their own adversities to make their balloon business better through education.  The students who have come to classes with fears and doubts that they would EVER be able to create the Amazing designs taught by AMAZING teachers using AMAZING balloons.   The ones who leave the classes with the knowledge on HOW to create the designs and take those designs home with them and PRACTICE them until they too can create a Beautiful design themselves.  

I love coming to conventions...ALL my hero’s are Always near by!!

Christine Georgiou CBA -  Classic Balloons, Australia

Sue this "Hero" was an emotional ask, it took me quite a few days & sleepless nights thinking of all the amazing people who I can call my "Hero’s" the people that inspired me & who helped shape the "balloon professional" that I am today...

Firstly, & most importantly I must say, HAVE to say  "Linda Bruce"! What an amazing,inspiring,down to earth person she was...One of the first classes I ever did with Linda was "floor canopies" "Classic Balloon Decor" WOW! she made everything look easy & elegant...Apart from her brilliant canopies she taught us to "Super-size" everything we did! lol ( e.g.. MacDonald’s,"would you like fries with that?") I still use this term with customers & joke about it, but deep down like Linda I know it works! RIP dear Linda...

Second I would have to say without a doubt "Christopher Horne" .Where do I begin...From "balloon people" to "themed arches" to Fantasy Flowers" all of which I love & try to use in anyway I can. From children’s birthdays to Fantasy flowers for the whole bridal party ( as the bride was allergic to fresh flowers) corporate to christenings, if they have the budget I will make sure I'm the one to decorate it for them...

Third, but by no means not last, Jan Iiams...Jan was the lady that inspired
me to go "elegant" & "romantic" I think I first time I sat in one of Jan's classes at IBAC in 1998 & she was making centerpieces with "lomey" as we didn't have these in Australia I was gobbsmacked & had to find something that would be as elegant in making topiaries & other table centrepieces other than using the traditional timber dowel...I've come a long way since 1998 , incorporating different elements such as feathers, fairy lights,organza ribbons & balloons to mention a few, to create romantic & memorable centerpieces... I can very proudly say that I am responsible for many balloon artist using acrylic tubing in their many stylish & elegant centerpieces today... Thank you Jan!

Robina Bernard - Clik Clik
Before we started in the Balloon Industry, 22 ½ years ago, we made and sold crafts and gift baskets at Craft Shows and Flea Markets.  Our suppliers were all in one area.  One day, we noticed a store called ‘The Balloon Depot’.  Since one of our friends told us we should provide balloons with our baskets, we decided to check it out.  The first thing I saw when I went in was a sign that said “Minimum order $25.00”.  I thought what on earth am I going to do with $25.00 worth of balloons?  I was about to turn and leave when a very nice lady greeted me and asked if she could help.  The rest as they say is history!

The lady was “Robina Bernard”, the owner of ‘The Balloon Depot’.  Robina was very helpful and would sit for hours and let me pick her brain.  I was in Sales in the high tech computer industry at the time and was interested not only about balloons but also about her being her own boss and running her own business.  Robina shared her knowledge and experience with me over the years.  This, along with my strong sales background,  gave me the foundation to be the successful balloon decor company STEWART’s Baskets & Balloons is today.  
Robina later sold ‘The Balloon Depot’ to start her most recent venture, as the owner of Clik Clik magnets and the Magmover.
Robina Bernard is definitely my ‘Balloon Industry Hero’!!! www.magmover.com

Graham Lee -  Balloon Chat    
Just 3 hero's wow, I need more than that and then these are only people who I have met, I admire many from afar.

I came into balloons from being an entertainer although those that know me and have seen my act will disagree about me being an entertainer.

These are all people I have worked with in the UK and abroad and I have been fortunate to be able to follow my dream and just to do what I love in places that I would never have believed possible.

So from the entertaining side, 


Willie Monroe,
Makes it look so easy and natural, 
comes up with so many new acts and routines.

Bob Wooding
Bob Wooding, 
A must is to see his balloon thunderbird act, a joy to watch.

So So funny and a true gentleman, well to me anyway.
Very unusual and different act.

These are three people that have come up with their own routines, sketches, acts and scripts, if you wanted to see a good 50 minute silent balloon act then Danny Schlesinger is worth going to see.
Another excellent performer is Tom Bibo. 
So there are five already, so much for the title "Three Balloon Heroes"

Balloon Dress Art

Rie Hosokai 
Is affectionately known as my Japanese wife, and I'm her UK husband. Sometimes you just bond and are comfortable in peoples company.
Rie has a couple of balloon books out that are well worth searching for.
And the fun we had in China telling Rie all the English swear words to use. Goodness so many great and funny times all thanks to a tube of latex.
The speed and accuracy that Rie works with, she is like a machine but please look her up on the internet, her creations are wonderful.

Sofie Vandewyer.
Sofie and I go back a long way as well. My first recollection was when we were paired together to help make a tunnel entrance at The Millennium Jam and we gave it the pet name of "The tunnel of love", so everytime we meet since there have been comments about our tunnel of love, I think we both never grew up! he he, fun times and nice memories. Sofie has since gone onto some amazing things and yet is still that lovely lady I met all those years ago.

Debbie Stevens,
Debbie Stevens
One of my highlights in China was having lunch with Debbie and getting to know her better, if you see her ask about the watch and the policeman and why she was sitting on the watch, he he, more fun times and nice memories and Debbie yet again makes some beautiful dresses and is an all round lovely person.

My so called three heroes above, although I would say just my friends all make precision made designs with elegance, a joy to watch and to view, maybe Marie Dadow should also be looked at if anyone is looking to start making balloon dresses. 

The odd collection

Colin Myles, 
Wonderful work, works completely differently to anyone else I know and is a very funny guy, if he set his mind to it he could easily be a very good entertainer. I have a lot of time for Colin as he was the one who helped me over come my fear of flying, for 25 years I never went in an aeroplane and Colin was nice to hold my hand and help me out. Those that know Colin realise he likes his own space so again I feel honoured that when we attend a convention we generally share a room and he offers me some of his diet coke, a true honour.

Thelma Levett, 
What a talent and inspiration, nothing much more to say.

Leo Verlinden, 
Has a special place in my heart, was a great help and went way beyond when I was starting out and should be in the balloon hall of fame for running the "BEST" balloon convention in the world for 11 years. 
Thanks Leo, just thank you.

David Crofts,
Builds his work more abstract than anyone else I know, we have worked on some fun projects together. David is very talented and not with just balloons but with magic as well.

David Grist,
David was more than a friend, we used to share a room at conventions, have a beer or two or three and had a lot of fun. We never cooked at The Millennium Jam, we always got invited out. David used to get invited here there and everywhere when we were at a convention and rather then just let me go my own way as we had travelled over together he always used to say great but I have Graham with me so I would also get the invite as well. So early on when I only just started out ballooning I was 
in the company of many industry leaders, sort of by default. But I will always remember David for this, to this day whenever I am at a convention I always go off for a while by myself, have a beer and a toast to absent friends and a little think down memory lane, so many special friends and special memories. The "Care & Share" days started as a result of David's passing and the David Grist Memorial Lecture is held every year in Birmingham as a result, we also sell the DVD's from David with all monies raised going to the Grist family. If you would like anymore info about David then catch me at a day or on the balloon forum www.balloonchat.co.uk and I'm happy to elaborate a little more of our fun days.

and Kevin Rowe, now everyone may be going who the hell is Kevin Rowe, well Kevin was the one that changed my life. He made the one balloon Hippo that I saw laying on a table at a magic convention in Southport all those years ago. I sat trying to work it out, had no idea, found Kevin and he explained the way it was built. From this I went to balloon lectures and as they say the rest is history. I still see Kevin now and again but he is more into the juggling but if I had not seen that Hippo then who knows what road I may have taken.

Well I make that 15 people I have mentioned, oops sorry about that and again there are many many more that I admire in our industry, so thank you to all of them, we all need to be inspired.

A huge thank you to Robbie, Christine, Colin and Graham for sharing your heroes with all of us...  I will be posting the final part of this blog in the next few days :)

Happy ballooning!


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