Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Highlights From My Amazing Trip To The Qualatex Event Shanghai

Teaching balloon art in a new country is always very exciting, and my recent trip to China was no exception!

On July 18th and 19th, China saw its very first Qualatex Event. Held in Shanghai at the Hyatt Palace, in Shanghai's Hongqiao Business District.

Qualatex Event 2018, Shanghai, China

Wang and Ophelia of QingLing, Shanghai.

The two-day event was organised and co-hosted by Pioneer Balloon Company, represented by Soo Chin Goo, Regional Sales & Education Manager E/SE Asia, and Qualatex distributor, Qingling, represented by Wang and Ophelia.

Soo Chin Goo of Pioneer Balloon Company

Day one was a fun-filled, action-packed day with the theme "Hot Summer." Lily Tan, Jeff Wong, CBA, Tingyu Wong, and myself, taught our designs to an expectant and excited group of delegates. Each instructor offered their uniquely different styles and techniques, which made the day very interesting and extremely informative for the delegates.

Here is a little feedback from some of the delegates: “Miss Lily’s happy and fun way of teaching, letting us deeply understand that the balloon can not only make people fame and fortune, but they can also make people so cute and happy. She teaches us not to be constrained by the techniques and to pay attention to details, details decide on the success or failure of the work. It also tells us that the work represents itself, so we must take each and every one of our works seriously."
Jeff Wong, CBA.

 "I was very impressed with Jeff's class. The process of shaping the aluminum will change the way we make frames, especially the heart shape. It can be bent at the same time to make the secret of symmetry on both sides very useful!" 
Tingyu Wong.
"Teacher A Yu mainly talked about how to make the irregular 'organic' balloon chain look better, and the importance of design sense. He also spoke about the color matching skills of the design. Teacher A Yu is a big, energetic boy, who had a good sense of design and aesthetics and interacts well with the students, making people feel very comforatble."

Hands-on with Tingyu

Day one concluded with a wonderfully relaxed and happy evening of fabulous food and entertainment organised for the delegates, instructors, and hosts at a neighbouring hotel. When we arrived, we were greeted with some of the stunning decor that had been made during the classes earlier that day, plus some further decor created by Lily and Tingyu.

The buffet dinner was a tour around the globe with so many choices of beautiful food! I was in seafood heaven! 

After dinner, a Mystery Box competition had been arranged without any prior notice to the delegates! There were eight slots available with two people per team. The theme echoed the same theme as the party - Hot Summer! Each team was presented with a closed box of balloon products, which they could create their own unique design from during the allocated thirty minutes. The competition was very enthusiastic, and the improvisation was very exciting. 

After much deliberation, it was unanimously decided by the instructors that Joey Gao and Song Ye of Balloon Kingdom in Shenyan, China,were the Mystery Box winners!  

Joey Gao and Song Ye of Balloon Kingdom - winners of the Mystery Box competition.

The evening was a great opportunity for the delegates to relax, socialise, and network with other balloon artists across China.

Day two was my turn to share some of my design ideas and techniques with our fabulous group of delegates. The day was filled with new baby and wedding decor, too, both subjects that I love to teach. 

Organic style wedding arches and hearts! 

Flamingo Birthday Decor by Sue Bowler, CBA
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a fabulous group of very talented delegates. I was very excited and impressed to see a selection of their everyday work - balloons and elegant balloon decor are certainly thriving in China! 

Finally, congratulations on the successful conclusion of China's first Qualatex Event. 
"From this exchange meeting, you can feel the thriving development of China's new generation of balloon artists! Let us work together to create the success of China's 'Balloon Pioneers' with the quality of Qualatex and contribute to the better life of the society!" - Soo Chin Goo, Pioneer Balloon Company.
I truly enjoyed my trip to Shanghai. I have been blessed that balloons have given me the opportunity to visit some incredible places around the world. Meeting, spending time, and working with Lily, Jeff, and Tingyu was a highlight of my trip, all very warm natured, generous, and talented instructors. I built so many wonderful memories with Soo Chin, Ophelia, and Wang, our amazing hosts! And finally, the awesome delegates who made my trip to Shanghai very memorable - thank you to all!

I was so impressed with the work of some of our delegates from China that I will be featuring a selection of their designs and the artists who made them on next week's Very Best Balloon Blog! 

Happy Ballooning!


Friday, July 27, 2018

Building Those Stunning Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland Mouse Heads - My Day Working With Stuart Davies

Earlier this month I was given the opportunity in London to join Stuart Davies, CBA, of Beyond Balloons in South Wales along with his very talented son and daughter, Kai and Kerys Davies, to assist with building the fabulous interactive decor for Walt Disney International for the 2018 Pride London Parade.

Rainbow Mouse Heads designed by Stuart, Kai and Kerys Davies

Stuart first landed this fabulous contract with Disney last year for the 2017 Pride London Parade. After his amazing success, Disney did not hesitate to ask him to design and make the decor once again. Stuart was also commissioned to create the decor for Disney at the 2018 Dublin Pride, too! 

The Big Picture 

Being able to give a client a clear idea of what you are proposing is a great way to get them excited. Stuart shares his proposal design. Above is the proposal which Stuart designed using Microsoft Publisher and below is the actual end result! 

Stuart confesses that at the proposal stage he had not worked out how he was going to make each of the designs - he still had plenty of time to do that! Stuart said "At this concept stage you don't need a huge amount of detail. Your job is to give that 'Big Picture.' The emotions, the feelings, the impact it will have - the detail comes later."

Probably one of Stuart's biggest challenges was to design the rainbow-striped Mickey Mouse heads.

There were four major issues in creating this design:

1. Converting a 2D design into 3D. 
2. Creating a viable structure more than 4ft. in size that could be moved around. Plus, a design that could be taught to others and created relatively quickly.
3. Making it light enough to carry above head height and strong enough to withstand the movement and attention it would get during a six-hour long parade through London, enduring wind and searing heat.
4, Ensuring it had no visible supporting collar on the connecting pole, which was just 14mm or 1/2 in. in diameter, and that it could be twisted, turned, and swung around with no movement from pole to balloon structure.

Stuart said that "In doing this we had to develop three new techniques. We did NOT use nets, NO alternate duplet square pack and NO Bead technique.

My initial concept idea and theoretical design involved over forty-seven mathematical calculations to get the sizing correct! Then as my co-designers, Kerys supported the development of the 1st prototype and Kai led on the development of the invisible cradle.

What we achieved as a team was a great design that looked as though it was magically attached to a 1/2 inch pole, just like we suggested in our concept drawings!"

Here are some truly magical photographs from the day. The balloons make such a huge impact!

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Disney PRIDE UK & Ireland

Stuart with Kai and Kelsey

For me, this was a fabulous opportunity to work with Stuart, Kai, and Kerys. I really enjoyed my day working at the Disney Store in London, albeit, tucked away in one of their large prop rooms, which to be honest was perfect as it was a very hot day outside and it meant that we could keep the balloons and us nice and cool! And look who I met whilst I was there! 

My job was to work on the Mickey Heads, which was great! Seeing a familiar technique applied in a totally new way was very exciting - your secret is safe with me, Stuart!

I am very proud to say that I was part of the team who made these two beautiful mouse heads!

Working with other balloon artists.

How often do we get the opportunity to work alongside other balloon artists? I cannot recommend strongly enough to take any opportunities you can to work with other balloon artists. It might be that you are relatively new to working with balloons and are looking for hands-on experience. Or maybe like me, you are keen to learn and work on an exciting project - it's not every day that you get the opportunity to work on a Disney project!

A huge congratulations to Stuart, his team, and the fabulous Disney employees who also worked really hard to prepare the decor! 

The Team: Stuart Davies, Nicci Rene, Julie Dommett, Vicky Earl, Sue Bowler, Kai Davies
Kerys Davies & Kelsey Evens.

Pride Parades are becoming big business. I spoke to a few balloon companies who said that this year they had seen a big rise in demand for decor leading up to the Pride Parade in London, maybe this could be a new opportunity for you?

Happy Ballooning!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Confetti Dots Centrepiece Idea and the Stunning Confetti Dots Deco Bubble Range - revised August 2020

Pink Confetti Dots Centrepiece Design by Sue Bowler
Centrepiece design by Sue Bowler, CBA.

Everyone loves the Qualatex® "Confetti Dots" Deco Bubbles! They are a fabulous addition to the Qualatex Bubble range.

As we all know, confetti balloons are extremely popular and are perfect for so many different occasions! I love to make confetti-filled Bubbles, especially when I have a specific colour request, or if I am matching decor that I have made. However, these "Confetti Dots" Bubbles are so quick and easy to use and make a fabulous addition to balloon arrangements.

I created this fun, air-filled centrepiece using the Plexipoles System that has been designed specifically for balloon professionals to make centrepiece designs. PlexiPoles are made from a high-quality acrylic and plexiglass product. The flat base, and elegant clear design of the poles are simply perfect for the job! 

To complement the "Pink Confetti Dot" Bubble, I used a range of Pink 5" and 11" latex balloons and added some Silver Chrome and Grey balloons, too - I felt that this would bring a little bit of sophistication to my design and that fabulous shine that Chrome balloons always do! 

For those of you who are wondering how I have 5" Silver Chrome balloons, they are in fact 11" Silver Chrome with a 5" balloon inside to help create the right size and shape. Since writing this post, we now have 7" Chrome balloons which are perfect for centrepieces! However, the 11" trick is a great one to use when you don't have a 5" option.

Centrepiece Base by Sue Bowler
I used some pink dot cellophane to bring a little texture to my design. Firstly, the cellophane was a perfect match and it can be easily made into "picks" that can be carefully inserted into the gaps between the balloons. The easiest way to make the "picks" is to cut your cellophane or tissue into squares, then use a balloon straw to find the centre of the square and give it a little twist. I like to glue my picks into place when I add them to my design to ensure that they don't fall out. I also added a few tiny balloons, which I felt gave a little more detail to what is fundamentally a very simple design. The tiny balloons are simply the tips of 260Qs that I have inflated and secured using glue dots. If you are wondering what I have used on the pole, it is a small length of cellophane that I have wrapped around.

Printed cellophane is very popular and quite easy to find. I recommend using your favourite search engine and type "Polka Dot Cellophane."

Here are some more fabulous design ideas using these wonderfully vibrant and versatile balloons.

Rainbow Confetti Thanks by Eve Antonello

Rainbow Confetti Thanks

A great job deserves this delivery of The Very Best™ Balloons topped with a “Colorful Confetti Dots” Bubble!

Designer name: Eve Antonello, CBA, Pioneer Balloon Company, Wichita, KS, USA

Perfect for Personalisation!  Design by Amy Broadley of Balloonies Falkirk, Scotland.
Perfect for Personalisation!
Design by Amy Broadley of Balloonies Falkirk, Scotland.

"Celebrate in Style" Design by Sue Bowler, CBA, of BalloonArt By Sue Bowler.
"Celebrate in Style"
Design by Sue Bowler, CBA, of BalloonArt By Sue Bowler.

I love this personalised "Pink Confetti Dots" Deco Bubble balloon - I also love the eye-catching video that LaylaRai created to show it off to their customers! This balloon and video were made by Events By LaylaRai in Stanford Le Hope, England. 

Here is another great design that was made by Ben Escalante, of Deco Globos, in Xalapa, Mexico. The "Colourful Confetti Dots" are perfect for this birthday balloon, with added tassels and a complementary base.
Birthday Design by Ben Escalante, of Deco Globos,

And finally, this beautiful Baby Boy Confetti Bubbles and Clouds by Cam Woody, CBA, of Pioneer Balloon Company.

Cam has complemented her balloon arrangement with the 11" "Oh Baby" latex balloon inside the Bubble. This Deco Bubble balloon has been designed with a clear central window to allow any message latex balloon to be seen easily.

These balloons are available from your Qualatex Distributors, so don't delay, and make sure to add them to your design range - your customers will love them!

24" "Blue Confetti Dots" #57789
24" "Pink Confetti Dots" #57790
24" "Colourful Confetti Dots" #57791

And the newest addition

24" "Gold Confetti Dots" #89727

Happy Ballooning!

Follow me on Instagram #suebowler

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Free Photo Editing Apps That Make Your Snaps Instagram Worthy

I expect you know this scenario well! On Saturday I was working on a wonderful outdoor balloon installation. The sun was shining, and I knew that there would be some great photo opportunities. When I had almost reached the event venue, I realised that I had forgotten my camera! Thank goodness for mobile phones, but can we get a good enough photograph that is Instagram worthy?

I see many balloon-related photos on Instagram, but so often the photographs are dark and grainy or they are not particularly eye-catching. The important thing to remember is this: Instagram is a totally visual platform. And, the more visually appealing your photos are, the better they’ll engage your followers.

So once I returned to my office, I decided to check out some of the free or almost free photo editing apps that are available, to see if I could transform some of my snaps into professional-looking Instagram photographs.

Snapseed Rating 3.8

Google's photo-editing app Snapseed (Android, iOS) is one of the best photo-editing apps around, thanks to the incredible control it gives you over your pictures. It has nine editing tools for tweaking your photos, including a brush tool that lets you selectively adjust exposure, saturation, and colour temperature, and a healing tool that lets you remove blemishes or erase objects from photos completely. Snapseed also has its own set of filters (sorted into 11 different categories, including Retrolux, Noir, and Glamour Glow). Unlike Instagram, Snapseed lets you fine-tune filter effects by modifying attributes like brightness, saturation, and texture strength.

Here are three versions of the same photograph, the centre image is the original image
the first and last have been edited using the Snapseed app.

Snapseed was the first of the apps that I downloaded, and I immediately enjoyed playing with its very simple to use features.

You start by clicking on OPEN. You can then choose where you want to select your photograph from.

  • Open from Device
  • Camera
  • Open latest image 

Once you have selected the image that you want to work on you can then start to play with the tools. You have three options:
Start with looks. Looks is very much like Instagram filters and gives you a number of options of how to alter your photograph. 

If you click on TOOLS, you have many other fine-tuning options, including the usual crop and rotate, but so many other very exciting options - you need to check them out!

Finally, once you have made your changes you have the option to:

  • Share...
  • Open in...
  • Save with changes that you can undo.
  • Save a copy
  • Export 

This was my favourite editings of this photograph. This function was selected in LOOKS and is called "Morning". It really makes the balloon colours "pop" and stand-out from the background, I think this will make a very eye-catching Instagram photograph!

Another great feature before I leave Snapseed is the text tool. It's a quick, and stylish way to add your name to your photographs (see photograph at the top of this post).

I decided to compare Snapseed which is a free app with Pixelmator, which was a highly recommended editing tool that cost £4.99 - so not very expensive, but is it worth the price?

Pixelmator - Rating 3.2

My first observation with this app is that it is not as simple to use as Snapseed. Sadly, I am a bit of a "download and go" sort of person and if I cannot make it work for me in the first few minutes, I give up. However, having paid my £4.99, I decided to work a little harder to get things going.

So to start, you need to click on the + button on the top left-hand corner of the screen.

This will allow you to:

  • Create Image
  • Get a photo from your iCloud Drive
  • Get a photo from Photos
  • Take a Photo
If you click on Create Image, it gives you some great options:
  • Basic
  • Collage
  • Frame
  • Card
  • Poster
  • Photography
  • Vintage
So I thought that I would try out the Collage option as this was not an option on Snapseed. I chose Grid as my collage design.

I definitely enjoyed playing with this function, but again, I think it will take a few goes to perfect and get the best from it! I love how you can display a selection of photographs from the same job and edit each photo as you go. The problem that I incurred was how to position the photo within the frame, as I would have liked to reposition them a little - more practice, Sue! 

Each photograph within this collage has been edited to enhance the colours
to give maximum impact.

This is a tool that is only compatible with IOS devices - iPhone, iPad, and there is also a very comprehensive Mac version - Pixelmator and Pixelmator Pro.

Having made the investment I will certainly learn to use Pixelmator, but I think for quick editing, my go-to will be Snapseed.

Here are some more great free apps for photo editing. I will get round to trying them all over the next few weeks and months! 

VSCO Cam (iPhone, Android) - Rating 4.4 
Adobe Lightroom (iPad) - Rating 4.3 
Instagram (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone) - Rating 4.8 
Pixlr Express (Android, iOS) - Rating 3.9 
Flickr (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone) - Rating 4.3 
Photo Editor by Aviary (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) - Rating 4.5 
Repix (Android, iOS) - Rating 3.4 

This blog post was assisted by a great article on Gadgets 360 -  Best Free Photo Editing Apps for Android, iPhone, and Others - to read the whole article, click HERE

You will have hours of fun playing with these fabulous apps, and I look forward to seeing some of your amazing photographs on Instagram! 

Happy Ballooning!