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

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