BASCOM - Crafting balloons into elaborate shapes requires skill, experience and special training.
Deborah Hale, owner of Baskets and Balloons by Deborah, is gaining such specialized skill by attending Ballooniversity. She traveled with her daughter, Katie, 16, to Chicago to attend the July 23 intensive training workshop in balloon design.
"It's one full day of training, and we were able to take all of the classes that we wanted," Hale said. Classes included design theory, "Link-o-loon Creations" and "Sweet Treats."
At the Ballooniversity registration desk, an elaborate arched canopy was crafted to greet people attending.
Hale has been in the balloon creation business for eight years, having the opportunity to decorate for weddings, hotel openings and celebrity events. The family crew, which consists of Hale, her daughter and husband, work together to create the more elaborate and time-intensive balloon walls, canopies and carriages.
Teaching some of the classes were icons in the balloon design industry. Peggy Williams, who taught a class of more than 100 how to link clusters of foil balloons together easily to create an archway, has been in the business for 20 years. Troy Apprill, who taught a class on design theory, has created balloon designs for the Olympics, presidential inauguration and the movie industry.
Hale began seeking additional training in Georgia from balloon supplier Burton and Burton. What evolved was the delivery of the training, with Burton and Burton taking the school on the road for two weeks. They provide training for balloon artists in Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.
"It's more cost effective for us to go," Hale said. "And they get more people; every class was filled up. And we don't have to commit to being gone a week."
"The classes are hands on," she explained. "Ninety percent of what we learn is hands on. It's more fun if you get to participate or watch people participate."
Learning how to use Link-o-loons was an important part of the day. The balloons are designed with a protruding end that can be tied together, allowing the balloon artist to create elaborate structures with less effort. Hale said it can take up to five hours to create a 20-by-20-foot canopy of balloons, although with experience and help, it can be done in as few as two hours.
"The longer I do it, and learn about new techniques, the faster it is to do," Hale said. "And you have to have the right equipment. You need to have a precision air inflator so that every balloon is sized correctly."
"2010 has been my strong year," Hale said of the business. She also creates and ships candy bouquets, which are becoming increasingly popular.
There are examples of balloon creations at www.basketsandballoonsbydeborah.com. For more, call Hale at (419) 937-2451.