My last blog was thoroughly depressing. Rightfully so! I am an authentic human and COVID was bad for business! Since then, I have pivotted and have gone digital with my theatre company. Modest Genius Theatre Company have created a video game which is almost ready! Super exciting! I have however been mostly sitting in a chair like most jobs. I miss performing, I miss audiences and I miss spreading joy one balloon at a time. Not sure when I will be Miss Popularity again but lately I have been focused on my theatre for social change and trying to teach young people about critical thinking.
Balloons are fun and silly but Miss Popularity is waiting until we are all celebrating again before she gets the music and the balloons pumping! Looking forward to sharing smiles, giggles and colourful latex with you all soon.
Though it is April Fools today, which typically in my industry is a day of giggles and joy I am not feeling very playful. I am feeling existential dread from my office. Working from home is not possible for everyone especially if your life's work is based on public gatherings. My success is measured by the amount of people watching me at any one time. Now, no one is watching. If a clown falls from a tree and no one is around to see it... it suffers in alone. Will I be releasing videos online? Probaby, me and everyone else desperate to keep doing our 'thing'. But really, my love belongs in live performance. Feeling the energy from my audience and the collective feeling of sharing an experience in the moment together. Film is totallly different, there is no palpable energy transmission, void of that feeling like anything can happen, it is just the performer performing for an imaginary audience behind their screen in the comfort of their own space.
Tours and events are postponed, live performance is on hold and those that perform are left with this pressure to 'work on your skills, come out the otherside a more talented performer ready to hit the crowds yet again, show everyone online how much you are doing from your bedroom!'
I am still in the wallowing phase, and balloons seem so trivial in times of crisis. I am setting up a studio and I will get on the online bandwagon, because ultimately if I don't I will just disappear into the isolation obvlivion. I am resistant to just deficate all over the internet like so many people are doing, I don't want to broadcast my trauma. I want to sit with it, let it move through me and except it before I create content from a place of confidence not existential dread. I will however write a blog because hey, I don't have to shower, wash my hair or change my clothes for that!
The leaves are changing around us, the air is crisp and I keep thinking there is more daylight then there actually is! Soon it will be candlelight, soup for dinner and layering so many clothes that we squeak as we walk around. Luckily, balloons love the cold weather they are less likely to pop and hold their shine and brightness much longer. Winter is when balloons are needed most, when our entire surroundings are grey and deflated – Balloons contrast the dreariness and remind us that a simple silly burst of colour can bring a smile even in the darkest of circumstances. My calendar is starting to fill with those corporate Christmas parties, the ones where everyone is a bit nervous and watching the 'balloon lady' from afar until there is some liquid courage in their bellies. 2 drinks in, I have a long queue and I am making everything from cock-hats to ride-in flamingos (same colour different twists!) to a crowd of adoring adults, all completely mesmerized by my quick hands and squeaky soundtrack. Contact me through the booking form to book your Christmas balloon modelling for your drinks mix and mingle before dinner, tabletop balloons for your 3-course meal or best of all, next to the dance-floor to get your crazy hats, bracelets and silly balloon creatures for all those hilarious balloon selfies that you don't remember taking. Even on a hangover balloons will make you smile.
Recently, I had a very contrasting experience as an artist. Over Easter holiday I was twisting balloons in a fancy hotel next to Kensington Palace for an Easter party. It was quite an elaborate affair with face painting, crafts, games and balloon modelling by yours truly. From there, I went to join my fellow artists at Parliament Square to join the Red Brigade to provide a gentle, non-violent performance that moved slowly through the chaos and chanting of the protests. We represented the blood that flows through the veins of all species. As we moved through the throngs of protesters and police like a viscous substance pushing through cracks I could see how much of an impact we were making on the onlookers, the tourists and the other protesters. In a world where there is so much of an imbalance of power, wealth, resources and opportunity as artists we want to do something. I feel like it is our duty to hold up a mirror to society and inspire individuals to reject the system that is broken.
I felt conflicted that day going from one world where it is business as usual and the biggest worry in that moment for those families at an Easter party was whether they would get sunburnt on an Easter egg hunt. "Lovely weather we're having". It's 25 degrees at Easter. To a beautiful, peaceful protest full of people wanting to shift the balance and do something about the fact that there are people in a hotel spending a lot of money on a Hallmark Holiday with zero connection to the farm where that cocoa is coming at the expense of that 3rd world nation. Firmly placed in and kept in that 3rd world by the rich who have plundered and pillaged those nations over hundreds of years.
So how do I justify it? I guess I just validate myself as a modern day Robin Hood - Steal from the rich and give to the planet. I would not have the freedom in my schedule to protest, to volunteer or to grow my own vegetables if it weren't for entertaining as a court jester.
Now more than ever I am battling with my arch nemesis - Miss Information. Daily, we are bombarded with headlines and clickbait all vying for our undying (yet rapidly shortening) attention. As a balloon artist whose business is based in generating joy even I am being swept up into the world of falsehoods and scaremongering. While giant corporations are dodging tax and pointing the blame at the individual for the demise of the natural world, we are turning against our neighbours and shaming each other for straws and plastic bags. We are not uniting - we are yet again divided over pollution and ethical living. Balloons are being attacked as well.
In some ways I feel lucky to be the perfect age of 34. I have experienced a childhood void of fancy technology. VHS and basic cable television were only gifted to me if the one TV in the house wasn't occupied by my parents. I was sent outside to play and to not come back until dinner. I would play in the park, be bullied, be a bully, climb trees and everything in between.
In the 90s, when the joy and convenience of plastics and technology became accessible to the regular Joes and Joannas I was right there in the thick of it- amazed and delighted by all the wonders. It was a marvelous time. A time where we didn't have guilt attached to every purchase and as a kid I was completely unaware of the cost on the other side of the world. I remember watching a massive bunch of balloons being released into the air and being one of those people cheering and smiling as they magically got swept up and disappeared into the distance.
Those days are over.
Balloon releases are destroying my industry and now we know what we know... Helium balloons being released into the atmosphere are yet more pollution. They turn up in fields, hedges, trees and it is just more garbage to add to the already depressing level of shit smeared across this earth. Balloons are biodegradeable but they take a long time to degrade so that is not an excuse for balloon releases. On the whole, balloon releases make people angry now, rightfully so! By proxy, it also makes an increasing number of individuals want to get rid of balloons altogether (cue violins).
Imagine it, a world without balloons (swell violins). Whoa! Before you leap off a bridge stop and just compose yourself (mute violins). We have a tendency to jump to conclusions and shame our friends overnight based on some tenuous link we clicked on while covered in potato chips at 3am basking in the blue glow. Getting rid of balloons altogether is pretty drastic.
Balloons are not plastic! Balloons are made from latex that is sourced from the rubber tree, Hevea Braziliensis. It is taken from the tree kind of like maple syrup, tapped in a bucket without harming it. Balloons do breakdown over time, about 6 months to 4 years. That doesn't mean they support plant growth or don't release any toxic residue from the dyes and conditioners as they breakdown which is why they should be disposed of responsibly. If your child has a balloon and it pops, it is a great learning opportunity to have them pick up the pieces and put them in the bin.
Let's stop shaming each other and start shaming the government and corporate power (which seems to me to be one in the same). They need to invest in research to develop the best way forward to avoid the total destruction and annihalation of the natural world. We are at a point where most material goods aren't going to decompose in our lifetime. Balloons aren't the problem, its the responsibility of those in power to not just think about wealth and staying in power - but really planning for the future generations and the integrity of the earth they inhabit.
Ultimately humanity is a mere blink of an eye in earth's timeline and we will be dust in no time at all. But damn it, can't we try to be dust with dignity?!
I have been popping in to my fancy friend's house to water her plants while her and her husband are on their babymoon. They have this striking neon flamingo balloon lamp. I was inspired to make this tutorial for a simple Flamingo balloon I came up with. I have thought about making tutorials for a while now. I love sharing my designs and adding online content that is a reflection of my personality rather then awkward selfies with the people I make balloons for. I had the help from some friends to get the right equipment and to have the video made. I am lucky to be surrounded by very talented artists in Bristol and a part of a generous community. I was able to make this first video in just a couple days and looking forward to hopefully making one a month. Don't quote me on that though! When it becomes a chore or a stress to get it to a deadline it really sucks the fun out of balloons. Which is a crime. When balloons stop being fun we are all doomed.
The chill is in the air, and the daylight is drawing in - we are on the other side of summer. It was such a hot, sunny and joyful summer. The produce at my allotment is bountiful, a testament to the best non-British summer I have ever experienced. Balloons on the other hand don't love the heat. They get sticky and poppy when it is hot and humid. Black balloons don't last long on those balloon hats and it is so important that I assert my right for decent breaks and drink plenty of water. Parents become hot and cranky waiting in the sun and children are smothered in suncream making the balloons tricky to hold. All that aside it was a fantastic, bustling summer and Miss Popularity was all over the place. In June I was delighted to be have a whole entertainment tent at Cardiff Castle for Depot, complete with workshops, stilt walkers and shows. Kicking off the heat wave in July in Gananoque for Canada Day at Ribfest (it was 42 degrees and everyone was sweating meat). Backwell, Boondocks and Valleyfest this year for some local festival fun while making sure to stay classy by ballooning at Bishop's Palace. I finished the summer with a string of performances in Depot's Feastival at Sophia's Gardens in Cardiff. Though September is here and all the kids are back in school (hahaha!!) I am not slowing down! Make sure to catch me at Weston Super-Mare at the end of the month for a Weekend of Wonders with Invisible Circus. That is after I get back from Prague where I will be learning to creatively approach circus equipment for children with disabilities. Thank you for all the wonderful opportunities this past summer. I am looking towards Christmas with optimism and can't wait to get those Elf boots on!
I was channelling the feminine powers of the Suffragettes and all they stand for last Friday. Bristol was snowed under and Lucy and myself had to get to City Hall to build the balloon suffragettes no matter what. The Bristol Women's Voice event was not going to be cancelled on Saturday and we were providing fun and unique balloon sculptures that were to decorate the lobby. The balloons had been bought, the plans were made, we had to make it happen!
Knowing we weren't likely to be able to build them off-site, we were lucky the event at City Hall in the conference room on the Friday was cancelled so we could build the sculptures there. Lucy and I were down an artist, Amanda. She was stuck on the other side of the bridge in Wales unable to get to Bristol. Knowing this, I needed to start building the heads and hats on the Wednesday so all we needed to do was the bodies on the Friday.
I got stuck in the snow twice on the way and luckily with my Canadian driving prowess and snow whispering I was able to get my little 1997 Nissan Micra free and plough on to City Hall. Slow and steady and with a car full of balloon heads I made it to City Hall in good time. Lucy arrived soon after me and we hunkered down and without saying much to each other we twisted for 6 hours straight. Around 3pm City Hall decided they would close early for the day, leaving us with even less time!
In the end we built 5 life-size suffragettes that everyone loved! Even the Mayor of Bristol had his photo taken with them. They stayed up until today, International Women's Day. Feeling very proud and looking forward to the next commission .
I have been working very hard doing research and development into a comission I have coming up for Bristol Women's Voice. For women's day, March 3rd, myself and my team of 2 other artists will be building a balloon installation at City Hall. I am designing an ARMY OF SUFFRAGETTES! They will be placed in the reception under the giant clock for the Women's Day event that will be held there. At the moment, I am in my studio twisting and scheming to come up with a great design. There are many different elements. First of all, they are to be life-size so the body of the ladies need to be large. I have been in my studio trying to figure out how many balloons, what colours, what technique looks best, and how to install them/weigh them down so they don't blow away when someone opens the door! I have been a part of other big builds before, on somone else's team. This is very exciting to be the one doing the grand design and having my very own female team. I will be working with Lucy Lost-it & Masquerade Faces to help me execute my vision. According to my calculations thus far we will be using close to 1500 balloons and it will take us about 9 hours! Ideally our hands will not fall off but that remains to be seen. Here is a draft I worked on in my studio yesterday, not including the sash, sign and hat -that I will be designing next!
It has been over a year now since my last website was hacked by meanies. This was especially hurtful as my last website was created from scratch by my genius late partner, Vid Warren. I loved that site. I have been putting off making a new one for so long as it was really daunting.
Luckily, after doing a new 2018 photoshoot with the lovely, Farelight Productions I felt ready to tackle it myself. Not too difficult I learned. It is also an incredibly productive thing to do when it is January and no one needs balloons. Correction, no one wants balloons. I would argue that it is the month where balloons are needed the most. We are all out of money, looking down the barrel of a grey winter and the lack of vegetation makes the litter more prominent then we want to admit.
Imagine it, dragging yourself out of bed in the darkness to the sound of the howling weather trying to muster up the courage to face the day, you turn on the light and VOILA a balloon bouquet of colourful flowers or a balloon teddy bear there to greet you. Try not to have a smile on your face for the rest of the day!
Back to reality - No one wants balloons in January and so I have the time to make a website. Oh, and do my taxes... if only someone would bring me balloons while I do my taxes it would just make it just a little more cheerful.