By TIM CLEVELAND
Having much experience in making balloon animals and teaching classes on the subject, Joe Sullivan put on another demonstration Feb. 17 at the Boardman Library.
“It’s an introduction to balloons, balloons 101,” he said. “Try to answer the questions that people may have. Who makes them, which are the best ones to get, how to store them, what can be done with them.
“I’ve been doing balloons for 45 years. I started when I was very young and it just kind of blossomed. I’ve been asked to do classes all around the country. Since I’m from Boardman, I might as well do them in Boardman.”
Eleven people attended the class, with varying reason to be there. One woman works as the activities director at a rehab center and wanted to learn making balloon animals so she could put on demonstrations for her residents; another already works with balloons and wanted to expand her knowledge; one woman has a 7-year-old autistic nephew and wanted to learn so she could give him another activity to do. There were also a couple librarians who were seeking something they could do for attendees of their respective libraries.
“The class primarily tonight is for grown-ups,” Sullivan said. “With children, they don’t have the hand-eye coordination. They can’t really tie (the balloon). It becomes a balloon show, make me this, make me that. There’s a time for that. This is for instructional purposes. We’ll get some educators, some senior citizens, some librarians. It’s open to anybody who wants to come.”
Sullivan said his interest in balloon animals started many years ago.
“Standing in line as a young child waiting like all the other kids for the clown to make a balloon,” he said. “After he made one, I took it home, took it apart; why does this work, how does it work? I found a little bag at a local grocery store on balloon twisties. I bought the bag and took it home and started playing with it. It was just sort of something I grew up with.
“It was easy to make friends. When I was a youngster, being a shy timid child, the smallest in the group, it was easier to walk into a room and take out the balloons and put them on a table and all of a sudden, you’re the most popular kid there. You’re not just showing people something, you’re giving them gifts.”
Sullivan started the class by talking about the various kinds of balloons. He said the Qualatex brand is the best, with most balloon artists using 260 balloons, which are balloons that are two inches around and 60 inches long when fully inflated. He quickly made a flower out of pink and green balloons, before having the class do an exercise, with them inflating a balloon and twisting it every inch or so to get a feel for the process and show how resilient the balloons were.
Sullivan thought the students would get several benefits out of the class.
“They get free balloons,” he joked. “I try to model the balloons I’m going to be showing here tonight to what the people are interested in. Some want to learn because they want to go into the business, some might already be in the business and they want to expand their knowledge.”