Down the Balloon Modeling Rabbit Hole
This is my first SCAB, I don’t know who reads these so not sure how much I have to explain but to make it simple our ‘homework’ was to learn one of three skills and I chose balloon modelling.
If ever you want to encounter a large amount of extremely eccentric people all in one go type in ‘balloon modelling tutorial’ on youtube, it’s fascinating. First off, I should start by saying they are not balloon modellers, they refer to themselves as ‘twisters’ which is a much more exciting title in my opinion. So I watched a few tutorials, ‘balloon dog’, ‘flower hat’, but the characters making the balloons soon became much more interesting than the balloons themselves. I guess this is unsurprising since there’s only a finite amount of time you can spend making dogs before anything becomes more interesting than that. So, I did a bit of searching about these twisters and after a while I found ‘the balloon artist podcast’ which was an extensive deep dive into the ‘balloon world’ and all the ‘balloon celebs’ that live there. Through this show, I was led to another ‘twister’ called Juho who had written a balloon blog (who knew such a thing existed) about how he left his career in science to become a balloon artist. Like any normal person, this left me with a lot of questions.
Juho lives in Finland and certainly looks like some sort of Scandinavian Viking descendant, which added to the mystery. He certainly does not look like the average bow tie, top hat party magician you would have expected (I later found out he won the national championship for powerlifting at age 14 so this can help you imagine what I’m trying to describe). I then had a nice email exchange with Juho who was happy to answer some questions after I described my student blog as an ‘advertising article’.
Juho has a PhD in chemistry and was an analytical scientist. Despite sounding incredibly dull I have now discovered that this is actually a very interesting job (thanks Juho). Turns out a lot of balloon artists come from sciencey backgrounds, maybe something about the sterile white workplace sends them into a colourful latex frenzy. He neither confirmed nor denied this. He instead told me his interest in balloons was a gradual build-up which I understand, not many people would ditch their lab coat for latex balloons and a sharpie straight away. Juho also highlighted that he only uses 100% latex in all his sculptures, I then saw on every single one of his posts he had put 100% latex in the caption. A lot of competitions had rules stating that wire and other support materials were allowed but from what I could gather Juho didn’t agree with this rule, he’s a balloon sculpture purist. It felt like there was some tension between the ‘pro structural support balloon artists’ and the ‘anti structural support artists’. But that’s a rabbit hole for another time. Another thing he said that stuck out was that ‘techniques are only tools to solve problems in certain situations’ this is obviously about balloons, but I thought it was a nice sentiment anyway that could be applied to anything really, Juho can inspire us all to go against the technique gospel on occasion. My final question to him was for some advice about creativity since who better to ask than the Finnish lab scientist turned balloon modeller.
His answer was simple; ‘Don’t be afraid to fail’.