The beginings of BalloonHQ.com
BalloonHQ has existed for 20 years. This is how it began. The following
messages were posted to various places by Larry Moss, founder of BalloonHQ.
The following note was posted to the Usenet group alt.magic on Jan 7,
Here’s a topic that I haven’t seen discussed and I haven’t posted
anything in a while. It isn’t exactly magic but it is a concern of many
magicians. I also figured this would be a topic that couldn’t possibly
generate a flame war. (yeah, right. This is usenet after all 🙂
Since I started doing magic I’ve played with balloon sculpting a bit.
Balloons are great to give to kids at parties and often just random people
on the street. Half the time I actually do it to cheer myself up as much
as the person I’m giving it to. It’s only recently though that I’ve
realized just how great they are and what can be done with them. Up
until now I was satisfied with just the simple stuff I learned several
I’ve looked in a number of places for books and generally what I’ve found
is the real basic stuff. Most of the books I’ve run into do have
something interesting in them, but not enough to by them all. I was
ready to give up on my quest to find books when I was informed that there
really are a large number of them. I was even told who sells them now.
(thanks Jim, I’ll go look as soon as I have time.) Now I was wondering
if anyone has any favorite books on balloon sculpting, ideas about using
balloons in performances, or anything of the sort.
Something else that I’ve been wondering about is a history of balloons.
I get the distinct impression that latex wasn’t available throughout
history. 🙂 I’ve actually even been asked by a few people if I knew
where they originated and when balloon sculpting got started. I know,
that’s probably like asking who did the first coin trick. As long as
there were coins there were people making them disappear and as long as
there were balloons someone must have been twisting them.
What I’d really like to do, and I dont’ know how feasible it is, would be
to compile a collection of “public domain” (is it possible to own the
rights to a figure you’ve created? anyone know anything about the legal
aspect of what I want to do?) figures that could be made available to
anyone interested. Other information is passed around on the net,
something like this I think would be a lot of fun. Admittedly it would
be a little more difficult distributing this than most stuff since
pictures would certainly be needed, but simple line drawings in a
reasonable format shouldn’t be too bulky to handle. Have I completely
flipped on this one? If there’s any interest I’d be willing to write up
and draw up the stuff I can do. Of course, this whole thing may be a
little silly if there are good books around, but even so I’m interested
in hearing what people think about this, especially the legal aspect.
Next, we have a note posted to rec.juggling on Jan 15 1992:
I recently posted to alt.magic looking for others interested in balloon
sculpting. There has been some interest and I have exchanged ideas with
a couple of people, but there actually has been less discussion than I
I’d like to know if anyone that reads this group is interested in being
on a mailing list. The point of the list would be to share figures you
make or create.
If you’re interested in the list or just have ideas on the subject (like
books you’ve learned from) let me know.
After attracting a few interested parties, the very first note was posted
to the original BalloonHQ mailing list on Feb 2, 1992:
There hasn’t been any discussion here yet. Perhaps this will start
something. I also really will write up more of the animals I know how to
do, like I said I would originally.
On Friday I was handed most of a series of articles by Jim Klein on
balloons at birthday parties. His main theme was the use of only dogs
(or only one type of animal) when presenting each child with a party
favor. His reason was sensible enough: children (well, adults certainly
can’t be accused of this 🙂 will often decide they want the same thing
that someone else has. If one child asks for a dog and then sees the next
child in line receiving an alligator with 4 toes on each foot and clearly
sculpted nostrils, the first one isn’t going to be satisfied with his/her
OK, I admit that given the two balloons I just mentioned it’s perfectly
understandable that some children would consider fighting for the
“better” balloon. However, in my experience this is not the usual
scenario. Most often when I ask children what they want they ask for
things they’ve already seen other clowns/magicians/etc make. This means
that they almost all ask for dogs, cats, swans, swords, and ninja
turtles. (There is the occasional request for something as unusual as a
chicken.) I do usually show off and make something nicer for the
birthday child. I suppose it’s only recently that I’ve had anything to
show off with, but even when I started the birthday child always got at
least an octopus from me. I never got any complaints about the birthday
child getting something bigger. It was understood that on their own
birthdays (if they could talk there parents into “inviting” the magician)
they would get something like that also. All of the others were always
happy with the dog, cat, swan, sword, or ninja turtle that they had since
I was able to produce exactly what they asked for.
Much to my surprise, when we discussed this article at lunch on Friday,
there was a general acceptance of the idea presented of limiting yourself
to one figure at a party. Personally, when I’m making balloons I get
bored constantly doing the same thing. I also find that many kids are
happy with “personalized” balloons. When they ask for something less
common I often make them think that they’re putting me on the spot and
forcing me to dream up some method of creating whatever it is they asked
for. (this is often what’s happening, which can make it quite a bit
easier to convince them of this. 🙂 When this does happen it becomes as
much of a game to see if they can stump me as a way to get their own
balloon and they don’t seem to care who gets what. When someone does
succeed in stumping me, they just enjoy it and laugh at me when all I
make is a dog that’s completely out of proportion. As an aside, the
parents never understand that I like the game and they don’t need to feel
sorry for the abuse the kids are putting me through.
Anyway, I was wondering how everyone else feels about this and what
experiences you’ve had.