The Photo Album

by Don Caldwell

Recently I saw that a new restaurant was soon to be opening in my neighborhood, and I thought that I would stop by and talk to them about the benefits of having a skilled balloon artist on staff. Unfortunately it was still under construction and there was no contact info for the management yet.

I had made “The Bad Kitty” to give to the manager and I hate to see a good balloon go to waste. So just on a whim I decided to stop by the TGI Fridays next to it. I know that many of them will not even talk to a balloon twister and the ones that do, want you to work for tips. But I was already in the neighborhood and had nothing to lose. Bad Kitty Parody

Realizing that it was the lunch rush and the worst time to bother a restaurant manager, I simply gave my card and the balloon to the host and asked that it be passed on to the manager. I figured that I could call later to talk to her. The host insisted on taking the balloon to the manager right away. He returned and told me that the manager would be right up. The manager came out, shook my hand, and asked if I had Thursday nights available. Then we sat down and talked a bit, and I showed her my portfolio. Soon there was a small mob gathering to look at my photos.

At this point I began to get nervous. This was a high traffic restaurant, and she was looking at photos of balloons that took me anywhere from thirty minutes to five hours to create. I did not want her to think that “Bad Kitty” and life sized cartoon characters would be on every table. “Oh I know that” she said. “I just like to know that our balloon twister is capable of making things like this”.

A photo album can be a powerful selling tool. Mine contains photos of all of those huge sculptures that are just not realistic in most of my performing situations. It allows me to use my most elaborate sculptures as a selling point without even having to make them for my potential client. It also contains photos of all of the sculptures that are nearest and dearest to my heart, as well as photos of me at events that have special meaning for me. And it is a great conversation piece. I am always careful to warn people that most of the things in the book take at least thirty minutes, and due to a shortage of time I will not be making them today. Most people, unless they have seen such things before, cannot even fathom what kind of balloon could take that long. But once they see the photos they understand. I even give them a guided tour of the photos. What the sculpture was for, how long it took, which ones are my favorites. As soon as someone asks, “What is the hardest thing you make?” or “What is the biggest balloon you have ever made?” the album comes out.

In a restaurant the album goes around the whole table and even gets people at other tables looking over to see what all of the oohing and ahhing is about. Repeat customers always ask if there are any new photos or want to show their favorites to the new friend that they brought with them. At a Birthday or other private function it usually gets passed around to the entire party. The best thing is, the smaller things that I make almost seem to become more impressive by osmosis. Once they see what I am capable of it raises the level of everything else I do.

For those times when you want to impress some one but do not have the time or inclination to make them a balloon sculpture, the photo album is invaluable. Today I saw a friend who I had not seen in about twelve years. We were catching up and I showed him my photo album. Half an hour later, I had three dates booked for the local rotary club, of which he happens to be President.

I have learned to never leave home without my portfolio because every time I do, I end up regretting it. Next to my business card it is the most important non-balloon item that I carry with me. And then my friend Suzan Haring (who painted my head at TJam) came up with the idea of putting a business card holder in the photo album. Curse her brilliance! I even printed a larger version of my business card onto a transparent label and placed that on the front cover of the album to personalize it. And it is small enough to fit into the side pocket of my balloon bag so it is easy to carry.

So gather up those old photo’s and find something nice to put them in. A picture could be worth a thousand bookings (Yah, I know it’s corny but what do you want at 2am). Next month I will have a new balloon routine for you and a great cinnamon sugar cookie recipe.

Don Caldwell

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