What a month! At the end of August, I (Sandi) went out to Kansas for a special invite-only workshop at the Pioneer Balloon World Headquarters. Pioneer makes the balloons that I predominately use- Qualatex.
The workshop itself was phenomenol. It was taught by Belgian balloon artist, Luc Bertrand. In the 2 day workshop we learned some new techniques for building sculptures, and then had a little friendly competition to build a giant doll that Luc had designed for a competition at one of the conventions some time earlier (and it won). There were 2 teams, each with 12 people or so on them- the red team and the blue team. I was on the red team (we won…).
It was a great excersize in teamwork and learning some new techniques and some time saving techniques as well.
During the workshop we were offered the opportunity to go on a tour of the headquarters. We didn’t get to see the balloons being made, as that happens at another facility down the road, but we did get to see how the design and prototype new balloons. And, I learned something really interesting, not only are all of the balloons I use made in America, but the mylar balloon plant also makes all their mylars for international distribution! So, not only is Pioneer/ Qualatex making their products here in America instead of outsourcing to China, they’re one of the few companies still manufacturing in America and exporting to other countries!!! I was very impressed!! I wonder why they don’t do more marketing about that. I think that in todays outsource- happy environment, that would be a major selling point….
Anyway, the other exciting thing that happened during those few days was that I finally took the CBA (Certified Balloon Artist) practical exam. I had done the written exams many many years ago- having purchased the kit in the late 1990s… but I never took the practical exam. I’ll be honest, I thought that it was going to be really easy, and didn’t think that much about it. Well, at 2 in the morning, working with my roommate for the event, Rachel Porter from Balloon Splendor in Washington, after spending 4 hours working on the job cost forms, I totally changed my mind!!! It was really eye-opening to do the job cost forms and learn exactly where my profit centers are, and where I was losing money without even realizing it!!
In the test itself, besides having to submit 4 photos with job cost forms, and 2 original designs with job cost forms, you also have to make a couple of arrangements copied from a card, and a 5 balloon spiral column, and answer some questions, and do a mock phone call. No biggie, right? Guess again!! For the 5-balloon spiral column, I found out that it had to be done without the automatice sizing equipment we always use, and it had to be done on monofiliament line. Both things that took me out of my comfort zone. I usually do my columns using the automatic sizing machines, and then building them on 260s or dacron line. Then, the room was really hot (and a very humid day) and the balloons were sticking to each other, and to my arm. I thought that it was part of the test, so I didn’t ask to have the AC turned up, LOL! Afterwards I found out that it was an accident and that it wasn’t part of the test, lol! Anyway, my column wasn’t that great, when the tester shook it, it broke in two. I would have had words if one of my employees had done it that loose. Luckily that wasn’t the only thing we were scored on.
So… to make a long story short, and in spite of my loose column, and being taken out of my comfort zone, I passed!! I can now add the letters CBA after my name!!!!
To all you balloonies out there, go through the training, take the exam and get your CBA. It’s a worthwhile experience.
My friend Lisa from Blooming Balloons in North Carolina made a little slide show video of the workshop/ competition. I’m trying to get a copy of it, and if I get one, I’ll upload it here… in the meantime, here are a couple of pix that I took at the workshop…
Here’s Lisa’s video… guess YouTube disabled the audio But it’s still fun to watch I’ll have to remember to tell her about Animoto