Balloon artists are like bar mitzvah DJs—they can make or break the party for kids and adults. Dawn Marie Borders of BeeGiggles Entertainment in Itasca, Illinois, Tony Lee of Balloon Monster in Los Angeles, California, and Jennifer Kessler of Hiccups the Clown in Valley Stream, New York are three top-rated Thumbtack balloon artists. We spoke to them about the world of twisted balloons and what to ask before hiring a balloon artist for your next soiree.
What should a new client ask when hiring a balloon artist?
Find out the basics before signing someone onboard. Ask if they have insurance, scope their social media to see if you like their style, and ask about relevant experience. Tony suggests asking approximately how many shapes they can make in one hour—this will give you an idea of how long to host them for and if you need more than one balloon pro to accommodate all your guests.
Once you know basics, drill down to the experience. Dawn Marie recommends asking about their attire, if artists are stationary or roam throughout the party, and whether they provide a visual board of shapes created or if they make “guess and tell” shapes.
What can a client expect to happen at their party or event?
Hopefully lots of fun, says Jennifer. When her company is at an event they have professional set up, attire, and demeanor. Hiccups the Clown provides balloon “menus” that make it interactive and easy for kids to request balloon shapes. If electricity is available, companies often provide music. Jennifer’s company always has kid’s bop and sing-a-long tunes on hand depending on the age range. Another option is a specialty balloon for the guest of honor that can take 15-45 minutes to make, depending on the design.
Most companies are flexible to your needs. Let them know your vision and follow suggestions from the pro on the best way to execute it.
What’s your favorite thing to make? Do you have a signature color or shape you love?
Tony’s favorite things to make are superhero costumes, and his signature shapes are balloon costumes and headbands.
Dawn Marie likes to put on a show: “I love to make the princesses, large wearables, and animals… because of the ‘WOWWWW’ I hear from the audience.”
Just a softie at heart, Jennifer says, “my favorite thing to make is children smile. I want them to be happy, so I try to accommodate any special request that may come.”
What are some crazy requests that balloon artists get?
Dawn Marie was hired for an event to entertain only one person. It was a going away present from co-workers, and she was hired to make as many balloons as she could in one hour. The co-workers attached each balloon to him, and he had to leave wearing them all!
Getting specific, the craziest single item Tony had to create was a realistic looking brain.
At one party, Jennifer was asked to create a wearable balloon—like a motorcycle, car, helicopter, dress, or costume—for each child in attendance. What made it crazy was that almost double the amount of kids showed up than had RSVP’d. The host wound up hiring the company to stay longer, and the artists were able to make a wearable for every kiddo. Disaster averted!
How many balloons do artists use at an average event?
Many companies, such as Hiccups the Clown and BeeGiggles Entertainment, provide other services like face painting, caricatures, glitter tattoos, airbrush tattoos, and balloon—all at the same party. If a company is hired just to do balloon art, it can range anywhere from 100 balloon to infinity (well, maybe not infinity).
It varies based on the number of attendees, the budget of the party, and what type of package the client requests.
What are standard rates for balloon artistry and how long do events last?
Rates and sessions vary by region and by type of event and services requested. In the Chicago area, Dawn Marie shares that balloon entertainers charge anywhere from pro bono to $300 per hour. She’s noticed the average party reservation is two to three hours.
In Los Angeles, Tony charges $100 for the first hour that Balloon Monster is at the event, and $40 for each additional 30 minute increments. On average, their company works one to four hours, depending on number of guests.
Near New York City, top twisters can charge competitive rates. Jennifer encourages clients to scope out the types of balloons that vendors provide, and ask about the additional services that are included in the hourly rate. Paying more per hour may also mean you get a more inclusive experience.
What are some of the most popular trends?
All three artists agree that balloon art trends are based on what is hot for kids at that time. Frozen? Oh you betcha. But Jennifer also states that Disney, superheros, and Sesame Street will always be favorites.
Is there anything you wish more people knew about balloon artists?
Balloon art is a REAL job. Dawn Maries says that yes, it is really fun, but it also takes time, patience, talent, and hard work to become great within the industry. Balloon artists invest into their art, continuing education, seminars, webinars, conventions, DVDs, etc. The amount of education and dedication they have is reflected in their work and pricing.
Tony wants more people to dream big and know that balloon artists can “make anything you can imaginate.”
Setting expectations for the guests about time makes the experience more fun for everyone. Jennifer explains that although balloon artists appear magical, they can’t work faster than humanly possible. It’s helpful to educate guests that intricate shapes requiring multiple balloons may take up to five minutes to complete. When there are eight people in line, they do have to wait. Having fun activities to keep them occupied while in line will help with the process.
Here’s how to find a balloon artist in your area.