| Balloon twister Ho Sy Thieu makes a balloon sculpture in HCM City. (Photo: SGT) |
Over the past 12 months, Saigonese must have noticed the familiar sight of a clown at 30/4 Park or Le Thi Rieng Park, international schools or trade centers or even in street intersections who creates colorful balloons into cute animals, cartoon characters and flowers or any figures demanded by children.
The clown’s genre of art which attracts much admiration of passers-by and kids is called ‘Balloon twisting’ or ‘Balloon modeling’ which means he shapes special modeling balloons into almost any given shape, often a balloon animal.
There are two primary design styles, including ‘single balloon modeling’ which restricts itself to the use of one balloon per model and ‘multiple balloon modeling’, which uses more than one balloon.
The genre of art originated in the U.S. with the performance of Herman Bonnert from Pennsylvania at a magician’s convention in 1939 with Bonnert becoming the first balloon twister. The art has only recently appeared in Vietnam when Thieu brought his passion which he learned in Thailand.
Now popular in the city, the fun game has attracted much attention not only to children but also young people and middle-aged people who share their passion in community networks and classes at the Labor Culture Palace.
Born in 1985, Thieu rambled to Thailand aged 18 to work as a chef to earn a living. Once he witnessed a Thai balloon twister making balloon artworks on streets which was popular with crowds. Thieu was
really impressed by the twister’s talent and attracted by the strange art.
He bought balloons and groped to practice the art and when he came back to his hometown in the central province of Nghe An for Tet holidays, Thieu made all the village kids shout ‘chu bong bong’ (balloon uncle) due to his colorful artworks.
Last year, he came to HCMC and started to introduce the art to Saigonese with appearances as a clown with colorful bags, a pump and a pen brush at parks, intersections and trade centers.
“Firstly, I just think I wanted to bring fun for kids and to satisfy my passion for the art, but when it attracted a lot of attention from people at all ages, I decided to establish a class and club at the HCMC Labor and Culture Palace to promote the art in the city,” said Thieu.
He added: “The class is always filled with the laughter of people aged from 15-60 or even older people. I am really happy when more and more young people care about the art and share their passion in forums, public places or social networks.”
The art has its own set of challenges and skills, but few twisters who have reached an intermediate or advanced skill level limit themselves to one style or another. Depending on the needs of the moment, they might easily move between the one-balloon or multiple approaches, or they might even incorporate additional techniques such as weaving and stuffing” “Every one can become a balloon twister as long as they have a passion, patience, agility and a bit of skill,” said Thieu. He added that the specialy thing is the art does not limit the creativeness of twisters, so they can freely to model balloons into works by thier imagination, creativity and dexterity.
Each balloon sculpture takes between a few seconds or a few minutes and is from VND5,000 to VND50,000, depending on size and how many balloons involved.
The job helps him to survive but Thieu said the “happiest thing is that I can live completely with my passion for children who always give me energy to tramp around the city to perform the art”.
Now, apart from performing on streets, teaching in class, he also makes balloon works for parties in restaurants, events for hotels as well as in schools. “I want the art to develop more and more so I will together with other balloon twisting lovers to hold a competition on the art and establish a club,” said Thieu, pinning high hopes that it will come into vogue in society like other art genres such as fine arts, kirigami or paper quilling. VietNamNet/SGT