How long have you been a twister and in what capacities have you worked?
I started twisting in 1989 as part of a Children's Church that I was directing in Tyler, Texas. Shortly after that I was in a party store buying balloons and the clerk asked me if I ever considered being a professional. The thought hadn't crossed my mind, but intrigued me, so I began searching for ways to market myself. Twisting was a part-time side job until I was laid off in 2001 shortly after 9-11. I began to market myself more heavily and have continued working as a full-time balloon entertainer for the past 10 years. I have worked just about every type of venue you can imagine, and a few that I would like to forget. I've done birthday parties for kids as young as 1 year old, to a celebration party a few years ago for a young lady's 100th birthday. There have been city festivals, school events, parades, weddings, corporate parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, bachelorette parties that turned up in restaurants I was working (see above reference about events to be forgotten), fund raising events, and even a crawfish festival. I've been the official balloon artist for the Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team for 10 years, and the Dallas Stars NHL hockey team for 9 years. I've done some events for the Dallas Cowboys and even got to work at the NBA All Star Game in 2010. I've been working in restaurants since 1995, and find them a great way to market yourself. I recently helped Thad James of Sammy J Balloons with a large scale balloon installation for a Beatles themed corporate event. I know how to do basic décor and have helped a couple of local decorators with some décor events. Balloon deliveries have been a part of my business for about 7 years, and I love it that I can get paid to sit at home and build a nice sculpture in my living room while watching TV before delivering it. I've been in multi-million dollar homes of business people, pro-athletes and media personalities; along with some autograph events for several Dallas Mavericks players. One of the most ironic things that balloons have brought into my life is travel. I enlisted in the Air Force as a way to see the world and spent all 4 1/2 years of my career in the state I was born in. I started twisting balloons 2 years after getting out of the military, and in the last decade balloons have taken me from New York to Los Angeles, and even a couple of cruises in the Caribbean. I've made twisted balloons with new friends from all around the globe. All because I decided to learn to twist skinny tubes of latex into fun and silly shapes for kids some 22 years ago.
My inspiration comes from the twisted world inside my head, the creative requests of children, and inspiration from other artists' work that I've seen throughout the years. A regular question is "Can you make a . . . ," and my standard reply has always been, "I don't know, let's find out." I've never been afraid of a challenge, and I feel that my creativity has been expanded and pushed to new limits because of this. Early in my twisting career I lived in a smaller city in East Texas and only had a few books that taught some basic balloon designs as resources. I couldn't run out and buy the latest DVD, go to a balloon convention, or email another twister to find out how to make something. This lack of outside influence, combined with my natural desire to take on all challenges really helped me to develop my own twisting style and constantly increase my skills and creativity.
I love many of the colors in the Betallatex line because they are either brighter or more vibrant than their counterparts in other brands of balloons. One of the colors that first caught my eye was Deluxe Fuchsia, and it is still one of my favorite balloon colors. Of course, one of my biggest reasons for using Betallatex is the size difference. Naturally, everyone realizes that 360s and 660s are longer than 350s and 646s respectively. In the larger size balloons the extra length really makes a difference for twisters because it means you have to use less balloons in a sculpture because you can get more twists out of a single balloon before needing to add another balloon. I use 360s as a part of my daily twisting, and many of my sculptures rely on the extra length of 360s over 350s. What many twisters don't realize is that Betallatex 260s are longer than competing brands of 260 by several inches when inflated. Like the larger balloons, this extra length translates into more twists and the ability to get more out of each balloon before having to add another balloon into a sculpture.
What awards and special recognition have you earned during your balloon artist career?
I have won several contests, including placing in a few B Gallery contests, but the award most special to me I received at Twist & Shout 2011 in Boston by Royal and Patty Sorell. I was deeply honored to be the recipient of the David Grist Memorial Award earlier this year and it was truly a special moment in my life. I was fortunate to get the chance to meet and spend some time with David shortly before he passed away. So many twisters will never get to meet him, and that makes the award so much more special because I had the opportunity to meet this extraordinary man who was so giving, talented, and humble. Whether or not I receive any more awards in not as important as the fact that I do my best to live up to what this award stands for in the way of giving back to our special community and making it better.
Never be happy where you are, always strive to be a better balloon artist, entertainer and person. Don't be afraid of challenges, for they will only make you a better artist as you expand your vision and creativity to meet them. Always be willing to give of your skills, time, and knowledge. Those who are afraid to share for fear of someone else stealing their ideas or business are only hurting themselves by limiting their opportunities to learn and grow. Balloon art is just now coming into its own and being recognized as the true art that it is, don't be left behind because you aren't willing to spend time practicing, learning, and sharing. Always stay humble and remember those who helped bring your art to where it is today.