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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Spotlight

Balloon Twisting Isn't Just Monkeying Around

Contrary to popular belief, balloon twisting is a profitable career.

A typical day for a full-time balloon artists like Annie Banannie consists of monkeying around and providing a knight with his shining armor.

“I think they’re pretty,” said James Garrett, as a balloon shield was handed to him.

Annie Banannie originally became a balloon twister because she wanted to put smiles on children’s faces. However, she quickly discovered it inflates her pocketbook as well as her heart.

“It’s lucrative if you’re creative,” Annie Banannie said. “I’m not only doing birthday parties, I do school assemblies.”

Contrary to popular belief, balloon twisting is a profitable career. Twisters can make about $70,000 a year depending on the venues they book over the course of the year. With their production value in mind, many twisters meet with Annie Banannie for a monthly balloon jam to hit this mark.

“Like musicians have jam sessions to share techniques and rifts, balloon artists have balloon jams where we share different patterns and techniques for twisting balloons,” said the Balloon Dude.

As they gobble up inspiration at the jam, others view the balloon art as mere child's play. This does not bother any of them because they see it as an investment. Twisting helped many of them buy cars and pay their way through college. 

“It’s a viable business,” said Suzanne Haring. “Some people go ‘oh are you a clown?’ in a more derogatory way. No, I am an entertainer. I bring joy and fun to events.”

In the end, money is not their only motivation.

“If you can make people smile, how can you beat that?” said the Balloon Dude.

Balloon twisters love to create pieces for children and adults to wear. However, when tinsel town calls, some of these pieces begin to look larger than life.

“For the movie premiere for UP, I built the bird character from the movie,” said Suzanne Haring.  “It was about 14 feet from head to toe.”

And, the cleverness does not stop their. Annie Banannie’s husband made her wedding dress out of balloons.

“It was a little cheaper than Vera Wang,” said Annie Banannie. “As much as I love her dresses, I really love that mine was an original and it didn’t cost me a thousand dollars.”

It’s not all fun and games. Originality is a major obstacle for these twisters, especially when their audience members ask for a familiar character.

“It limits the imagination of the people that you’re making it for,” said Annie Banannie. “If they see Spongebob, everybody wants Spongebob. And all day I will be doing cartoons and that’s not fun for me. And I kind of feel like I’m stealing a little.”

Even though it’s not your typical nine to five, getting paid to stir a kids imagination may not be a bad gig after all.

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