Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 22:57:22 -0400 (EDT) From: Larry Moss <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: Balloon Twister List <email@example.com>, Subject: Review: Bruce Walden's Balloon School I'm doing something I rarely do. I'm cross-posting this review to the twister and decorator lists. This is a review of two balloon twisting videos. But it's a review that I think balloon decorators will be interested in reading. My apologies to those of you that are receiving it twice. -- Bruce Walden's Balloon School Videos Figure Tying - Parts A and B US$39.99 US each tape or $139.99 for 4-video set that includes the two videos with Jim & Pat Skistimas (Balloon People, Balloons on Parade). Available from many major balloon distributors (Flowers Inc., US Balloon, etc... call 1-800-268-7084 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for full list or other info) Part A - 87 minutes Part B - 82 minutes VHS Review by Larry Moss, Balloon HQ, LLC Bruce Walden is known in the balloon industry for his creativity and teaching skills. That's probably why his instructional balloon videos sell so well. Having seen him in a classroom setting, and having had several opportunities to talk with him at length, I was excited about the opportunity to review two of his latest videos. Since my area of expertise is balloon twisting, it only makes sense that these are the first of Bruce's videos that I've watched. These are, however, volumes 9 and 10. If you're new to the balloon world, and have never seen Bruce's work, rest assured, you don't need to buy the previous 8 tapes to make use of these. They do stand entirely on their own. In fact, now that I've seen these, I am interested in seeing some of the others. One of the things that I've always found makes a good teacher is the ability to admit limitations of knowledge. Well aware of his own strengths and weaknesses, Bruce makes no attempt to teach balloon twisting by himself. Instead, he has created these tapes with twister/entertainer Jody Braxton. Using Jody's knowledge of twisting, Bruce has added his own little insights into the use of these skills for decor purposes and adds a fresh spin whenever possible. Figure Tying Part A includes a brief intro of basic twists. The target audience seems to be balloon decorators that are new to balloon twisting. This is a group that, to my knowledge, has been ignored by publishers in the past. Many twisting books and videos exist for those that are either completely new to ballooning, or have some background in twisting. The decorators that know something about balloons and want to add new things to their decor using twisty balloons haven't had many places to turn for help. Nothing is left out of Part A regarding terminology, so that you'll be able to progress rapidly through the remainder of the tapes. Unfortunately, one of my biggest complaints about the video, is that the terminology Bruce chose to use does not necessarily match what balloon twisters have been using for years. After watching this video, you'll certainly be able to follow the instructions provided. I suspect the difficulty for me in watching this had more to do with my background than anything else. If you're new to this particular art form, the differing nomenclature won't bother you. Just expect to run into some confusion with works produced by other people as you do more twisting down the road. Out of fear of scaring anyone away from the videos, I want to make it clear that it's only a few terms that Bruce and I disagree with. And the confusion will take only a short time to get over. Those familiar with my own writing will be aware of how picky I can be regarding the terminology I use. For that reason, I just couldn't ignore it in this review. Others probably won't make as big a deal out of it. Other things found on the videos include use of 350's, flowers and baskets. Tips and tricks include how to easily inflate 260's for flowers. Jody provides recipes including specific lengths for bubble sections for those that like recipes. The camera angle Bruce chose for many of the shots is becoming more common in more modern tapes on twisting and I'm glad to see he chose to do it. We get to watch the hands of our instructors from over their shoulders so that you see exactly what you'll see later when you're holding the balloons in your own hands. Balloon twisters have traditionally made videos that are hard to watch. The philosophy is that it's more important to get the material in your hands than waste time on production. Bruce has gone in the other direction. He wouldn't release these tapes until he was satisfied with their appearance. That's not to say that watching them is like watching a cool special effects movie. He's just made sure that you can sit through them and catch on to everything being presented. I'd give it a good score for production quality. Very few of the designs presented on the video are new or unusual. Variations on most have appeared in other works by other twisters. However, what Bruce and Jody have accomplished is to compile things that decorators will find useful. Bruce, using his eye for decor, also presents uses for many of the things on these videos that other balloon twisters wouldn't be looking for. All of the ideas are presented with clear recipes to follow so that you're not left stranded, unsure of how to proceed. If you're like me and prefer to skip the recipes, using the ideas in your own ways, that's easy enough to do given the format of the presentation. You will have things you can make just by the time you reach the end of Part A. Part B will bring you up a notch with things like a working marionette so that you're ready for more difficult creations of your own later. There are a few shortcomings in explanations of things like the poodle tail. I fear that someone trying to make a poodle tail for the first time with just the explanation provided will have trouble. But that's only a small point. It was a noble attempt to try to cover everything a balloon artist might need on the subject of twisty balloons in only two tapes. This is certainly a good overview of the art of figure tying for someone that would like to add these things to their decor. I expect that a balloon decorator looking to expand their knowledge and skills will be able to make good use of the material here.