Deciding to Attend and The Medium Sculpture Competition
By Samuel Stamp-Dod
For the past four years, it had always been a dream of mine to attend the World Balloon Convention (WBC) and meet the balloon artists from across the world that I had admired, and 2018 was the year that I would achieve this.
Plans started back in 2016 when I met with Mike Hurst of Reds, a balloon shop in Brackley, who had returned from New Orleans, the host city of WBC 2016. Mike had enthused me more and more with his tales of the classes, parties and competitions. I made a vow then that I would attend the following event in San Diego.
As WBC takes place every two years, this gave me plenty of time to research and save for the educational trip of a lifetime. After speaking with a few others who had attended, I took the decision early on that I wanted to compete in some of the competitions to stretch myself. As soon as bookings opened I was there, reserving my place on the convention and entered competitions.
I chose to enter four competitions, the maximum allowed; Medium Sculpture, Photo Frame, Column and Table Centrepiece. The first was a team effort, the next two to be completed as a pair with only the centrepiece as a solo entry. Mike was my natural choice for the Photo Frame and Column as he had expressed an interest in competing too. Next was to find three others to join us for the sculpture entry. Soon we found Debbie O’Niel from Wow Balloons in Benfleet, Lucy Hennessey from Balloon Power in Leigh-on-Sea and Alison Galley from Celebration Balloons of Rothwell, all of whom joined us to form Team GB.
With the generous sponsorship of BAPIA, the Balloon Association and Balloon Market, our wholesaler, we set to work on creating our designs. As a team we chose to make our sculpture based on the popular ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Finding Dory’ films with each team member taking sections of the sculpture to work on. Mike was the ‘King of Quicklinks’, a linking balloon that would prove valuable in our structure, so he worked on the shell of the design. Debbie spent hours and hours and several balloons to create Hank the octopus, Alison created Dory while I designed Nemo and Lucy worked on the coral to form the base of the design.
As we were spread far and wide across the UK, we only actually met in person once prior to the build in San Diego, with the rest of the discussions made via phone and messaging services. So when the day of the build came, we all felt underprepared and nervous. The build had a strict 12-hour time limit, starting at midday and ending at midnight (although as our flight had only landed a few hours before, it felt like starting at 7pm and working through the night!). We were not allowed to do any preparation prior to the start time, balloons had to remain in their bags and no framing could be prepared.
The hours whizzed by as we all worked on the different areas of the design and, inevitably, tempers got shorter as we all grew more and more tired. Fortunately, Mike Harris, of For Every Occasion in Rhyl, who had competed before, came by and gave us the best bit of advice that we needed: Take a break! So we did, and after a short meal break we were back, feeling much better, reinvigorated and ready to complete our task.
I’m pleased to say that the design was completed within the time limit and, even though we were all shattered at the end, the design was fantastic and so much more than any of us had expected. It would be a week until we found out that we had been awarded a Bronze for our efforts. The target had been met!
In the next blogs I will go on to share my experience of the other competitions and classes and talk about some of the amazing people from across the world who I met at WBC 2018.