At Tupelo Con, Andrew and Kinsey had the opportunity to speak with professional balloon artist Bruce Carr, also known as No Ordinary Balloon Man! Bruce has been making balloons since he was a child and has created close to 9,000 balloon sculptures throughout his career. He has performed at numerous conventions and events and his work has been featured on websites such as Kotaku, MTV, IGN, IMDB, Cartoon Network, GameFAQS, and many more. Check out our conversation below and let us know what you think!
How did you first get into the art form of balloon sculpting?
I technically started when I was nine because of my mom’s boyfriend. He literally was a clown. I only knew how to do a couple of them and I thought of it just as something you could maybe do for a hobby, so I didn’t put much thought into it. I wanted to fully do the balloons once I was in college. This guy named Dave Evans came to my school and made balloons that amazed me and showed me that balloons are not just for little kids. You can use them to entertain just about anybody and it also went into my degree which is theater.
Where did you go to college?
Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia even though I’m kinda mad at them now because they decided to get absorbed by Georgia Southern so now they’re called the Armstrong Campus even though they had been been a university for 8 years.
Being that this is a pretty unique art form you do not seen often, was it challenging making it into a career at first?
Very much so. Especially because whenever most people think of balloons they think “Oh, here’s a dog” or “Here’s a snake,” but along with that I also have Aspergers and High Functioning Autism. So one of the things that actually helped me be able to let people know that this was something that was for everyone and something that could be accomplished was me being able to let people know that I have that. Pursuing entertainment with the balloons was one of the things that helped me overcome the difficulties of that and that’s one of the things that actually inspired a lot of people and made them want to see more of the stuff that I do.
Is there a balloon sculpture that’s been the most complicated for you to make?
Yes. It’s called the Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro and it took about 45 hours to make with another person helping me. My wife Jasmine helped us inflate balloons and filmed a video of it.
How many balloons did you use for it?
Close to 3,000.
Is that the most you’ve ever had to use?
I’ve had ones where I used more, but this one had the largest size and the most work done with it.
Is there a character that is easiest for you to make?
Now, it’s officially Bakugo from My Hero Academia. The reason why is because it’s not his normal version. It’s him when he turns into a ball. There’s been some people who have actually asked “Can you make Bakugo?” and they’re dressed as the villain who did that and I end up making it and they go “OH!!!” [laughs]. So that’s my simplest one to make.
How long did it take to make Jabba the Hutt?
He took 12 hours; Vader took 5; and Leia took 2.
I read that you’ve made close to 9,000 balloon sculptures. Throughout the years, I imagine you’ve had to do a lot of improvising. How much of your practice has been done through improvising on the spot versus practicing in your own time?
I’d say up to 85 or 90 percent. Even though there’s definitely ones that I end up planning out and some of them I’ll draw, but for the most part it’s all thought of by looking at it and visualizing it as what it would look like as a balloon.
What has been the most meaningful moment of your balloon career so far?
I would actually have to say when I proposed to my wife with a balloon of Aladdin and Jasmine by having the ring inside of a balloon. Unfortunately it didn’t end up going exactly as planned. Instead of popping on command and having the ring box there, it deflated on command. It was kind of awkward, but it made my lady laugh really hard.
That’s so awesome! Being that we are at a convention that celebrates comics and pop culture, do you have any favorite pieces of pop culture that you’re currently consuming?
Let’s see… that would be a combination of a few. Game of Thrones, My Hero Academia, and then of course all the new things from Star Wars that are coming out and everything from Marvel. I loved Endgame. I thought it was insanely awesome.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
I want everybody to know that if you have any kind of disorder or even if you just have people saying that you’re not able to do something, make sure you do everything that you can to prove them wrong, but also find people who are able to genuinely help you in all that stuff that you do and know that you are able to do it. I hope all who read this have an excellent and blessed day, but also you can find me on Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram by searching for No Ordinary Balloon Man.
Excellent interview…love going down these offbeat paths with you guys