Peer Perspective: Sue Bowler, Certified Balloon Artist
Certified Balloon Artist (CBA), instructor
Henley-On-Thames, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Sue Bowler is among the most dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable people in the balloon industry.
The United Kingdom native’s career started in 1990 with a small home-delivery company and it's only grown since then. She’s since gone on to work for Conwin and Pioneer, become a Certified Balloon Artist and won countless awards.
Through personal instruction and as a blogger, Bowler has influenced balloon artists around the world. She’ll be in San Diego in March for the 2018 World Balloon Convention, where she’ll be among the impressive slate of teachers.
Learn more about Bowler and her work at her blog, theverybestballoonblog.blogspot.com.
Why do you love balloons?
I started working with balloons over 27 years ago and love them as much today as I did then, probably more! I am an artist and balloons are my medium. There is not much that you cannot do with balloons; you are only limited by your imagination and creativity. Balloons bring smiles, joy and happiness, and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a client excited by the decor that you have created or a student beaming from ear to ear when they learn a new skill or technique.
What question you hear most often from balloon artists?
“How much would you charge for that?” I totally understand why people ask this question, however, what they really need to learn is how to price their own work, as there are so many variables. Material costs and helium vary considerably around the world, how much we charge per hour and our overhead costs can vary greatly, too. I try to job-cost at least one of my designs in every class that I teach, and then work through all the costs together as a group. This way the students can see how I would charge for my design but in their location.
What is the most common mistake you see balloon artists make?
Not having the confidence to price their work to make a profit. Sadly, I hear people saying, “But it’s just balloons,” but it is so much more than that! I agree that there are certain designs that have a local market price, three balloons on a weight for example. It’s probably worth finding out what people charge for this in their area, however, they still need to do the math and job cost the design as there will be people underpricing their work and not making any profit. Decide if you want to chase work that makes no profit or look for business that does.
Another common mistake is not investing in marketing. Most marketing today is, in essence free, but in reality it’s not. Social media marketing takes a great deal of time, and to attract customers you need good quality and inspiring photographs, especially if you are using Instagram or Pinterest. You might need to invest in a photo shoot or two, or work with an events stylist for free to get some amazing photos. … A good camera is an essential tool and maybe a basic photography course, too.
You’re leading a class on wedding décor for the modern bride at WBC. How does the modern bride’s tastes differ from previous generations?
I am really excited about this class. The modern bride is social media-driven, so research is very important. Looking at the same trends that they are looking at and being able to turn their dream into reality. Flowers and greenery is a top trend for 2018 weddings, so it is my job to find ways to follow this same trends and incorporating balloons — we have a very exciting new balloon launching soon that will be a definite hit with brides. The organic style is very popular, and I want to show a way of incorporating a little bit of the organic style with more traditional decor.
Is there anything else about WBC or balloon design you’d like to share with our readers?
The World Balloon Convention is a truly fabulous event to attend. It is not just about the classes, although they will be awesome, and packed with inspiration, techniques and top business tips — the instructors have been working on their classes for months to make sure that they deliver unique, fun and inspirational action packed classes! WBC is so much more than you can ever really explain, from the moment you arrive you can get involved. There will be designers working on their events, Lily Tan from Singapore, is creating the Lobby decor, Stuart Davies from the UK, the Welcome Event decor, Federico Onida from Italy, the Costume Party decor, Olga Baranova from Russian, the Grand Gala decor and Chris Adamo, from Australia, the After Party decor! They will all want and need helpers! What better way to learn, hands-on from some of the best designers in the world! You will meet and interact with like-minded people, people like yourself who have balloon businesses and understand the balloon industry, sharing stories and experiences — good and bad! There will delegates working on their competition designs that will totally blow your mind — “How did they do that?” will be something you will ask for sure! From my own experience, attending events like WBC as a delegate I can only describe it as the biggest boost in energy, enthusiasm and drive that both me and business needed, and an experience that I will never forget. I am still in contact with and very much friends with people that I met at my first balloon convention in 1996!
Sue Bowler is one of the instructors at the World Balloon Convention in San Diego, which takes place March 14-17, 2018. She’s slated to teach two classes.
CBA Refresher Course, 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 13
This class is highly recommended for anyone who is preparing for their CBA Exam either at WBC or for those who want to take their exam in the future. During this class you will review all the lessons covered in the CBA Exam to ensure that you are ready and prepared. Techniques covered: Principles and elements of design; classic balloon décor.
Fabulous Wedding Décor for the Modern Bride, 2 to 3:30 p.m. and 4 to 5:30 p.m., both on Friday, March 16
Explore a wide range of elegant wedding designs with a modern twist! During this class you will learn how to research and implement modern trends into classic wedding decor, including organic elements, color matching, and fabulous accessories such as flowers, fabric, lights, and more. Techniques covered: Implementing modern trends; accessorizing balloons.
Visit www.worldballoonconvention.com for the full slate of classes, events and all other details about the WBC.