How to create a balloon animal

Dean Davis, a balloon artist, entertains patrons at Bennigan's in St. Charles, Ill. Davis plies his trade at weekly restaurant gigs, children's parties, group picnics and corporate events.

Knight Ridder Newspapers
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at 12:58 a.m.
The most elaborate balloon sculpture that Dean Davis ever made was a full-size wheelchair for an ''over-the-hill'' birthday party.
''It took me two days to do it,'' said the 34-year-old who has been a professional ''twiste,'' as the vocation is called, for 10 years. ''I lost track of how many balloons it took after the first 30. You couldn't sit in it, but it looked neat.''
Davis plies his trade at weekly restaurant gigs, children's parties, group picnics and corporate events.
He says the craft takes a lot of practice, but almost anyone can make a basic balloon dog with a few tries and the right balloon (that would be a ''260,'' a balloon 2 inches in diameter and 60 inches long).
But a few tips from Davis before we get started:
  • Don't inflate a balloon all the way; leave a 2- or 3-inch ''tail.''
    ''Leave enough tail for the air to displace each time you make a twist,'' he said.
  • Pull the balloon segments (called ''bubbles'') slightly apart as you twist them to reduce friction, and always twist the balloon in the same direction. This lessens the possibility of popping it, he said.
  • Keep hold of the first and last bubbles as you craft the dog so the air doesn't escape into other sections.
  • Don't be dismayed if you pop some balloons. It happens to Davis all the time, he said.
    Got that? OK. Let's get started. (If you get stuck, his Web site,, features additional instructions.) First, make the snout. With your thumb, squish down on a 6- or 7-inch segment so the bubble will be softer than usual. Twist it off.
    Move down the balloon and twist off a 2-inch bubble for an ear. Fold the snout and ear so it's parallel to the remainder of the balloon.
    Twist another ear to the same length as the other ear. Then grab both ears and twist them together.
    Next comes the neck, about a 1-inch bubble.
    Follow this with a 2-inch front leg. Fold the leg over so you can measure it and twist another leg of the identical size, just as you did with the ears. Then twist the legs together.
    Next comes the body, which can be any size you want. (If it's a dachshund, make it long.) Last are the hind legs. Follow the same procedure as you did with the front legs.
    Your dog is almost complete. Make sure both pairs of legs are twisted so the animal at least looks as though it can stand.
    Lastly, take the soft-bubble snout and carefully roll it behind, over and then between the ears.
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