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Most of us think of balloon as fairly trivial items: good for fun perhaps, but no great significance. A frippery, used in the home for brightening up festive events, amusing the children and frghtening the cat. Ephemeral they may be, and this is part of their charm, but over the last ten years there has been a resolution in the use of balloons for decorating, a revolution which has been accompained by strong growth in the market.

To many people, decorating with balloons is still a simple question of blowing up a few brightly coloured toy balloons, tying them together with a bit of string and positioning the bunches around the walls of thier homes at Christmas or for children's parties and other celebrations. This is strictly amateur stuff. The potential of the balloon for creating a special look for big events-receptions, conventions, parties, dances, dinners, and large gathering-has now been realised, and all over the USA 'balloonists' are busy inflating thousands of 4-inch balloons to create thier master pieces.

No longer are balloons something incidental to the art of creating a festive look for special occasions: they have become a major tool in filling rooms with colourful displays. As Rick Tilloston of the UK Tilly Balloon Company said at the NABAS exhibition "for a few pence you can fill up a few cubic feet of space with something attractive. There is nothing comparable in cheapness and decorative effect. The experts use them for table decorations, for enhancing doorways, pillars and ceilings, as arches and canopies, swirls and sculptures. Balloons can be twisted together and strung in lenghts to make a fantastic variety of exotic creations.

Balloon artists have more than the simple latex balloon at their disposal: the Mylar balloon-the now-familiar foil-coated plastic balloon-has added to the variety of tools available. The merit of the Mylar balloon is the ease with which it can be printed on in colour and the diversity of shapes possible, making it ideal for message balloons and for complex animal shapes. It has also spawned those necessities of 20th century life, the walking balloon and the talking balloon.

As well as their typical use, for example a weddings-as table centerpieces, heart sculptures, frames for the wedding cake display and other room decorations, balloons are also being used in public events such as the opening of buildings, fetes, carnivals, pop concerts and fund raisers and in promotional work for product launches, exhibitions and store openings. Here, attention grabbing is the idea, using huge, eye-catching balloon sculptures such as a 50ft high US flat, the world's largest cake, or may be a full size London bus, and also balloon releases or drops. The latter-spectacular releases of thousand of balloons-are becoming increasing popular as a way of generating publicity, attracting crowds, and making an important occasion.

In the hands of enterprising balloon artists, in the USA and now in Europe, balloons have become a versatile tool for decorating parties, dances and conventions and for making eye catching sculptures and balloon bouquets. In the world of advertising, marketing and promotion, balloons have also become big business with nearly half of the balloons manufatured being used to print a slogan on. Balloons are now the next most important dipped products after household and examination gloves. All this is good news for latex concentrate suppliers, since demand for balloons is likely to continue to rise steadily in the USA, Europe and other developed countries.

 
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