Interview by Leah Larson
This article first appeared in the Fall 2007/5767 issue, issue #13
Naomi Greenfield started balloon twisting at age thirteen, to overcome her fear of balloons popping. She hasn’t stopped twisting since! She now does balloon twisting at birthday parties, fundraisers, weddings, and even on the Today Show. She is also working on a documentary about balloon twisting.
How did you get started twisting balloons?
Google search, I found out that there are balloon twisting conventions! One was being held in Peabody, MA so I decided to go check it out. The convention was a lot of fun and I learned all sorts of new techniques and shapes.
What skills does someone need to be good at balloon twisting?
Physically, it involves good manual dexterity, a sense of colors and what works well together. From a business standpoint, it’s good to be organized and have good people skills, especially with kids. When I get hired to do parties and events, my number one priority is that the kids have fun.
Why do you like your job?
It’s artistic, creative, is a great side income (I also have a full time job as a Creative Producer at an animation studio) and I love interacting with kids and people in general. And it’s hard to not smile when you’re around balloons!
What has been one of the most extravagant balloon creations you’ve made? How long did it take?
Last summer, I was hired by the Today Show to build a life-size sculpture of Al Roker. It took me about 8 hours to build, and I had to make it extra sturdy and strong to withstand the outdoor heat on the set. It also ended up being slightly more than life size (8 ft tall) so it was a little difficult to maneuver.
Tell us a little about the Twisted documentary. How did you get started with that? What was the production of it like?
I could talk about this for a while….but basically, I’ve always been interested in film and TV, and my good friend from college, Sara Taksler, who also happens to know how to make balloon animals, really wanted to make a documentary. When I told her about the balloon twisting conventions and the people I met there, we decided it would be a great subject for a film. We started filming in July of 2003 and completed the film in January 2007. So far the film has screened at 7 film festivals around the country and we have interest in both theatrical and DVD distribution for the film. It’s been quite an exciting ride.
What’s your favorite balloon creation to make?
I like the monkey on a palm tree–it’s quick, fun and always a crowd pleaser.
How has balloon twisting changed your life?
I know it sounds cliche, but in many ways, it has changed my life, or at least it’s opened up so many doors of opportunity for me. Actually, I got my current job through a connection I made doing balloons at a 4 year old’s birthday party! I’ve also gotten to meet some celebrities including Paul McCartney because of the balloons (I made him a sculpture when he was performing at the SuperBowl in 2005). I’ve also found something that enables me to be creative and make people happy, which I love. And a lot of people know me as the Balloon Lady so I guess that’s a change in my life!
Any advice for Jewish girls?
I think there is nothing greater you can do in life than deciding you want to do something that seems big and scary and awesome, and then going out and doing it. People ask me all the time if I know how to make a certain animal or sculpture and I take each of those requests as a personal challenge that I try to figure out. And I apply that to all areas of my life. I did not know how to make a film when I started making TWISTED (I didn’t even know how to use a camera!) but I wanted to do it, so I figured it out and did it. Oh, and go pick up a balloon twisting book and learn how to make a dog! Once you can make a balloon dog, you can do anything.