By: Chelsea Convis
When Carolyn Hayman moved to Ann Arbor 25 years ago with her young family, little did she anticipate that her husband’s job and her 10yo daughter would set the stage for her evolution to professional balloonist.
Now, as the creator of Pop Designs, Carolyn chatted with us about that journey.
When Carolyn’s daughter loved balloons, a coworker offered to show Carolyn how to make balloon art for her. Carolyn rejected this offer because balloons “always” pop and she found that annoying, as most of us would, but the coworker showed her high-quality balloons and the difference was incredible. These balloons didn’t just arbitrarily pop and startle everyone and the dog; they held their shape!
“If stored correctly,” Carolyn told me, “a high quality balloon can hold its shape for months or even longer.” Carolyn even makes balloon costumes for people running marathons; her unicorn costume held up to a 5k Chicago Pride parade.
When Carolyn first got started in balloons, there wasn’t a lot available–but now, there are annual Christmas balloon contests (by the Michigan Twisters), international balloon conventions, and hundreds of tutorials on YouTube.
“There are so many different ways to put balloons together,” Carolyn says. “During the pandemic, many artists are struggling with how to stay relevant. For me, (it’s) how to do work with balloons without indoor parties?”
“I set up yard art and balloon garlands on people’s front doors to cheer up their neighborhood, and outdoor events.”
“There are a lot of people who want to send something cheerful to their kids at UM, or make their children’s birthday parties really fun when they can only have three friends come.”
Over the pandemic, balloon artists have participated in public art projects to brighten people’s days, which is Carolyn’s number one goal with Pop Designs.
I asked about the people most drawn to her work, and she said that, surprising to me, it’s often adults!
When she wears a balloon costume, adults are constantly complimenting her on the outfit–she wore her unicorn costume around the UM campus and it was guys in their 20s who were wanting to take photos with the costume.
When ordering a party balloon design, Carolyn emphasizes the benefit of giving an artist creative freedom: “If people let balloon artists get more creative, it can be much more interesting, rather than just asking for something ‘exactly like this.’
Giving a theme, like rainbows and smiley faces, can be a lot more exciting for both you and the balloon artist, and produce interesting creative projects.”
One of her favorite displays was an Alice in Wonderland party (W-one-derland, a 1st birthday theme). Another one she loves to do is a 21st birthday theme; for one student at UM, she made balloon beer mugs, pretzels, and squirrels dancing around a “21.”
Our chat was infused with Carolyn’s passion for art and the joy that balloons can bring. For anyone who’s interested in balloons, Carolyn recommends taking advantage of the free educational resources on YouTube. You can find out more about Carolyn, her awards she has received, and her work at Pop Designs, here!