"MASHED POTATOES, JELLY BEANS, & LITE-BRITES"
My Path To 30 Years Of Playthings MadeWithBalloons™
------ "ROUSEings" ------ By Graham Rouse
Do you play with your food?
"Sometimes", you say? But not like you used to?
Now you have new toys and playthings MadeWithBalloons™ don't you?.
I have dreams of a time when mashed potatoes were a favored artist medium. In my dreams I liked mashed potatoes for sculpting snowmen whenever I was not really hungry. I used them to pass the time until the good stuff (dessert) was served.
Two peas gave my mashed potato character green eyes and a slice of lemon gave him a giant yellow grin. A single scoop from his rotund body prepared me for a pretend snowball fight in case of an attack by my younger brother.
But then, in my dream world, I discovered Jelly Beans. Those sugar crusted, colorful jewels had chewy, gummy centers. They were a visual delight and tasted much better than potatoes.
"Mashed potatoes might still be useful", I thought to myself. "I could spread out the smooth mashed potatoes on a plate like canvas and stick the Jelly Beans on like paint."
But, alas, Jelly Beans were not allowed at the dinner table. I was allowed an afternoon snack, however, and I discovered that a slice of Wonder Bread made a fine white canvas with a brown frame. I could press the Jelly Beans down into the bread and watch them slowly rise part of the way back.
After that they usually stayed in place. If one of them did get out of place, I might give him a warning or I might just send him to "that dungeon from which no Jelly Bean ever returns". I ate them!
I could make dotted lines with Jelly Beans to draw shapes. I could make patches of color by nesting the Jelly Beans close together. It was great fun and I could pretend I was a famous artist; a famous artist who made only small paintings. I never got enough Jelly Beans together at one time to make large paintings. My paint kept disappearing into someone's mouth.... .. . Mine!
LITE-BRITESDo you remember Lite-Brite? You know, that magic box with a light inside and all those colorful, translucent, plastic pegs? I think they still make them. They replaced Jelly Beans in my youthful, artistic, dream world. They had none of the candy flavors of Jelly Beans, but had lots of sparkling colors. AND, they "GLlooOOooeed" in the dark. They were even pretty "Brite" in the "Lite". The Lite-Brite box had a honeycomb matrix of holes. The holes remained dark until you inserted one of the plastic pegs. Then the peg glowed with color. It was easy to arrange and rearrange colors to make designs. We did not have the ease, economy and efficiency of digital photography; so I did not take and save pictures of all those iridescent images. I believe those images did, however, hide away in the back corners of my brain. They were waiting there for an opportunity, an opportunity to rekindle my affection for their exuberant display of color and light. That opportunity came decades later when I discovered the visual flavors of Jelly Beans and the exuberance of Lite-Brite in a new medium.
PLAYTHINGS MadeWithBalloons™Early in 1983 I picked up a bag of those long, skinny, #260 balloons at a drug store. The bag had instructions on it for making a balloon poodle. I made the poodle and put it with a hand-made greeting card for a friend in the hospital. Then I began to play... .. . and play... .. . and play... .. . and to explore all kinds of fun "Playthings MadeWithBalloons™".
First I played with twisting balloons into shapes.
Then I played with shaping balloons from the inside with wire and water and air and nearly anything else I could get inside of those balloons. Later, I taught some of my techniques to others at balloon conventions and my inside out approach to balloon sculpture spread around the world. It has been popularized as "Fantasy Flowers" (a name I coined in 1985) and as "Distortion Techniques". Today, I refer to it most often as "RIBS" (Rouse Internal Balloon Structures). I featured some of these sculptures in 1987 at what I believe was the first two week, one man, public art gallery exhibit of balloon sculpture in the USA.
Then I played with lighting balloons from the inside. I gave individual balloons the possibility to become glowing, translucent, sculpted jewels of color without a Lite-Brite box. I patented an extended version of this technology that made it possible to add and remove air, lights and other objects from balloons while they are inflated.
Next I played with my own matrix of openings. Lite-Brites must have been calling to me.
FIRST, I made a matrix of slotted holes in cardboard. You could "plug-in" balloons at the holes in these "Rouse Designer Panels".
LATER, I developed a more efficient expandable matrix of openings. They, also hold balloons as their favored colorful, translucent object. When illuminated from behind, they give that same, familiar and exuberant display of color and light that had been tucked away for decades in the back of my mind.
These new matrices also accommodate more of the Jelly Bean look with richly flavored opaque colors that can be distributed as dotted lines or blocks of color. They even have those pinches of white peeking between the orbs like the Wonder Bread around my Jelly Beans from so many years before.
My matrix play has produced an additional three patents. A fifth patent has also come from my balloon play. And, there are many more of those magnificent ideas generated by imaginative play that are clamoring for a chance to come out and play with their neighbors.
Maybe you and I will meet along the way. Maybe we will both turn our imaginative ideas loose to play together. Who knows what might come of it? Maybe, like the Mashed Potatoes, Jelly Beans and Lite-Brites, they will plant seeds in our minds that blossom decades later in places that we cannot yet imagine.
For three decades, now, I have been on my adventurous path and it feels like I am just getting warmed up. I see much greater things ahead. Still, this is a milestone, so I pause to offer my thanks to Mashed Potatoes, Jelly Beans and Lite-Brites for starting me on
My Path To 30 Years Of Playthings MadeWithBalloons™.
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