Inflatable Paper

Inflatable Paper

About five years ago, I read an article in Hand Papermaking Magazine by my friend and colleague Brian Queen about how to make hot air balloons. Brian and I share many interests, including watermarks and lighting design, so I knew I would enjoy making this hot air balloon with my students at Penland. You should have heard our screams when it took flight (after several attempts over multiple days)!

It was fairly simple to construct the balloon, and the method was fascinating. Based on my lamp-making experience, I assumed it would be constructed in the round, which I couldn’t fathom at this scale. I was surprised to discover the construction method was flat, and that inflation was what brought the paper into dimension.

Brian told me about a (now defunct) website with hundreds of hot air balloon shapes and templates. I got busy and constructed a variety of inflatable structures, like this five-foot diameter Text Ball, featuring the Ezra Pound poem, “The Book Should Be a Ball of Light in One’s Hands”.

I have taught a variety of students how to make smaller versions of this ball shape, and this week I worked with a group of 6th-12th graders at the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy. Each student is embellishing their gores with rubber stamps, rub-on letters, markers and drawings. I can’t wait to see them inflated.

Instructions for both versions of this project (the hot air balloon and the inflatable ball) will be coming soon… in Playing With Paper, in book stores early next year.

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