Paper Balloons

25 Days of Paper 2016, Day 17

The August project in the Twelve Months of Paper calendar is a Paper Balloon. This is a repost from 2012, when I did the first 25 Days of Paper!
Remember the origami balloons, or water bombs, we learned to make in elementary school? I taught my after school paper club kids to make them today, and the high energy group had fun tossing and kicking them around the room like hacky sacks. But here’s another idea – use them as holiday light covers.

Origami paper balloon light covers, by JuuniOrigami


When I was in Japan in the late 80’s, I picked up a few of these inflatable paper balls. They come packaged flat, and with just a breath of air they inflate.

I made a large version (5′ in diameter) of this ball out of tracing paper in 2006. The Text Ball has part of a poem by Ezra Pound printed on it using rubber stamps: “The Book Should be a Ball of Light in One’s Hand”.

Text Ball, by Helen Hiebert


Instructions for how to make an inflatable ball that is one foot in diameter are included in my book, Playing With Paper. And, as stated above, a mini-version (about 4″ diameter) is included in the Twelve Months of Paper calendar. Here’s a picture from the book, featuring van dyke brown prints by Alyssa Salomon on handmade abaca paper that I made.

Inflatable paper ball by Alyssa Salamon & Helen Hiebert


Another project featured in the book is how to make a hot air balloon that you can launch with heat from a heat gun, hair dryer or propane stove into the sky. I read an article by Brian Queen in Hand Papermaking Magazine in the summer of 2006, just prior to teaching a class at The Penland School. I decided to have my class make a collaborative hot air balloon. We constructed one from tissue paper which was about seven feet tall. Here’s my class trying to launch the balloon in front of the breakfast crowd near The Pines. That attempt failed (it was too warm outside), but it still looked pretty good.

We tried the launch again a few mornings later. I don’t think any of us expected it to work, but we hooted and hollered as that balloon soared up into the sky and over the photo studio and landed, sigh, high up in a tree.
Check out this inflatable sofa made from recycled paper, by Malafor in Poland.

Blow Sofa, by Malafor


What other sorts of inflatables have you seen? Please share by e-mailing or leaving me a comment below.
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About the 25 Days of Paper 2016: It’s a great time to celebrate paper, and I’m delighted to share my ideas for using this amazing material with you. If you’d like more info about the Twelve Months of Paper Calendar, click here. Receive these blog updates via e-mail by adding your address in the upper right hand corner of this page. Enjoy the season, and feel free to leave a comment below and check out what people are making in the 25 Days of Paper FB Group!

1 comment to Paper Balloons

  • Hi Helen,
    A belated reply to your post about paper balloons. The 2 handmade ones are divine!
    Originally they were made with gampi tissue (and still can be). You know I’m sure there are all kinds of animal versions now, but still my favorite that we have carried for years are the beachball-looking ones which are so practical and fun. I always travel with a few in my pocket to entertain both children and adults as the need arises!
    Great post! Thanks.

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