April 24, 2012
We’ve done this project every spring for the last three or four years. We hang a balloon over the table and the kids cut pieces of yarn, dip them in bowls of white glue and cover the balloon. Sometimes I have to help a bit, with some long pieces of yarn wrapped around the balloon to catch the hanging ends of their yarn.
Then it’s moved out in the hallway where it dries over a piece of drip-catching plastic. The next morning the balloon is back hanging over the table and I have a large hat pin stuck through my shirt. I warn the kids what I’m about to do just in case they want to cover their ears. They almost all do. The anticipation is palpable. I take the pin from my shirt and pop the balloon….except it doesn’t pop. The hole widens slowly; the air hisses out; the balloon collapses so, so slowly, as the glue lets go of the balloon. The yarn collapses, too, into an interesting, chaotic tangle.
This was a complete surprise to me the first year we did it. I expected, as the kids do, that the balloon would pop leaving another “balloon” made of yarn. I spent some time that year trying to figure out how to make the balloon pop away from the glue, but upon further reflection decided I liked the tangle and I loved the surprise. I stopped worrying about how to recreate my original idea of how the project should go.
Then we do it again. This time I hang a couple of balloons because, once we’ve “popped” the first balloon, everyone wants to dip pieces of yarn and add them to a balloon, just to have a stake in the final moment of anticipation. This year, for the first time, a girl asked if she could run pieces of yarn from one balloon to the other. Well, why not? It did make it a bit harder to move the two balloons out to the hall and hang them up, without breaking the connection, but so what. It’s the kids’ ideas that keep projects new for me.
There was one more surprise the next morning. The first balloon actually popped, not “popped,” but really popped with a loud bang. Now we didn’t know what to expect. Good! I like not always knowing. It turned out the second balloon “popped”, hissed and slowly collapsed.
Here are both days’ sculptures hanging near our back door. The top two are still connected.