Making balloon animals
is both business and pleasure for USU freshman
By Krista Meeks
March 6, 2006 | Balloon animals have not been just a
favorite childhood pastime for USU student Joel ZaeJoDaeus,
18, they also have been a symbol for his hard work and
practice. Whether it be parties or fundraisers, ZaeJoDaeus
loves sharing his unique talent with others whenever
At the age of 14, ZaeJoDaeus and his three older brothers
were sought out by Bryce Jackman, who was in the entertainment
industry in Denver. All four boys were taken under Jackman's
wing and did an apprenticeship where they each learned
the techniques of balloon sculpting.
Jackman contracted the boys out to different restaurants
and events in the Denver area. There, ZaeJoDaeus said
they would move from dinner table to dinner table or
person to person, asking for balloon animal requests.
Each brother became very talented, but young ZaeJoDaeus
quickly surpassed his brothers. The brothers had gigs
every week, but ZaeJoDaeus said, "I did it the most.
Money is good when you're in high school and have a
After two years with Jackman, ZaeJoDaeus said he decided
to break out on his own. "Jackman was just too flaky,"
he said, "and he wanted us to start doing other things
like fire breathing, which we didn't want to do." ZaeJoDaeus
started contracting himself with other restaurants,
eventually getting hired to do big events and kids'
nights. "Word of mouth," he said, "really helped me
get my name out there."
"A lot of crazy things happen at the gigs I do," ZaeJoDaeus
said, "especially at the tables with a bunch of the
moms having a night out." He said he gets the most bizarre
requests at these tables, most of which he couldn't
ZaeJoDeaus said one of the highlights of his career
and his "claim to fame" happened when he was 14 years
old. He got asked out by Miss Colorado after making
her a balloon animal at a restaurant. "I didn't know
who she was at the time and she didn't know I was 14,
but by the time I found out and went back to her table,
she was gone," he said.
ZaeJoDaeus has invented many of his own balloon sculptures,
like a man on a motorcycle, a pregnant kangaroo and
a scorpion. After Lezlee Larsen, 22, saw ZaeJoDaeus
make balloon animals, she said, "I have never seen balloon
animals like Joel's before. He completely takes the
art of balloon sculpting to an entirely different level."
"I come from an artistic family, and this is my form
of art. All you need is imagination," ZaeJoDaeus said,
"and once you know the techniques, you can figure pretty
much anything out."
There are a lot of different techniques that need to
be learned about balloon sculptures, ZaeJoDaeus said.
"First, people need to realize that the balloon most
likely won't pop. Once they understand that, then the
rest will come," he said. "The basic method of tying
balloon animals is the pinch and twist technique, not
just the twist. Don't let go of either end, or else
the balloon will unravel. Speed comes after lots of
time and practice.
Sometimes people don't understand the difficulty of
simply blowing up the balloon, ZaeJoDaeus said. At a
restaurant in Colorado, a "big, beefy man" at one of
the tables poked fun at ZaeJoDaeus because he was using
a balloon pump to blow up the balloon, he said. The
man asked to have a balloon to see if he could blow
it up on his own.
ZaeJoDaeus said, "After a while of trying and getting
nowhere, the man started turning colors and passed out
in his own plate of spaghetti right as the manager of
the restaurant walked by. I wanted to run away!
Now ZaeJoDaeus is a freshman at Utah
State University planning to study film after he
serves an LDS mission. He has been contracting with
various restaurants in the Cache Valley area, including
in Providence, which was his first gig in Utah.
"Not only does Joel provide the entertainment," said
Megan Ryan, assistant manager at Firehouse Pizza, "Joel
has increased Firehouse Pizza's ability to personalize
the guests' experience."
ZaeJoDaeus can be found at Firehouse Pizza on the
weekends. For those who are unaware of balloon animal
etiquette, tips are appreciated, ZaeJoDaeus said.
ZaeJoDaeus is working with his older brother, Rufus,
in their self-made company, Balloon Bros. To contact
Joel ZaeJoDaeus to schedule an event, email him at email@example.com
or call 435-760-3011.