'Balloon Guy' expands his craft during pandemic

From Darth Vader to The Tiger King, Ottawa's Brad Wood has been stretching his balloon-twisting skills during the pandemic. Interest in his elaborate, large-scale creations has really blown up.

Brad Wood decided to use the spare time to build elaborate, large-scale creations

Air apparent: Brad Wood, a.k.a. Ottawa's 'Balloon Guy,' looks up to the life-size balloon replica of Star Wars villain Darth Vader he created for a 40th birthday celebration. (Brad Wood)

It started off as a way to keep busy and stretch his skills. 

When the pandemic reached Ottawa back in March, Brad Wood, a.k.a. "The Balloon Guy," saw his gigs fall flat. Instead of feeling deflated, he decided to expand his craft and began building elaborate large-scale balloon creations.

Wood's balloon version of The Tiger King was one his earlier creations during the pandemic. When he placed it in his window, it attracted a lot of attention. (Brad Wood)

One of his first pieces was a balloon version of the title character from Netflix sensation The Tiger King, which he placed in his window. He also built a three-metre "rancor" from Star Wars, so large he had to keep it in the driveway.

It didn't take long for people to take notice — and start calling him with requests. 

Balloons with bite: Wood created this frightening rancor from Star Wars. (Brad Wood)

On one occasion, a woman asked him to make a giant Darth Vader for her husband's 40th birthday celebration.

"I was on a front lawn in my mask with my gloves on at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, attaching that to the front of their house," he said. 

Wood charges for his creations. $30 will get you a birthday cake hat. His larger, more elaborate pieces usually cost between $100 and $200.

The number of balloons Wood uses can range from 50 to a few hundred. To save his breath, and for safety during COVID-19, he usually uses a hand pump to blow up the balloons. 

Family ties: Meet the Corleones from The Godfather series, complete with grisly horse head. (Brad Wood)

He's created balloon versions of He-Man, C-3PO, Pokemon and the entire Corleone family from The Godfather.  He said the large creations usually take from three to five hours to make, but he spent 10 hours building Castle Grayskull. 

Some of the harder requests he's received are for characters from the computer game Minecraft. "Everything is square, but balloons, you have to figure out angles, you have to figure out shapes."

There's plenty of trial and error. It helps to start out with a plan, but be willing to switch gears, Wood said.

Pure gold: Wood's balloon recreation of Star Wars droid C-3PO. (Brad Wood)

Wood lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his partner, who he said is "extremely supportive" of his unique craft. 

"Trying to work with the squeaking, we both have to have headphones," he said.

Big summer plans

Looking ahead to the rest of the summer, Wood said he has a few ideas on the go. One of his "all time favourite movies" is the 1986 sci-fi thriller Aliens.

His dream project, he said, is to build a giant diorama piece depicting "the giant alien queen and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in the power loader, fighting the alien queen." 

"I'm going to try and find a day when it's not too hot and maybe turn my backyard into an alien battleground," Wood said. "Hopefully I'll get there." 

With files from Ottawa Morning

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