At the age of 9, Clark Sides’ mother gave him a bag of balloons, a balloon pump and a VHS tape on simple balloon sculptures.
Twenty years later, Sides and his wife, Casey Jordan (’10) are the co-owners and managers of Capital Balloon Studios, a novelty balloon shop operating out of their Raleigh home. Balloons and air pump in hand, he creates works of art, dresses, cartoon characters and every animal known to man out of balloons.
What began as a simple hobby and a fun way to make some money on the side ultimately became a career.
Jordan, an international business major from Campbell, covers the behind-the-scenes aspects of the balloon studio, including running the website and social media, and organizing marketing for the business.
“I took the tools that Campbell provided me and poured them into this business,” she says. “I’m so glad that I’ve had those tools to help me.”
Even though each piece looks highly complicated, Sides can create balloon art in just a few minutes — each creation coming into form before his audience’s eyes.
“For parties, I try to stick within a five-minute range per piece,” Sides says. “For décor and much larger creations, it can take anywhere from three to four hours. And the longest I’ve ever spent on a creation was three days.”
The creation in question was a life-sized pirate for a child’s birthday party, complete with a balloon treasure chest filled with balloon gold.
Sides and Jordan have been in the limelight a fair amount since the opening of the business, with a clientele including N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, Drew Carey and the couple’s personal favorite, Weird Al Yankovic.
“I made a little balloon Al for him,” Sides says with pride. “He came to Raleigh to do a book signing and asked us to stay after everyone had left, and we got to stay after and chat. He was taking pictures with his phone, and when I think about Weird Al today, I think that somewhere on his phone, there is a picture of my balloon.”
Capital Balloon Studios currently offers a reading empowerment show for children called “Reading Is Magic! Inflate Your Mind.” The show merges children’s literature with balloon art, and Sides creates various characters from the books the children read during the show, hoping to cultivate a love of reading.
Libraries and schools around the Raleigh area can book this show for assemblies or other programs. The studio can be contacted through their website, capitolballoonstudios.blogspot.com or by calling (336) 593-1311.
— by Rachel Davis