Pictured above is an example of one of my favorite images — a young person completely mesmerized by a light caught inside a large ball of ice. Has she noticed that we have changed our balloon supplier? Of course not, but you might. If you're a longtime Wintercraft ice lantern lover, this post is for you.
You may be familiar with the Helen Keller quote that says, "When one door closes, another opens ..." Well, sometime in late spring 2021 we were told that our cherished balloon — which I have used for at least 30 years! — was going to be discontinued. Slam! A big door was closing for our small business and we knew we would either have to close down or find that new open door. We opted for the latter.
We spent the summer of 2021 testing hundred of balloon samples from all over the world. Our goal was to find a balloon that came close to the heavy-duty biodegradable balloons that so many of you have come rely on as you learned the beautiful craft of making globe ice lanterns. If possible, maybe even at a lower cost to keep our prices down.
The first test — can the balloon hold at least 30 pounds of water and not break or sag? If the balloon passed that test, then we picked it up.
Does it feel solid or "oozey"? Like, is it going to ooze out of your arms and onto the floor?
And finally, if we felt confident enough to carry it to one of our freezers, would it freeze without popping?
This balloon in the photo above DID NOT pass that first test!
We tested and tested and then tested some more. Finally, we found one — and right in our backyard, so to speak. A small family-run balloon company right here in the United States is making great balloons and was even willing to rush a large order for us!
And here it is!
So, what has changed?
First off, the price! These balloons are a little less expensive, so we decided to stretch our margins and doubled the number of balloons in most of our kits! You now get 6 balloons in the Starter Kit and12 balloons in the Deluxe Kit. The Replacement Balloon Pack now contains 15 balloons at a lower price than the old 12 count replacement pack.
Second, the mouth of the new balloons is bigger, so they are easier to fit around a faucet head — yeah! This is something we've heard about many times and are thrilled to have a better solution.
Third, the shape. While still on the round side, they do tend to come to a point at the top. We are hoping to work with the manufacturer over the summer to try to tweak that for next year.
SHAPING TIP: After you fill the new balloon with water, release the extra air and clip it closed. Then flip the balloon over so the clip is down, as the "bottom" of the balloon will tend to be rounder. Give it a try and tell me what you think.
So what has stayed the same?
First, the color! The balloons are still green, albeit a darker green. If given the choice, we would prefer a lighter shade to reduce sunlight absorption, but beggars cannot be choosers. We said yes to the dark green with the hope of a lighter shade in the future. So, my suggestion of placing your globes-in-process in the shade as opposed to the sun is even more poignant, as the darker color will absorb more sunlight.
Second, the heft. At first, these new balloons will look and feel different. But fill one up and you will see that they hold up to all that water, and they don't "ooze" when you pick them up! In fact, during the (very messy) testing phase, we had to go really really huge before one of these balloons burst. The resulting globe ice lanterns are much larger than any we can ever recall making.
Third, Easy-close Clips are still included, to make closing the balloon the easiest it can be.
Fourth, they're biodegradable and made in the USA!
Fifth, quality. We appreciate a well-made product. This supplier is dedicated to earth-friendly harvesting practices, and takes great pains to consistently produce a quality product. We are delighted to be partnering with them!
This year should be a great year to make globe ice lanterns and ice luminaries of all shapes and sizes. Please remember you can follow my ice antics on Facebook and Instagram via @wintercraftcommunity- scan this qr code!
I'd love to hear from you about our new balloons - stay in touch!
Enjoy the Glow!
-- Jennifer Shea Hedberg, The Ice Wrangler, @icewrangler
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