Ali Rashied had never seen a balloon artist in Iraq during his childhood. The first time he met him was when he was 30 and he remembered watching the iconic scene in Jim Carey’s “The Mask” where Carey twists a balloon into an animal and a tommy gun.
Rashied, 38, was late in discovering the art of what he calls “balloon twisting,” but is now a pro known as “Ali the Balloon Guy.”
Driven by the joy of the people he entertains, he twists and weaves balloons into highly detailed works of art.
“I love the sparkle in their eyes and their smiles,” said Rashied. “They say, ‘Wow.’ Most people think of basic animal balloons.”
A married father of two children, he entertains all ages and balloons at parties, senior centers, youth programs, festivals and regular gigs closest to his heart at IHOP in Southington. creating art.
His big break was at IHOP about four years ago, so he said nothing would stop him from performing there every Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 1pm. .
He will visit your table to create free balloon art. He doesn’t get paid from his IHOP but does get a tip.
“I absolutely love him. He’s great with children, customers and staff,” said Natalia Dzynski, general manager of Southington restaurants. “Sometimes they come just for him.”
Those who have seen Rashied perform balloon magic say he is as kind, polite and funny as he is gifted with the “balloon twist.”
Robin Gloire, Bethany’s director of human services, said the performance was for children in the morning and the elderly in the afternoon. Glowa said he was amazed at how he flip-flopped across the ages. One of his pieces, she said, is a monkey hanging on a palm tree, holding a coconut and a banana.
“They’re really works of art,” Glowa said, adding that the elderly were “happier than I’ve ever seen them.”
“He made beautiful balloons for all the elderly.”
Rashied threw Nolan Gonzalez’s sixth birthday party and his mother, Erica Gonzalez, hired him for her daughter’s first birthday.
“He was great with all the kids,” Erica Gonzalez said, pointing out that he made Nolan Sonic the Hedgehog. “
Rashied discovered the balloon business about seven years ago while helping a friend build balloon arches and columns for a party. His friend twisted the balloon into a little flower to fill the gap and Rashied went crazy.
“The idea of turning that long balloon into a flower was just amazing to me. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
Rashied then bought a simple balloon art kit at Walmart and watched YouTube videos to practice.
“I really loved it,” he said.
He continued his practice, and in 2016 volunteered to make balloons as part of a fundraiser through ShopRite in Orange, where he worked as a cashier. Over the next few years, he volunteered at schools, parks, recreation departments, libraries, YMCAs, and other venues twisting balloons, building his skills and events business.
A love of drawing as a child, Rashied can create almost any character, including classic cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Road Runner. He draws superheroes, princesses, mermaids, flowers, minions, bald eagles and other animals. He also creates a life-sized balloon his character with a detailed face.
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Rashied offers boards with 150 designs, but you can quickly step up to others. People often show him pictures on the phone.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that anything you think can be twisted,” said Rashied.
About five years ago, Rashied decided he wanted to make balloon twisting a full-time career. He went to some restaurants and asked if he could twist balloons for free. They turned him down and Rasheed said he was “starting to lose hope”. He succeeded in his third attempt at his IHOP in Manchester. Rashied said he got the gig by making his manager a penguin balloon. He eventually moved from his Manchester location to Southington, closer to his home in Meriden.
“I love interacting with people, the smiles we create, the memories we create,” said Rashied.
Rashied said the number one factor in balloon twisting is patience. At the event, it is always necessary to be prepared to break the balloon, and it is difficult if the work is woven with balloons. Balloon Tipping his figure is optional, but all pieces include a business card.
“This was my way of promoting my business,” he said.
Now that he’s become a household name in the area, other restaurants have tried to entertain him with their customers, but Rashied said he stayed true to the IHOP where it all started.