- An expert in manufacturing balloons! What is the secret to handmade balloons?
- The manufacturing process for handmade balloons!
- The historical process to making handmade balloons is learned by future generations.
- Active female participation in the handmade balloon industry.
An expert in manufacturing balloons! What is the secret to handmade balloons?
What kind of factory makes the unique Marusa balloons? I visited a balloon factory in Choshi city, Chiba Prefecture to check it out.
Old machines are set up and factory staff still work under the instruction of Mr. and Mrs. Ito.
The manufacturing process of most balloons on the market is mechanized. An additive is used in the rubber to shorten the heating time. Properties of these balloons such as the thickness of the rubber, the elongation ratio, and the ease to inflate are marginal.
This factory uses raw latex and natural sap from rubber trees in Southeast Asia, making it more eco friendly. Mr. and Mrs. Ito continue to make stronger balloons that are easily inflatable for children.
The manufacturing process for handmade balloons!
I’ll show you the actual process.
1．Make fine particles of paint, so the color is clear when the balloon is inflated by mixing the paint with small balls and putting it into a centrifuge for 2 days.
2．Mix the centrifuged paint with latex from Thailand and Malaysia.
3．Add ammonia to prevent hardening when it’s finished.
4．Transfer the completed material to a square container called a pool.
5．Soak the vacuum glass molds in the balloon material.
6．Check for dust and foam on the balloons and remove with tweezers.
7．Dry the balloons by turning the drying shelf upside down while checking the drip of the liquid material.
8．Soak dried balloons in a solution to make them firm.
9．Dry them in a drying chamber.
10．Steps 5 thru 9 are repeated 3 or 4 times depending on the type of balloon.
After this process, the coating film for balloons can be thickened and the ease to which it can be inflated, is increased by blowing on it.
The historical process to making handmade balloons is learned by future generations.
I interviewed Mr. Takaaki Ito, a newcomer to this factory, about the difficulty of producing handmade balloons and his prospects for the future.
Mr. Ito has the same family name as the factory manager, Mr. Fusao Ito, and has secured a position for himself by passing a rigorous selection process that only 1 out of 54 applicants usually passes.
Mr. Takaaki Ito: “I had been working at a job related to manufacturing, but I decided to work here because I wanted to work directly with customers. I can meet them through balloon workshops now. It is tough job, because I work on my feet all day. I still have a lot to learn, including more about the raw material and solution management. I want to master this job quickly and make balloons that no one has ever seen before.”
Mr. Ito (age 35) said it is a tough job and wonders how Mr. Ito (age 72) can continue to make balloons for more than 40 years. I asked him about the difficulty of this job and the secret to working a very long time.
Mr. Fusao Ito: “Gum is like a living creature, so you need to care for the changes in temperature and its condition every day. I’ll keep making these balloons, because I like seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when they play with them. I want Takaaki Ito to create his own original balloon, and at the same time continue to make handmade balloons.”
I was a bit nervous interviewing Mr. Fusao Ito, working with an earnest facial expression.
He broke into a beaming smile when he said, “I’m happy to see the children smile”.
I felt that he takes pride in his work and his heart resides in the balloons that he makes.
Mr. Ito (age 72) and Mr. Ito (age 35) were silently working, but they sometimes call out to each other and smile. When I saw this, I thought that the handmade balloon has a bright future.
Active female participation in the handmade balloon industry.
The mouth of the balloons is made by Mrs. Ito. Rotary brushes are attached to the tip end of sticks, and the ends of the mouth curl up by moving the molds of the balloon back and forth. I saw that Mrs. Ito mended a part that came off the machine in an instant. How professional she is!
Balloons made this way need to be removed from the molds one by one. I experienced this process and it was tough, because strength is required and one needs to keep working in the same position. Mrs. Ito and other female staff members in charge of this work were carefully removing balloons from their molds with amazing speed. They were also sprinkling powder on them so they don’t stick together.
The finishing process is inspection. They check for deformations and scratches.
The manufacturing process for specially shaped balloons (animal shapes) are more intricate than regular shaped balloons, because it takes more time to remove them from the molds. I think they’ll continue to make handmade balloons, because the smiles from their customers is moral support.
They work hard every day and their faces seem bright, much like the children that play with their balloons. I was able to feel their passion for the manufacturing process and their spirit of a new generation that challenges the world.
We cannot keep our eyes off trends at Marusa Saito Gom Co. Ltd. They continue to challenge innovation while maintaining Japanese tradition!
8741 Kimigahama, Choshi city, Chiba Prefecture
Other articles regarding factory tours:
Japanese Leather craftsmen who produce some of the best quality leather in the world. [Fujitoyo Factory]