Saturday, 29 September 2012

Elephant No. 363: Party Blowout

I didn't actually know the name of this type of party favour—and I'm still slightly suspicious that "blowout" is a made-up descriptive name—but since I'm almost done with this yearlong project, a party favour seemed like the thing to make for today's elephant.

Also known as party horns, blowers, noisemakers, jolly Jonathans, squeakers and fizoos, party blowouts consist of paper cones attached to paper tubes that are flattened and rolled into coils. Most contain a coiled metal strip to make the tube retract again, as well as a small diaphragm, so that when you blow into the mouthpiece, it makes a noise.

The most familiar type of party blowout is the kind with a simple tube and a plastic mouthpiece. When I was little, they always had a small feather on the end as well, which fluttered when the tube was fully extended. Although I don't usually keep these, I did keep a rather unusual blowout with three extending tubes, brought back from India by my father.

Triple-tubed Divali noisemaker from India.
Photo: Sheila Singhal

There are also blowouts with novelty faces attached, which is the kind I'll be making for today's elephant. I had actually forgotten about the face version, until I saw this package in the party supplies section of a discount store. None of the packages contained an elephant face, which seemed odd to me.

This was dead simple to make, of course. All I had to do was disassemble one of the blowouts from the package, and use the headpiece as a template.

I traced around two of the animals on a piece of artist-quality bristol board. It obviously didn't matter which one I used as a guide, because it was going to be altered, anyway. To hedge my bets, however, I chose two different shapes and superimposed them. The main thing was to get the general size right, and to get the openings in approximately the right spot.

Once I'd traced around everything, I expanded it to add the elephant's features, obviously sans trunk.

This looked a bit like a vampire bat, which worried me, so I cut it out and fit one of the plain blowouts through the opening before I went to the trouble of painting it.

It looked okay, so I painted everything with gouache. I thought about painting the tube, but the harlequin pattern already had grey in it, and I didn't know what might happen if I added paint. I feared I might end up with a dissolving paper mash, so I left well enough alone.

To reassemble this, I simply slipped the new face over the basic blowout. And voilà!

And this is what it looked like in action. The squeaker on this blowout was eccentric, so I added my own sound effects.

This was very simple, and might make an interesting party activity for children—or adults, for that matter. In fact, I might try to coax some friends into trying this sometime, just for the fun of seeing what they come up with.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Elephants use their trunks to make a wide range of sounds, from loud trumpeting to a squeak said to be as tiny as that of a mouse. As far as I can tell, this is the general repertoire of trunk noises:

Loud trumpeting: Anger or fear. In a bull elephant, loud trumpeting—said to be "loud enough to bring down the walls of Jericho"—is often an expression of dominance. In a female, it is often an expression of anger, or warning to anyone foolish enough to get in between a mother and her calf. In both genders, it can also be a signal to flee.

Medium trumpeting: This is the most varied type of trumpeting, and can be used as a form of greeting between elephants, a means of saying goodbye, or even a way of expressing excitement and pleasure, as at feeding time. Elephants will also trumpet to express moderate displeasure, or to tease their human keepers.

Squealing: Baby elephants squeal partly because they aren't yet equipped to trumpet. They also squeal when feeling anxiety or distress. Never get between a squealing baby and its mother.

Screaming: This is, as in humans, an out-and-out distress call. Elephants scream when attacked by predators, poachers and snakes. They scream when frightened or cornered. They scream to let other elephants know there is an extreme threat in the area. They scream as they flee.

Squeaking: Even the largest bull elephant can make a tiny squeak. This is the sound many elephants emit when unsure, nervous or slightly anxious.

When elephants rumble, it doesn't involve the trunk at all, but a vibration in their vocal chords, just as we use ours to speak or sing. Many rumbles are at the infrasonic level, inaudible to human ears.

Trumpeting elephant, Tanzania, 2005.
Photo: Matt Lindop

To Support Elephant Welfare
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)
Wildlife SOS (India) 
The Elephant Sanctuary (Tennessee


  1. You have created cutest Elephant and Panda, who are looking like celebrating their birthdays in the pictures. I personally lov Pandas, they are really cute. I am having Panda shaped fluffy toys also.

  2. Thank you. I didn't create the panda, but the elephant was fun to make, for sure!

  3. What a created picture you have presented. So talented you are. This elephant and panda is just amazing and works really impressed me. Great work. Keep posting