Bubbles. Who doesn’t love to blow them, chase them or bathe in them? Bubbles are simple yet mesmerizing, especially when they’re expanding to the size of a minivan, enveloping your body head to toe or spinning around like a carousel.
Performer Ben Jimenez started doing such things with bubbles in his Evanston backyard and neighbor-hood parks three years ago after teaching himself through the Internet and much trial and error over the kitchen sink. Onlookers wanted business cards and asked if he did kids’ birthday parties or Cub Scout events. So he created Ben’s Bubble Show.
“Bubbles only last one to two minutes on a really good day, but I just fell in love with it,” Jimenez said. “Once I saw the look on people’s faces, not just little kids but adults as well who were awestruck, I saw the universal appeal. Adults want to be shown again and again how I do it.”
Ben’s Bubble Show features bubbles within bubbles, smoke bubbles, spinning carousel bubbles with a smoky ice cube center, ‘burping bubbles” and a new trick using a toilet seat that’s “a big hit.” He has recently added a segment of lighted bubble sculptures whenever the room can be darkened — a very cool effect.
He usually envelopes two Icicle or one adult in a bubble, karate chops a grapefruit-size bubble into two, and makes bubbles with just liquid and his fingers, too. “Each of my shows is different,” he said. “I can tailor the show to the type of event and the level of kids’ involvement.”
He performs indoors and out, at private parties and public expos and county fairs. He has appeared at schools, libraries, churches/temples, fundraisers, music festivals, block parties and big comic book conventions including Comic-Con and C2E2. In November, he made his first appearance at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair at Navy Pier.
In March 2014, Jimenez can be seen at Family Time Magazine’s Kids’ Expo at the Tinley Park Convention Center.
“Mostly the bubbles I make are not for popping,” he said. ‘They’re for watching.” Of course, kids and adults alike are propelled to catch the bubbles. One day he says he’ll never forget what happened in front of Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain. He was creating bubbles big as cars. He met folks from France and Africa. He saw them chasing the bubbles along with Tibetan monks, nuns and people from a wedding party, who asked for more bubbles for their photos.
“It warmed my heart to see such diversity and they’re all chasing my bubbles,” he said. “My show promotes a feeling of togetherness by creating an atmosphere of joy, wonder I and pure delight.”
Finding material to create bubble magic is the easy part. He uses dowel rods, soda straws and yes, even toilet seats.
Performing in front of crowds is natural for Jimenez, who sang and played guitar in restaurants, coffee shops and bars for 30-some years until losing his ability to sing due to spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder affecting the voice box. Bubbles became his new performance medium.
While he won’t divulge any secrets behind the bubble sculptures — neither would the handful of other bubble artists from Belize, Sweden and the states he met online — he will say the art involves the study of long-chain polymers.
“I knew it was a chemistry thing,” said Jimenez, “it was lots of practice and healthy doses of failure along the way. But you learn a lot from your failures.”