The Darkroom

The fleeting art of the bubble

Kenneth K. Lam
The Baltimore Sun

A bit over 10 years ago, Mark Angelo Askew bought a small mechanical blowing machine to satisfy his childhood fascination with soap bubbles. Little did he know that bubble blowing would become his retirement project for he and Brenda Marie his wife of 38 years.

Askew, who had his own graphic design and web developing business at the time, used the machine to blow bubbles during a church picnic at Centennial Park. He was touched by the joy the bubbles brought to the children. Older church folks noticed too and started giving him more bubble machines. Soon he had gathered quite a collection, which he used during family and church social events.

He started to refine his techniques. He developed his own soap mixtures and started making custom wands by tying together dozens of small ones into large hoops, some with a 3-foot diameter. These wands can make hundreds of small- to medium-sized bubbles in one pass. He made large circular wands that can make bubbles big enough to fill a room or enclose a child or partially cover an adult. He’s even installed LED lights in the wands to perform in this year’s Light City events.

About three years ago he and his wife started to do paid shows – one or two a week from spring to fall. He also published an e-book, “The Art of Bubble Blowing.” In the book, he describes a tall man driving a huge truck, who saw a bubble half block away and had to drive back around to take a closer look and “to use this moment to connect to humanity.”

On Thursday, Mark and Brenda performed at the Maryland Institute College of Art during an event. Many MICA students gathered to take pictures and then tweeted them. Some pulled out their drawing pads. Others, like Julia Manhire, stepped a little closer and giggled as Askew smiled, then enclosed her from head to shoulder inside a soap bubble.

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