Seldom has the art of balloon twisting been so beautiful. So striking. So very, very strange.
But all in a good way, if the costumes, dresses and inflatable garments featured at last week’s Bling Bling Jam balloon convention costume and haute couture fashion show mean anything.
Balloon Jam producer Steve Klein said the convention drew more than 100 balloon artists representing more than a dozen countries to Las Vegas to participate in workshops, balloon design sessions and a slate of activities that included a fashion show.
Models walked the balloon-bedecked runway wearing everything from full-sized balloons artfully attached together to subtle, weave-like patterns created by twisting longer balloons into smaller pieces. There were cocktail dresses and gowns that could have passed for real — at a distance and in full squint, anyway — and themed costumes that included an Aztec princess carrying a long balloon snake, a Transformer and Star-Lord from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
And some of the designs were off-the-wall. Diana Root of Layton, Utah, crafted a large balloon headpiece modeled on the “puking gnome” online GIF. Her son, Tyler, 15, the man inside the giant, digestively distressed head, accentuated the effect by tossing multicolored balls out of the figure’s mouth to simulate pixie spew.
Balloon artist Christena Barry of Austin, Texas, created a sexy “Arabian princess” costume out of bronze and green balloons with battery-powered lighting accents at its head, bust and waist. Model Krista Henderson accentuated the barely there effect by performing contortionist moves on the runway.
“The toughest part is getting something that works,” Barry explains. “But then you start creating it and it’s not working, and you have to change it while you’re creating.”
The harem girl-type costume’s degree of difficulty was heightened by the need to create something that would stay in place and not explode into sorry strips of latex when Henderson did her moves.
“We didn’t want to do anything that was going to keep her from moving,” Barry says. “That was the biggest thing.”
And what’s it like wearing a costume made out of balloons? “Very squeaky,” Henderson answers, laughing.
Katrina Matich of New Zealand walked the runway in a black-and-silver gown of her own design that featured a skirt of regular balloons and a series of balloons twisted and woven into a sort of bustier. But, earlier in the day, her appearance, and the costume itself, were iffy.
“I think I started at 7:30 (a.m.) and had a minor drama halfway through modeling,” says Matich, who creates balloon art despite having severely limited vision. “I was weaving it on a stand and it fell over. It went ‘pop, pop, pop, pop.’ “
“It was,” she says, “a bit of a small drama.”
These artists have a brain for balloons
She’s not a balloon artist, but Julie Conner was a VIP at last week’s Bling Bling Jam balloon convention at the Golden Nugget.
She brought the balloons.
Conner is brand manager for Betallic, a St. Louis company that manufactures entertainer-quality balloons, a blinding array of which were spread out on tables in the convention’s jam room for artists’ use.
The balloons are arranged by color and size,” she explains, ranging from 1-inch-wide and 60-inch-long balloons to 6 inches wide and 60 inches long.
As balloon technology advances, so does the ability of balloon artists to create new pieces. For example, Conner said, the company has designed a line of balloons that have connection points on both sides for easier balloon-to-balloon linkage and more intricate designs.
Conner says artists sometimes approach her company asking for new twists (pardon the pun) on the basic balloon. Conversely, an innovation will prompt artists to figure out ways in which it can be used.
“These balloon artists are artists, and they think like other artists who use other media. It’s just that they’re using balloons,” Conner said. “So they look at the sizes and shapes and colors available to them and they create from their brains just as any other artist would.”
“They can look at the shape of a balloon and envision amazing things,” Conner says.
She smiles. “My brain doesn’t work that way.”
Contact John Przybys at reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.