My mission for 2015 is to bring the balloon back in vogue. Balloons became all the rage when Mylar hit the scene in the late 1970s. Everyone thought it clever to send balloon “bouquets” in lieu of flowers. However, it all sort of lost its chic when they starting popping up in every chain grocery store. Fear not, sophisticated balloon lovers: I just discovered the Brooklyn Balloon Company. Robert Moy, its founder, loves designing balloon Chanel handbags, Hello Kitty, and life-size dinosaurs for children. Personally, I am giddy with excitement about his botanical, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat balloons. I downloaded with Moy for our Art and Flowers Week (so you can start thinking about balloons as you would flowers with design, event planning—everything). Enjoy!
D: What first inspired you to create balloon art?
RM: I fell into balloon art by chance. I was with my son at my wife’s company party and we saw a balloon artist. My son and I were captivated by this new medium form and the potential it held. I was fortunate to have the time (I was taking care of my son that year) when I could practice, immerse myself, and learn all I could about the craft of balloon making. I started a business a few months later, first only doing kids’ entertainment and now, over three years later, also doing balloon decor and art installations.
D: What is your creative/art background?
RM: I went to Boston University and not art or design school, so I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a while. I worked for a lighting designer, took metalsmithing classes, and then started my own jewelry line. I later worked for Kenneth Cole and Ralph Lauren jewelry.
D: What is your process?
RM: My process starts with rough sketches. I then make mock-ups of the balloons. I usually have to estimate labor and material cost to give pricing. Lastly, I figure out color and prepare materials.
D: When you do “high art” collaborations, like your Keith Haring creation for Garage magazine, who comes up with the ideas?
RM: Garage and I talked about possible ideas. We both wanted to do something relating to art and fashion. They mentioned Keith Haring and I knew it would work. After I tried a flower installation, I realized I could make larger-scale projects like the Keith Haring one. For the next project, Dasha Zhukova, the editor-in-chief, asked if I could do Andy Warhol’s self-portrait. I tried a few versions before finalizing on the yellow installation. While I have made three installations applying balloons to a wall that were very well received, I may try something different on the next Garage project.
D: What informs your work the most? Is it your client’s vision, yours, the environment?
RM: My clients generally give me freedom to create what I think looks best. I try to find out their style, what the event is about, what the space looks like, and what colors they will use. There isn’t a lot of balloon art for anyone to reference, so sometimes I just work within a budget and sometimes I also make sketches. When we work with event planners and other designers, we get more direction since there is more involved. I also like to collaborate with other designers and artists and incorporate a wide range of ideas that I wouldn’t normally be exposed to.
D: What are your favorite designs?
RM: My favorite design is usually my best last design. I often get inspired by what I worked on last. Sometimes my first design is my favorite because it was significant and inspired other work. Specifically, the flower installation and Keith Haring installations were the most important to me so far.
D: What has been your most challenging design?
RM: People are very hard to make look good in balloon. I can make them very simple or very complicated, but not in between.
D: Your work is seriously collectible. Have you thought about ways to preserve it? How?
RM: I like and dislike that balloon art is ephemeral. Part of what people love about balloons is the playfulness, the lightness, that it only lasts for a short time, that it can pop. Making it look balloon in another material like metal takes away from what it is. I want to stay true to the balloon and will keep experimenting with ways to capture it permanently—merging balloon with other materials, permanently coating the balloon, documenting the process, photographing the work….