ArtPrize and Airigami: Inventing new equipment

Building a balloon stuffing machine Double and rechecking our product needs for the build.

ArtPrize is just around the corner. Kelly and I have been gearing up for this for a while.  We have a fair amount of stuff in place, but unlike many of the other ArtPrize projects we've been following (and there are some very cool projects out there besides ours, like the Nessie Project) where things have been done, or are still being done, far in advance of the event, the focal point of our piece, The Birth of Venus, has to be done on site as close to the opening as possible so people will still see it in it's fully inflated state.

The nature of balloons makes it impossible to build our piece  in advance. As it is, it's likely to need refreshing every few days just to survive to the end of ArtPrize. We're doing some things differently than on other projects. Most of my large scale projects consist of primarily  inflated balloons. This time around, we're including framed prints on walls, a huge painted backdrop, fantasy flowers (a technique using uninflated balloons) and other experimental techniques. Of course, as we've been finalizing design pieces and trying things out in advance, we've run into some interesting problems.

Anyone that's been on any of my large crews, or even witnessed the construction of my larger projects from the sidelines, has probably heard discussion of how I rarely seem to actually touch balloons. Balloons are the medium I use to create my art, and yet, my projects often get so large that I spend more time doing design work and directing the project than actually having my hands on the piece. The ArtPrize project, Putting On Airs, seemed small enough, with few enough people working on it, that I'd have to focus on using the balloons themselves. Well, it was a thought. So much for things going as planned. The "problems" I mentioned above led me to building equipment, rather than manipulating latex in my hands. Oh well. When this is done, I won't just have an amazing piece of art on display, but I'll have a new tool in my arsenal for future projects.  The tool happens to be a customized balloon stuffing machine to help me make the distorted body parts we need. Stuffing machines are nothing new. And balloon distortion is nothing new. But trying to get just the effect we want was taking more finagling and hand cramping than we were comfortable with. Thus, a new device was born. Hopefully now that I've constructed this thing, I can get back to working with the balloons.

If you're in or have reason to visit the Grand Rapids area, I'd love for you to come and visit my work at the Furniture Campus Building (560 Fifth Street NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504). Make sure you register to vote while you're in Grand Rapids. You can vote when you get home, but you have to register at an official voter registration location in the city for your vote to be counted. I'll be building the sculpture September 20-23. Stop in and watch the construction. There will also be an opening reception and artist demos in the building. Make sure to visit my calendar to see when I'll be on site for details of those events.