Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Lea Beck and I am a certified balloon artist. I was born into a family business in the party industry which my great grandfather and my grandfather started in the 1960’s. My grandparents and all three of my uncles and mother worked for C&M Party, but in 1988, my mother took over the balloon portion and acquired “The Balloon Man” name. My mother and father ran The Balloon Man as a separate company, but we remained in the same family store front at C&M Party where we are currently located in Walnut Creek, California.
I see balloons as just another medium for creating art. Balloons elicit emotion and can be used to accent or enhance an event. They can be used as expressionism, and to create environments or recreate existing objects of all sorts. The more balloons are viewed as a medium for creating an experience, the more the possibilities expand. Being a certified balloon artist has given me a foundation in the principals and elements of design, basic techniques for building classic decor like arches, columns and garlands. Even more importantly how to profit and succeed as a creative business.
Where do your ideas come from? What is your creative process?
I like to think that some of the best ideas I pull out of the noosphere and they aren’t really my ideas. I take what I think is relative from my environment, or from the environment of the client and try to recreate some element into the balloon design. I pull ideas from nature, pop culture, other artist, music and the internet.
I am constantly inspired by beauty in the world and I strive to surround myself with other creative individuals. I think creativity can be very contagious but it doesn’t always come on demand. When it finally emerges it doesn’t always pay off. There is risk involved in presenting new ideas. Knowing when to play it safe and when to give creative input can sometimes make or break a sale. Its such a mix of detachment and openness.
When there is something that inspires me I don’t hold back. More importantly, I don’t listen to that voice in my head that says “I cant”. Uninhibited creativity is rare and there’s nothing quite like it. I’ve found it to be important to allow time for an idea to formulate. I try to not be attached to the outcome, giving space for synchronicity to happen.
Once I have a concept my process usually involves sketching it onto paper along with verbally bouncing ideas off other people. At this stage my practical mind is activated and I can begin to chisel out a realistic step by step plan. The hands on experimenting and playing around with balloons allows all the details and missing pieces to come forth. It’s a great feeling when an idea becomes reality.
What have been your favorite projects to date?
My favorite projects have been parties I have decorated for and collaborated on with my friends. There is something unique about having the freedom to do whatever I want with none of the expectations of a payed gig. This is when I am most grateful to have been born into the party industry. I will make use of all the great party props so I just have fun.
We threw a surprise wedding party for a couple who eloped. After the balloon drop and toast we incorporated a newlywed game show which was quite a hit. Another event I made a 12’ tall Rasta Balloon Man that overlooked a reunion/ fundraiser for a group of medical volunteers for Rock Medicine a group which provides medical aid at various concerts.
Also, I was inspired to bring a family of balloon zombies to a New Years Eve party. They offered quite the surprise to the guests because the only way to kill the zombie was to pop the head; which had many little helium filled balloons inside the head that flew off into the night like spores. As well, there have been various Pisces themed parties which allowed many fun oceanic decorations, including 15’ tall Seaweed, glowing jellyfish, octopuses and blow fish.
A larger paid gig took place at Stanford University for a Gala event which involved inflating over (45) 3’, 5’ and 6’ balloons and (20-30) of the large 8’ balloons. We had to hang each balloon individually in a huge auditorium where the ceilings were 30’ tall. This job took 5 people, 12 hours. It looked awesome!
What challenges have you found?
There can be a common misconception that balloons are a “cheap” way to decorate. Over the years, I have found that how I present myself and my work can help avoid some of the misconceptions of balloon decorating and what I have to offer. Developing strong communication skills and a personality that appeals to the average consumer is a constant work in progress. I have always been soft spoken and I look much younger than I am, so learning to be a confident, outgoing salesperson, by far, has been the most challenging for me.
Another challenge is I have a tendency to give 110% on a balloon job but don’t necessarily charge more for the extra work. I often care more about the balloons looking the best they can be than getting paid for each effort. I’ve had to learn to either scale back and give a client exactly what they paid for or offer them extra and sell a higher priced job.
What are you working on at present?
I am in the middle of designing a look using balloons to decorate a series of chandeliers. This “Tiffany theme” event is for a formal father/daughter dance at a upscale country club. Decorating a chandelier is something I’ve never done before, nor would I think to do. The client wants this to be very elegant. I came up with a balloon design that will reflect Audrey Hepburn’s pearls. These garlands will connect from a center chandelier out to corners and wrap around 4 pillars completing the look. There are 5 chandeliers total. This bid involved coming up with a lot of designs, experimenting, as well as having to do site inspections and accurate job costs. I just submitted my quote for approval and I am hopeful that the job will now come through!
Anything else you’d like to mention?
I am also currently focusing on incorporating all the great things I learned from the World Balloon Convention that I attended this past March 2012.
You can see more photos and details here on my Facebook Page
As a dedicated balloon artist who is gaining more ownership within my family business I am seeking to cultivate new inspiration into the company. Even though I have been doing balloons for most my life there is a new beginning on the horizon. I’d like to think its going up!