Clothes That Pop: A Seattle Man Makes Dresses From BalloonsJune 6, 2012 @ 6:27 pm (Updated: 7:59 am - 6/8/12 )
By Rachel Belle
Just because Steven Jones twists and ties balloons for a living, it doesn't make him a birthday party clown. Steven is a professional, full-time, balloon designer and decorator in Seattle.
"I did a 25-foot tall birthday cake out of balloons. You know, things like 20-foot tall puppies. We actually built a workable Angry Birds game you can play. It actually had a working slingshot. Everything was made out of balloons. I really like making interactive pieces that really change people's perspectives of what you can do with balloons."
This weekend, three of his balloon dresses will be modeled at the Chance fashion show, a monthly fashion show at Neighbors Night Club that features alternative designers. The dresses have no lining; they're made completely from balloons.
"The average dress takes me anywhere from six to eight hours to do. That's a fairly simple style dress. The more complicated designs can take 14, 15, easily 16, hours to do."
I imagined the dresses would be bulky, silly-looking Carmen Miranda style get-ups, but they're actually quite stylish and interesting. Steven describes the dress in the photograph, second from the left.
"The stole that she's wearing, there are actually about 400 balloons in the stole alone. It's a really complicated piece. Then, of course, the bikini top is a really simple spiral weave. The skirt is another simple pattern."
I asked Steven if he ever constructed a wedding dress completely out of balloons.
"I have not done a wedding dress. I have been approached to do a couple of wedding dresses. But the reality is, it's just not a practical thing to do. It's fun for the reception, maybe? In all honesty, the idea of a bride squeaking down the aisle... I'm a balloon guy and I'm like, 'I really don't think you want to go that route.' The wedding is the biggest day of your life. Do you really want the potential for a pop as you're coming down the aisle?"
Speaking of matrimony, Steven happens to be single. I asked him how his dates respond to his career choice.
"I get a very mixed reaction. In some cases, it's really well received. It's obviously a creative thing and if a woman is into creative, artsy type guys then, yeah, it tends to go over pretty well. If they're more of the Eastside, capitalistic crowd? Not so much because there doesn't seem to be a lot of money in it."
Steve pretty much stumbled in to the business 16 years ago, and is completely self taught. He travels around the world building things out of balloons and teaches seminars and speaks at conferences. When he looks around, he sees the world in balloons.
"I'll walk down the street and see something and go 'You know, that's nothing more than a pinch twist and a fold and a weave.' Some of my most popular designs have actually started out that way. One of my designs is a street lamp. It was actually inspired by the street lamp right outside of my old shop. It was a wrought iron street lamp and I just thought, "Wow, that'd be really cool and wouldn't be that hard to do.' The next thing I know, we sell them all the time for events that need lighting effects."
As for the most unexpected thing he's made out of balloons: "Every once in a while you get asked for adult oriented pieces, which is always interesting. I did something for Pure Romance once, that was eight-feet long...and I think that should tell you pretty much what it was."
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