Queensland balloon artist invited to join world-record attempt in Singapore

Sunshine Coast balloon artist Matt Russell has twisted, pulled and squeaked balloons for clients of all ages for more than a decade, but he is cranking that up a notch in a world-record attempt in Singapore next month.

Mr Russell was one of 50 artists from 12 countries invited to attend the four-day event, which will use more than 500,000 balloons to create an artwork.

He said it would be under the creative guidance of "spectacular" balloon artist Tan Lily, but the theme would be kept under wraps.

"She'll tell us once we get there … she made this [creation] and it had four different-sized balloons inside to get the shape of a fish going from its head down to its tail."

Mr Russell said she was known for the "double stuffed" technique with a balloon inside a balloon to create different shapes to the standard round balloon.

"I am pretty chuffed to be invited to be involved," he said.

"It's not something Australia has ever seen before, so it's exciting to have the chance to travel and be part of the experience."

Fellow balloon artist Maureen Egan from Sydney has also been invited.

Becoming the balloon man

Trained in graphic design, Mr Russell turned to balloons as a career option when he could not get work in the field in which he had trained.

"It's a hard career to get an actual job on the Sunshine Coast, and the balloons let me have that creative side to design for clients and make their event or party shine."

While he liked balloons as a child, the lightbulb moment for a career opportunity was not switched on until he was 21.

And after 11 years, he has not looked back, but admits the profession has raised some eyebrows.

"They're like 'Oh what do you do?' and I'm like 'I'm a balloon artist' and they're like 'Really, how do you make a living out of that?'" he said.

He started out in the party section of a major chain store and quickly saw a business opportunity.

"You can only fit a certain amount of balloons in an everyday car and I knew there was a bit of a niche on the coast that it would build up to being a fulltime job," he said.

Initially Mr Russell expected the work to target parties and special events, but over the decade it has branched into the corporate sector, which now accounts for most of his income.

"Taking it from concept to completion and seeing the finished job, 11 years later it still amazes me," he said.

"It's transforming a room from this plain, boring room that looks like every other function that's in there to creating something that's individual for each client, and them just looking at it and walking in and going 'Wow'.

"It's definitely gone into the corporate world, which is not where I imagined it in the beginning."

Balloons and opportunities

Mr Russell has won four awards at the annual World Balloon Convention, and continues to learn new skills and techniques from others around the world.

"I look at the different techniques and what's cost effective … some techniques can be so time-consuming that if you had to charge the client, they're not going to pay for it, so I adapt what I've learnt," he said.

While the profession may seem a little obscure, Mr Russell said it fitted within his artistic family.

His mother is a dressmaker, his sister a florist and his grandfather an artist.

"I've found my niche that I can actually create with," he said.

"It's given me a lot of opportunities in life that I would never have had.

"I've got some amazing friends from all over the world. Without balloons I would never have had those opportunities."



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Queensland balloon artist invited to join world-record attempt in Singapore