I am an artist and designer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have also been known as a photographer, videographer, skydiver, bungee jumper, parachute rigger, and internet entrepreneur.
I was introduced to the field of inflatable art in 2001, but I have been working with the same materials and techniques since the early 90′s. Back in the day I had a very expensive skydiving habit, and I found that I could make a living in the sport as a parachute rigger. So, after some training, traveling, and testing, I became certified by the FAA to pack, maintain, and repair parachute systems, earning the title of Senior Parachute Rigger, or in other words, a parachute mechanic. This is where I learned to sew ripstop nylon, which is the primary fabric I use to make my balloons, and it is also where I learned some of the principles of three-dimensional design. Unlike the round parachutes of the past, today’s ram-air parachutes are actually self-inflating, three dimensional airfoils that fly more than they fall.
In the mid 90′s, I took a break from the skydiving industry and dove head-first into this new thing called the World Wide Web. After five years of starting new companies and working 100+ hour weeks, I had had enough, and I was ready to abandon the business world altogether. Luckily, that’s when I met $teven Ra$pa and Joegh Bullock, and with their help, I got back in touch with my creative side and became involved in the San Francisco art and music scene. That’s how I met Ashley Ramage, the UK artist who introduced me to the concept of using cold-air inflatables as party decorations. Working with Ashley, I learned how to use my parachute sewing skills to make art, and to make a long story short, I eventually started designing my own balloons and installing them at parties and concerts.
As much as I enjoy making inflatable art, I get my biggest thrill from the installation process. Because I specialize in transforming ordinary spaces into exotic wonderlands, I get to work in a lot of different venues. Whether it’s a nightclub, convention center, aircraft hangar, or forest, every venue is different and presents its own unique set of challenges. Some venues seem to be ready-made for my art, while others require a lot of head scratching and ingenuity.
I get a lot of calls from producers who have seen my art at other shows and who want me to do something similar for their event. On the rare occasion, they know exactly what they want and where they want it, but in most cases all they know is that they like my style and they want me to bring my flavor to their event, but they don’t know what I should bring or where I should put it. This is when I get to put on my Production Designer hat. Sometimes I get to design the stage, and other times it’s the entrance-way, dance floor, backstage, dressing rooms, or the entire event.
I start by building a 3-dimensional model of the venue, and I then add elements like staging, lighting, sound, video, fencing, barricades, and of course, inflatables. I can then generate 3D mockups, animated fly-throughs, or simple renderings and blueprints to all the parties involved. This not only makes it easier to set everything up on location, but it also allows the other vendors (lighting, sound, video, etc.) to provide feedback and make adjustments to the plot long before everyone arrives on site. This level of advance planning has saved me countless hours of on-site frustration and hair-pulling.