The first thing I noticed about Stacy Wheeler was the pineapple on her head.

I spotted her tropical-inspired balloon hat in the sea of people attending our Issue 09 release party. She had received compliments all night, and when I joined in she told me she had made it herself.

I’m used to seeing the typical balloon animals but this struck a chord with me. Her style was unique and I wanted to learn more. I soon discovered that Stacy is a professional balloon twister, decorator and fashion designer running her own business: Balloons by Pineapple which is now a part of The Balloon Collective.

Photo by Jodi Vander Woude
Why balloons?

Balloons chose me.

I moved to Austin without a job in 2016 and began training with Nate the Great, the best balloon twister in Austin for two years. At first I was a kid’s entertainer but in 2017 I went to my first International Ballooning Convention. That’s when I made my first competition piece, a dress, and started pursuing balloon fashion more seriously.

What is it like working with balloons? Are you scared they’ll pop?

I’m still nervous about them popping but it always happens. The first thing Nate taught me was a turtle made from seven balloons. It was supposed to be hard so that everything else that came after seemed comparable.

“The temporary nature of balloons is what makes them great to work with. They are not supposed to last. My art simply becomes a memory.”

How do you speak with clients about design?

I start with a series of questions. A lot of people think only of typical designs but we can do so much more exciting stuff. My philosophy is: let me amaze you.

With bigger clients, who want very specific designs, I am more pragmatic. I make my own art on the side that is completely what I want.

Have you found the right market for balloon art in Austin?

Austin is great for starting a new business. For balloon decor, I can work with all types of clients by bringing in an artistic eye. It’s perfect for unique marketing and ad campaigns. For this, corporations have been ideal clients.

Photo (left) by Greyson Carlyle & (right) by Vero Higareda
Will you ever experiment with other materials?

For now, I’m attached to balloons. Maybe I’ll try filling them with paint or water.

Can you talk more about the ephemeral nature of balloon twisting?

I guess the question I think about a lot is: why do we do it?

I build a dress on a mannequin, start to adjust it and it immediately starts deflating. An hour later it’s one size smaller.

The temporary nature of balloons is what makes them great to work with. They are not supposed to last. My art simply becomes a memory. I collaborate with photographers in order to preserve the moment.


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