Balloon artist twists happiness into sculptures

January 31, 2011 — by Vivian LeTran

“Higher! Higher!”

The crowd encouraged senior Justin Gee as he twisted balloon after balloon on top of an already made hat balloon. Finally, Gee handed the 5 foot hat to a man who roared with laughter and crammed the balloon onto his head.

Community events, like the Christmas Fair in Willow Glen, are one of the many places that Gee attends almost every Sunday at either the restaurant Scramblz in San Jose or the Willow Glen Farmers’ Market to offer his balloon-twisting services.

Gee began taking interest in balloons when he was 5 years old after seeing someone create a balloon structure. However, he started twisting publicly when he was in the fourth grade.

“I first saw someone twisting at a restaurant and thought it was cool,” Gee said. “However, I picked up a book and [started learning how to twist] after I first popped a balloon in the car and I thought my mom’s reaction was super funny.”

Although Gee welcomes donations or tips, he never charges and only takes enough to cover the costs of the balloons. However, sometimes Gee will play a silly trip on the costumers.

“What I do with [tips] is I stick the money inside of the balloon,” Gee said. “It’s always interesting to see their reactions because they think of how amazing it is, then they realize they can’t get the money out of the balloon.”

Despite having a central adult audience, Gee generally twists for younger kids. His creations, however, have a wider variety. He has created dogs, bears, giraffes, swords, monkeys, skateboards, balls and other sculptures, but his favorite remains monkeys because of its visual appeal.

“I can make a lot of different animals; sometimes, I make them up on the spot,” Gee said. “It’s a kind of a process. You think of the shape of the animal and just fill it in with the balloon.”

Gee enjoys the balloon twisting hobby because of his customers’ infectious happiness.

“You meet a lot of new people through twisting and its funny to see the different types of people,” Gee said. “It’s the funny little things that I enjoy. People get surprised and it’s always nice to see them smile.”

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