As a balloon artist, Kristal Yee travels the world with her air-filled creations.
The Surrey-based Yee has made a career of crafting some award-winning balloon art, in cities around North America, Asia and Europe.
She’s a founding member of Canada’s Twisted Team, which earned awards at the recent World Balloon Convention in San Diego for a “Sorcerer’s Serenade” display featuring likenesses of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Yee, who lives in Fleetwood, is the team’s fashion-friendly artist – the one responsible for making Minnie’s dress and Mickey’s robe.
In the world of balloon art, it’s what she loves most.
As a solo entry at the competition in San Diego, Yee won a silver medal with a Little Mermaid-inspired “Ursula” dress, which she later modeled in a pool for a photo shoot.
“Fashion is one of my favourite areas of this,” Yee told the Now-Leader. “I prefer to do deco-twisting, where you add some other things to it, some twists for some fun (creations).”
Canada’s Twisted Team, which includes balloon artists from B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, is considered the first competitive team of its kind in Canada.
In San Diego, they spent close to 27 hours creating their large-scale “Sorcerer’s Serenade” display. “Not many” naps were taken by team members during that time, according to Yee.
“A lot of people worked straight through, with a lot of coffee,” she said with a laugh. “I took a 45-minute desperation nap right in the middle at, like, five in the morning, just for a bit.”
The team was created three years ago in a “jam room” at a similar balloon-art convention.
“People can go to these conventions and just do the classes, or you can compete as well, like I do,” Yee explained. “The jam room at those events, it’s like a place where musicians go and make music with others and play around with ideas, and it’s the same thing for balloon artists. You have a room full of balloon artists, all day long, and it’s squeaking all the time, really noisy,” she added with a laugh.
For someone working to take balloon art to the next level, Yee had a modest start in the business. Not long ago, the Enver Creek Secondary grad was an aspiring actor and part-time swim coach.
“One day, I had no shows, and no coaching (jobs) either,” Yee recalled, “and an actor colleague of mine asked if I wanted a job working with kids. The event company he was working for was short-staffed that weekend, so I went and did my first terrible face-painting, and my first one-balloon dog, hoping the thing wasn’t going to pop.”
Right there and then, Yee realized she could use more than one balloon to create something pretty magical.
“It didn’t have to be just a one-balloon dog or sword, you could make things with multiple balloons, and that just kind of opened up this world for me,” she said. “And once I got into the convention world, not so long after that, it was like coming home, to find people who were just as crazy about what you love, as much as you are. I’ve met some of my best friends through balloons.”
This week, Yee learned that a balloon “zoo” she helped make in China last year has earned a Guinness World Records certificate as the largest such creation – 469,845 balloons in total.
It’s official – the #balloonzoo I helped with in #Xiamen #China for the #worldballoonartfestival has officially been noted as a #guinnessworldrecord!! See the video on my #Facebook page! #AEMI @guidoverhoef777… https://t.co/U4UE4E328K
— Kristal Yee (@faceaballoonza) March 24, 2018
Last week at her home/studio in Fleetwood, Yee worked to complete a dress made of green and black balloons, some of which were leftovers from the recent competition in California.
“This one has probably 100 or 150 balloons so far,” she said as she twisted balloons into something wearable. “I started it last night, so I’m probably six hours in, and not quite done yet.… If you’re looking for something slimmed down and with no flair, no sleeves, no colour changing, I can probably get a simple dress done in four hours or so, but it’s when you want to add ruffles and colour changes, and different necklines and things on it, that’s when it takes a lot more time.”
Yee, who does face-painting and balloon art with her company, Faceaballoonza, marvels how her career has followed a bit of a twisted path.
“Teenaged Krystal would never have thought about her doing this – she was going to be an actor, have all these other dreams of being on stage somewhere,” Yee said. “I guess those dreams are still somewhat in play, but are now tied in with the balloon industry. I’m still performing in a way.”