Full of hot air


- Interview Lara Chapman

Tell us a bit about yourself. My name is Masayoshi Matsumoto and I’m a balloon artist from Japan. As an artist, I’m known by the name ‘Isopresso’. I chose this as it refers to polyisopre­ne – the main chemical component of balloons.

How did you wind up working with balloons? My journey in balloon art started 12 years ago when I was part of a juggling club. At the same time, I trained as an engineer, and I completed my master’s in 2014. Since then, I’ve devoted myself to my passion for balloon art and animals, and am now a balloon artist full-time.

What drew you to balloons as an artistic medium? I’m attracted to the texture and soft presence of balloons. I also like how they deflate and droop quickly – it reminds me of the transience of the art of flower arrangemen­t.

What is your creative process? I like to create realistic balloon art, so I focus on making my sculptures lifelike. To do this, I start by collecting photos of the animal I’m making. Then, I create the piece through a process of trial and error, constantly referring back to the photos. Usually it takes me three or four attempts to complete a piece, and I tend to use four to six differentl­y sized balloons. Every sculpture is made with balloons and twisting only – I don’t use adhesives, marker pens, or anything else. Altogether, I try not to take more than two days to complete a sculpture, because the short-lived nature of balloons means they’ll deflate quickly. Once I’ve completed a piece and photograph­ed it, I’ll often pop it with a pin.

What are some of the challenges of working with balloons? When people hear the term ‘balloon art’, they imagine things like a simple poodle or sword. My challenge is making people realise there’s an area of this artform that’s incredibly complex and takes lots of time to create.

How many animals have you made so far? To date, I’ve created about 200 balloon animals. The hornet is my favourite piece, as it’s emblematic of my realistic style.

Why do you often focus on creatures from the more unusual end of the spectrum, like the blobfish or hermit crab? I tend to like creatures that are perceived as ugly. As a child, I raised a variety of insects and I still find them cute and fascinatin­g to observe. I would be delighted if my work conveyed the charm of these critters, however, I don’t consider my choices too deeply in terms of the way others will perceive and respond to them. I start from my own inclinatio­ns.

Is the environmen­tal impact of balloons and plastic waste a concern for you? I’m fully aware that when balloons are released into the natural environmen­t they negatively impact its inhabitant­s. I use biodegrada­ble balloons and make sure to dispose of them properly as combustibl­e waste so they’re not released into the environmen­t.

Where can we see more of your work? On Instagram at @isopresso_balloon, or my new Youtube channel, Isopresso Balloon, where I share process videos.

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