Balloon Factory was invited by Sight Unseen to design a window installation for Japan Premium Beef as part of the NoHo Design District, a recurring gathering of off-site design events during the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York each year.
The Balloon Factory project started as a performance, but it has persisted as a factory. For Japan Premium Beef, we made a set of butcher-themed balloons (in the tradition of Sam Baron's sausage installation there in 2010). A selection of uninflated steak balloons were displayed on butcher trays, framed by an installation of hanging sausage balloon links. This iteration extends the original Balloon Factory project and carries a strong reference to the intricate fake food prevalent in restaurant windows in Japan.
Each balloon takes about three hours to go through the assembly line. First a hand-sculpted balloon former is dipped in a soapy substance to prime it before it’s dipped in a latex vat. A thin coat of rubber adheres to the surface—this is the actual balloon, which holds the shape of the former. At this step in the process, latex colors can be mixed or the balloon can be hand-painted. Once dry, the rubber is leached and vulcanized (or rinsed and heated), which strengthens it for inflating. Finally, the balloon is stripped and inflated.
This time around, we’re emphasizing the fleshy quality of latex balloons. The formers are shaped like specific cuts of meat—porterhouse, flank, filet mignon, and t-bone—and different size sausages. To imitate marbling on the steaks, the balloon formers are dripped with red, pink, or brown, after an initial clear coat of latex. We get the appropriate look by erratically rotating the balloon mold and blowing on it, forcing the colors to flow together in all directions. For sausages, the process is similar, but the former is rotated more slowly, producing a different effect.
Participants: Steven Haulenbeek, Caroline Linder, Michael Savona, Lisa Smith
More shots of the process and final installation in this Flickr set.