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 all photos and words by: Sadie Dingfelder

My friend Katie Laibstain is a balloon artist who makes a living performing at children’s parties and making window displays (you also may remember her being amazing @ our inaugural party-ed). However, sometimes she just wants to make something for herself, without having to pay attention to what a client wants. So, she wrote to her favorite balloon company and asked for hundreds of balloons so she could create a nine-foot-tall ball gown.

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They sent them and, last weekend, Katie completed her masterpiece and hired model Naomi Keziah to bring it to life. The gown, rendered mostly with green balloons, features a cascade of balloon flowers down the back, and represents the element of “earth,” says Katie. Visual artist Brady added to the effect by painting leaves on Naomi’s face, and Katie crowned her with a green balloon halo.


Katie wanted to photograph her creation under a cherry blossom tree because, like cherry blossoms, balloon sculptures are an ephemeral beauty. Katie spent about 12 hours blowing and twisting balloons, and her creation would probably not last much more than another 12.


However, when we went to load up the cargo van to drive to the cherry trees, it became clear the balloon dress was not going to fit. I’d like to mention that this was a very large van, but Katie’s dress was even bigger. So, we decided to shoot at nearby Meridian Hill Park. Katie and I crawled into skirt part of the dress and became a mound of balloons walking on two pairs of feet. Naomi, Brady, and photographer Steve Hay completed the caravan. We made quite a scene.

Once at the park, Katie’s creation continued to create a stir. As Steve photographed Naomi, many people with cell phone cameras did too. Children walked by with their mouths unhinged, and one couple asked Naomi to pose with Flat Stanley. The funniest people were the ones who passed us without looking up — as if they had seen ten other ladies in balloon dresses before lunch that day.


Katie and Steve hope that their photos will convince the balloon company to sponsor more ball gowns. They want to do a whole series, representing earth, wind, water and fire, and exhibit their work at a local gallery. For now, though, you’ll soon find the professional photos on Katie’s Web site. (The ones accompanying this story are just my snapshots.)