In April, a Taiwanese team participating in the 20th Balloon Arts Convention Italy won the championship with a 5m model of what the team felt to be the best representation of Taiwan’s local spirit — a replica of a temple to the Land God.
Balloon artist Lee Cheng-hao (李承澔), a graduate of Da Yeh University in Changhua County, said because the team only had 10 hours a day over a three-day period to complete the project, it spent the three months prior to the competition discussing how to best portray the Land God.
Metal wire was bent and threaded into the balloons to recreate the decorations on the edges of a typical temple roof, the dragon carvings on the columns and the floral designs on the windowsills, Lee said, adding that it was a very painful process and some of the artists took painkillers to be able to finish the work.
Huang Yu-wen (黃裕文), the youngest member of the team — also a Da Yeh University student — said he first came into contact with balloons in a course that Lee taught during his first year in college.
“I hadn’t been interested because I thought there was a limit to what balloon art offered, but after I took the class, I discovered the artistic value of balloon art,” Huang said, adding that he would continue to refine his technique and use his creativity to overturn the commercialized stereotype of balloon art.
Commenting on the competition, Huang said he created the temple’s “walls,” which he made by stuffing rubber foam into red balloons, elongating them so that they looked like bricks, then stacking them up.
It was tough work, but the results were well worth the effort, Huang said.
Commenting on the difference between Western and Eastern balloon art, Huang said that Westerners like a colorful and linear style of balloon artistry, while Easterners favor technical craftsmanship.
The key to winning the championship was the detailed work they put into the temple, Huang said.
Because the actual construction of and carvings on the windowsills, columns and roof ridges of temples are considered traditional handicrafts, Huang said that the team carefully practiced their designated roles before the competition, which improved the quality of their work.
“We left our finished work in Florence so that people there would be able to enjoy the beauty of Taiwan,” Lee said.