Artist and entrepreneur Jihan Zencirli embarked on a life of helium, mylar, and latex after her balloons were a smash hit at a friend's birthday. Since 2011, Jihan and her team of balloon troopers at Geronimo Balloons have decked out parties, events, street corners, and storefronts with balloon installations like you've never seen. For Jihan, balloons are a medium for her to create art that makes people happy. That unique style of helium happiness has been a huge hit with huge parties, brands, and publications.
She calls herself a love child of David Bowie, Andy Warhol and Martha Stewart, and we can't wait to see what that means at this month's Talk Shop. Next Thursday, August 11, come to Lumi HQ and talk to Jihan about how she's made business and art from balloons. Read more from Jihan below and RSVP here.
How do you describe Geronimo Balloons to people?
I am Geronimo and Geronimo is me! Geronimo, the company, follows my interests and explorations and allows me a platform to share them. I'm learning about electricity and creating light sculptures right now — which involves hours of internet researching, visits to the public library, finding local electricians to help me make sure I don't kill myself, and lots of trips to my neighborhood home improvement store. Next month I'm going to Minneapolis to work with a resin master to see how I can incorporate it as an element to my new sculptures and installations to make them more permanent to my sites.
I don't have cable TV; I don't have a car payment; I've never purchased anything on Rodeo Drive, etc., so I spend all my money trying to learn new things and support my curiosity. Last year I was outside the U.S. for 167 days. (I rent my house on AirBnb while I'm away, and stay in really simple hotels, traveling with a carry-on size back pack.) And this year is likely to be the same, if not more travel. My mom was a single parent, public high school French teacher, and taught me early on that I could have everything I wanted by not having everything.
So I'll stay home for a week of dinners out with friends so I can buy a table saw. In July, I flew to Milan and then traveled a few hours to a secluded lake to see Jeanne Claude and Christo's Floating Piers installation. It might be the last of their works and I would have sold my car just to be able to go.
Geronimo Balloons isn’t just about parties. You and your team have done some beautiful art installations too! How does this fit into the Geronimo mission? In fact, what is the Geronimo mission?
My goal is to create both an emotional and physical space in the hope that I can promote or explore a feeling that brings joy and delight. My work (positively) exploits feelings of nostalgia and remembrances of things that are familiar and that connect us to one another. The most simple and intrinsic feeling we are chasing to have as humans — belonging. Belonging to an experience or a memory or a moment. Balloons given to one another is an act of love and so embodies everything I want to do as an artist, and I am so proud to own a business that allows me to see it immediately and be validated by it and inspired to evolve into other mediums as a way to engage more people.
What’s the weirdest place that you’ve put up your balloons?
My ex-boyfriend's wedding.
What is one of the biggest challenges of working with balloons?
They pop. And when they do, it's scary.
If you could have your balloons as an installation at any location or party in the world, where would it be?
It already happened: The Democratic National Convention.
“Balloons given to one another is an act of love and so embodies everything I want to do as an artist.”
Do you have any other business plan that you’re dreaming up or working on?
I am really exploring things with limitations, which includes electricity, fabrication, architecture, etc. I've fallen into a unique career path that allows me to comfortable invent my own parameters and still be successful. This is somewhat un-ideal to my growth as a human, since I think restrictions are soo important.
I'm trying to pick new hobbies and resurrect old ones that evaded and frustrated me previously because I wasn't willing to apply the discipline to master. Ultimately, being unafraid of boundaries will be much more freeing than just living in a world where I can keep within the comfortable walls that I constructed. My next works as an artist will be more exploratory in this mind frame, and my next businesses and projects will ideally benefit from it since I'm able to think and explore and dream so much broader than ever before.
Second Life Packaging: A Clever Approach to Sustainability
Designs for reusable packaging that skip the recycling bin.
How the Paper Industry is Offsetting Climate Change
A deep dive into the forests and paper mills that produce one of the most important materials on the planet.
Talk Shop with Yo Santosa and Owen Gee
Branding goes beyond the logo. We talked with design agency Ferroconcrete about crafting a memorable brand.
Talk Shop with Founders of EVERYBODY, Iris Alonzo and Carolina Crespo
Coming from a long stint at American Apparel, Iris and Carolina are starting a totally new, factory-focused apparel brand for everybody.
Talk Shop with Sara Hicks, Co-Founder of Reaction Commerce
Tech veteran and product development pro, Sara Hicks is talking e-commerce — what businesses are doing now to succeed and how they can prep for the future.