Gab Bois on Her Balloon Dress Masterpieces in Vancouver: A Captivating Interview

For a few days, until August 7th, visitors can explore Oakridge Park’s creative twist on the S/S 2023 “airy” fashion trend with a sartorial installation featuring three bespoke Balloon Ball Gowns by world-renowned artist Gab Bois. This exhibition, on display at Oakridge Park Gallery in Vancouver, combines her whimsical concepts with Kristal Yee’s twisting expertise, creating inflated garments that reimagine balloons as festive party dresses. We caught up with Gab to tell you more about the behind-the-scenes story behind this playful creation.

Gab Bois’ work reveals the surreal quality of everyday objects, notably food, technology and fashion. Influenced by imaginary play as a child, she brings a distinct element of fantasy to her body of bizarre tableaux and whimsical props. Her unique visual language, informed by design, fashion, pop culture and advertising, approaches the mundane with a sharp sense of humour. Having truly grown up in the selfie era, self-representation is a recurring theme in Gab Bois’ work, inciting a sense of closeness and relatability from her audience. With this particular intimacy, she transports us to a world of her own in which cocktail dresses are made out of scrabble tiles and clam shells can double as pocket mirrors.

What are your sources of inspiration and your creative process?

All my creations start from an idea, a concept. After that, the medium and production process vary according to that idea. Some ideas are better realized in photography, others in video, installation or sculpture. It’s very much case by case, which is complicated in one way but cool in another because it’s very, very diverse. It allows a certain freedom. For inspiration, it’s a lot of products that are in season, it can be food or decorations for certain holidays like Halloween, Christmas, etc. Most of the time, it’s objects that everyone has already seen so that people can identify with the work.

Then, we first identify the medium to go from the idea to the final project. Even if it’s a photo project, you still need to make certain physical creations for photography. Then, we identify what elements are needed for the rest of the production, which again can vary greatly. Sometimes, it’s just putting an item on the body, but other times, it can be building a complete chair frame where we’ll place custom elements. So, it can vary from an hour to a month in production, depending on the concept. Then comes the production of the item, whether making a photo or preparing the object so that it’s at a certain aesthetic level to be used as a sculpture, and so on. Finally, there’s also the post-production phase for the photo or video, so photo or video editing is required.

Do you often work on projects that go beyond photography?

I would say that most of the things I make, I post on Instagram and unless they’re made of perishable materials, they’ll endure as sculptures or objects. They can be wearable fashion accessories, for example. So there’s this dimension that I push so that items aren’t just temporary. So yes, it often happens that objects made for photos in the past are used in stylish art projects or other contexts like that.

Does your creative process differ depending on the medium you’re working with? For example, when you go from photography to a volume project like this one?

Yes and no. I think what differs in this case specifically is that it’s produced externally. When we produce internally, we’re less likely to do sketches or validation steps, we’re more likely to communicate orally and make all the adjustments on the spot. This type of externally produced project allows us to really think things through because it’s always a challenge to communicate things that are creative and which, by their very nature, leave room for interpretation. We managed to align our visions with Kristall despite everything.

Gab Bois - Balloon Ball Gowns at Oakridge Park Gallery - Kristall Yee Balloon sculpture

How did you go about working with Kristall Yee on the project?

Kristall really was the best possible collaborator. I always love people who are so passionate about something, especially when it’s a bit unconventional, like balloons and, specifically, wearable balloons. That’s something I often repeated to the MASSIVart team when asked for my technical input on balloons: I can do tests, but it’s not my medium. I had limitations that I recognized very quickly in the process, and Kristall really solved all my uncertainties. She gave super-relevant suggestions to feed the design to counter a technical constraint. She wasn’t just an executor; we played our roles well in parallel, so it was really a collaboration where my vision and her expertise could both shine.

What were the technical constraints?

One challenge that was satisfying to overcome was durability. Because we were working with real balloons, they had to stay inflated for a long time. For our part, we’d done some tests with certain silicone coatings, and it was a cool process to see how to make the balloons last over several days. We had thought of creating shapes to imitate balloons so that the dresses could be immortalized in this way. But in the end, we decided to work with a specific coating and type of balloon. We also had to evaluate the types of gas, etc. So, if anyone asks me about the durability of the balloons, I’ll know quite a lot!

What does the balloon refer to in your imagination, and what was your first thought when the project was proposed to you?

I’d already had ideas with balloons that I’d never realized, so this was my first time working with them. It makes me think of a lot of materials that are present in certain fashion trends. There’s a lot of stuff, whether coats or even increasingly shoes like Camper with big laces, all interconnected—chunky knits made from super-wide wool. There’s a lot of this kind of oversized trend that looks soft and comfortable. With all these inspirations, I knew we’d be able to fit in with current trends and that the project would be well received and understood. It was cool to work with a new medium in which I already had an interest.

Gab Bois - Balloon Ball Gowns at Oakridge Park Gallery - Moodboard inspiration

What do you hope this will inspire in visitors?

I always like it to have a double effect so that people quickly see something, a dress. Then after that, if you get a little closer, you can see the complexity, all Kristall’s work behind it. I like it when it can be seen in two ways, quickly, saying “That’s cool,” and then you can get closer and see under each “seam” and see all the craftsmanship behind the dresses.

Balloon Ball Gowns will be displayed at Oakridge Park Gallery in Vancouver from August 3rd to 7th.

Gab Bois - Balloon Ball Gowns at Oakridge Park Gallery - Kristall Yee Balloon sculpture