Spotlight: Fumiko Yamashita, CBA
Simply charming! This description is accurate of both Fumiko Yamashita, CBA, and her work. Renowned for her delightful animal dolls and exquisite balloon fashions, Fumiko brings personality and spirit to all her creations.
Her work as a balloon artist started in 2001, when Hiroe Tokui, CBA, of Balloon Pop, Japan, helped her create a balloon doll as a wedding gift. Enchanted by the world of balloon art and all its possibilities, Fumiko started her own business: Nicofee Balloon Park, Japan. Eighteen years later, she is still enamored with the joy and happiness her work brings to others, “Balloons have the power of making people excited—from children to adults—and I get to see many customers smile by the power.”
Fumiko works continuously on new balloon skills, and she recently incorporated the traditional Japanese weaving technique of Tsumami Zaiku into her designs. She has also developed a method of putting a wave-effect in her balloon dresses that makes her work easily recognizable. Fumiko received a 3rd place award and Gold Achievement, respectively, when she competed in the Balloon Fashion Category at WBC 2014 and 2016 using this technique. Though she loves making dolls and fashion pieces, Fumiko and her staff have also made some very unusual and memorable pieces. "I once floated objects (sculptures) on a river. I made rafts and [the figure of] a water splash made of Quick Links on top of the rafts. A diver set up weights under the water to hold the objects. The reflection of the balloons on the surface of the water united to the scenery around, and it was beautiful."
Fumiko has the unique ability to find creative inspiration in just about anything. "I look into many things and imagine them. I sometimes get inspiration from the view of nature and color of the sky when I am driving." The work of Takehiro Kai also inspires her. "I respect him very much--he loves balloons and creates works with such great care for the balloons." In addition, she enjoys attending conventions to learn new techniques and see balloon art made by artists from around the world. She has competed four times and has been honored many times. "Through the experience of attending conventions and competing, I had many chance to face with balloons (struggle to create new techniques and works). The time led to building confidence and experience. I became stronger in heart in my balloon business, and I grew as an individual. It's a very precious experience."
To maintain and grow her business, Fumiko relies on social media. Not only does she utilize her accounts to cultivate business, but also watches the accounts of others for new, exciting, and trendy ideas. "I use social media to send out information to customers about what we create and let them enjoy seeing we are having fun doing this work. As more followers or fan increase, it can lead to more orders. At the same time, social media inspires me to have more ideas by looking at other artists’ work." More importantly, she devotes herself to customer service in her business. Among other unique touches, for each gifted piece, she carefully crafts a custom gift card for the recipient.
I would like my customers to experience ‘Wow!’ surprise and exciting feeling. I would like customers to experience the moment with brightened facial expression filled with smile--not only the person who receive the balloon gift but also people who see it.
Fumiko Yamashita, CBA
For Fumiko, it is indeed a charmed life. "I love balloons and feel happiness every day because I have a job with what I like."
Tutorial: Balloon Doll by Fumiko Yamashita, CBA
Follow along as Fumiko demonstrates her often-gifted balloon doll that also makes a nice decor accent.