ACWB is Centre Stage with Nelly Wati Tinkess of Balloon Moose Studio

Read this month’s Arts Council Wood Buffalo member feature in the April edition of snapd Wood Buffalo, on stands now!

Nelly Wati Tinkess is a local balloon artist on a mission to educate the public on this expanding art form. Nelly, originally from Indonesia, moved to Canada 5 years ago. Her education and work experience includes public relations, marketing, and communications in places such as Jakarta and Vancouver. Nelly started working as a hobbyist jewelry maker while pursuing a full time job. Three years ago she noticed a photograph of a large balloon sculpture of a mermaid on her Facebook news feed and she instantly became interested. Today Nelly owns a thriving balloon business in Fort McMurray called Balloon Moose Studio, known for delivering smiles and transforming air into art.

It’s no easy feat being a balloon artist, Nelly points out. Similar to many art disciplines, there is a lot of behind the scenes work that happens before there is a finished balloon product. Each project takes research, gathering inspirations, creating the concept and framework, deciding on appropriate techniques, safety assessments, long hours full of balloon tying, sore fingers and wrists. The joy people get from their balloon art is well worth the work for Nelly, and her plans for her practice are ever growing. Nelly created custom balloon art pieces, including hats and headbands, for attendees at ACWB’s 2016 Wood Buffalo Excellence in Art Awards. It was Nelly’s first gig where adults received her pieces and it has opened the doors to new opportunities.

An avid learner, Nelly understands the value of professional development and continued education in order to learn and improve her artistry. Nelly is well known as an innovator in the North American balloon artist community, and she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Twist & Shout Balloon Convention 2017 in Kissimmee, Florida. While participating in the jam sessions and attending the master classes Nelly was able to connect with other balloon professionals, growing her network while learning new techniques. “I learned a lot, new techniques, new ideas, and also got to know other artists that I can proudly say are my balloon family now,” she says.

Networking and creating relationships with other local artists is another way Nelly strives to grow her practice. Nelly is a founding member of the Wood Buffalo Artisans Society (WBAS), a non-profit organization in Fort McMurray. Nelly and other artisan entrepreneurs created WBAS to support and promote handcrafting artists and handmade products in the region.

Nelly believes the arts community is strong in Wood Buffalo and she is grateful to be part of it. She is often surprised by how much support she gets, not only from Arts Council Wood Buffalo, but from the community as a whole. Passion for her art form and her drive to share it with the community aids in fostering awareness and growth for all of the arts in Wood Buffalo. Learn more about Nelly and Balloon Moose Studio at and on Facebook and Instagram.