One of my favorite events we’ve had at our store was that with balloon-twister Addi Somekh, almost exactly six years ago (Nov. 28, 2001). He visited soon after the publication of The Inflatable Crown Balloon Hat Kit (Chronicle Books) and WOWED us with the incredible creations that would spring from his fingertips to tower over our heads and frame our smiling faces.
Here’s me (on the left) with my beloved pal Pam Daghlian, who was our store manager at the time:
My enthusiasm for Addi’s visit sprung not so much from my love of balloons, as my love of what Addi and his friend Charlie Eckert had been doing to make the world a smaller and smilier place. Together the two traveled the world on a shoestring budget, visiting 34 countries (in 7 trips), where they’d often visit remote outposts populated by the poorest of people. Everywhere they went Addi made balloon hats for people while Charlie took photos. Often these encounters took place with folks who had never seen balloons before.
The whole point of this project was "to show people all over the world laughing and having fun, and to emphasize the fact that all human beings are born with the ability to experience joy." Many of the photos from Addi’s and Charlie’s travels were included in the book that comes with the Balloon Hat kit, but (alas) the kit is now sadly out of print (though it does appear you can still purchase copies of it directly from Addi). Kit aside, you can can spend a chunk of time admiring the photos on Addi and Charlie’s Balloon Hat website, which are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
In the years since his visit here, Addi and Charlie’s travels have become the subject of a feature-length documentary (Balloonhat). Addi has also made balloon hats for 200 in-studio guests on the set of Martha Stewart’s television show ("Martha"), played the balloon bass in a band ("Unpopable"), designed a balloon bikini (which puts the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue to shame), and captured much of this fun and more on YouTube.
I tell ya, when it comes to originality, Addi’s job history puts almost anyone else’s to shame. Nice to think, though, that it includes time spent (however briefly) at Wellesley Booksmith!
Thanks for the memories, Addi!