A world-renowned artist might find his ego ballooning now he has been given an international award.
Sutton's Graham Lee is one of the world's leading balloon artists and has made models of everything from rocker Alice Cooper to a giant model of a Spitfire aeroplane in his 25-year-career.
The former electrician, who says he caught the bug for balloon modelling and magic after seeing a performer at his daughter Kelly's fifth birthday, has been given the trailblazer award by Dewey's Balloon Excellence - an American award winch has only been given out four times in the last decade to people who make a significant contribution to the industry.
Father-of-three Mr Lee, of Erskine Road, said: "Everyone thinks it's just about making sausage dogs and swans but it's so much more than that - I was on [BBC show] Room 101 last year to make a balloon model of Alice Cooper, I made a full-size sculpture of him."
He makes everything from models of planes to dresses people can actually wear. he said the sculpture of Alice Cooper took around two hours while the giant Spitfire took two people two full days. His work has appeared in magazines including Esquire, Tatler and Russian Vogue.
Mr Lee, helped by his wife Lyn, travels the world running balloon days where he provides tuition to both experts and beginners. He also runs www.balloonchat.co.uk which provides online tuition and resources for people in the industry.
Mr Lee gave up being an electrician after around eight years of doing magic and balloon modelling but it was later that he decided to take his work further. He said: "I was at a magic convention and on a table there was a one-balloon model of a hippo. I tried to figure out how he'd done it and it was then that I got the idea of going further with it so I went to some workshops and lectures and it went form there."
If you want to find out more about Mr Lee you can visit www.grahamleesmagic.co.uk or www.balloonchat.co.uk.
Sutton's Graham Lee and his giant balloon models get international award
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