The helium tank is our mash up of ideas + art + design + events and everything in between. Work that makes us smile, art that’s all around, events that we hope you’ll join us, or words we’re stitching together. The helium tank is a big window into who we are.
In order to pinpoint exactly what I love about my role as an artist + creative, I have to shut my mind up and actually think about it. A feat in itself. But for the sake of this shout out, I sat at my desk and closed my eyes. Almost immediately the word ‘experience’ drifted to shore. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved creating an environment rich in atmosphere. With perfect lighting, the right music playing, textures and tones, a scented candle that compliments the surroundings almost as if ripped from a movie screen. And that’s where art + design began to shape everything I did. Creating the perfect moment, an ideal experience, is something that sets a brand apart from another. It’s what makes us innately gravitate toward one restaurant over the other. Why we trust one company over their competition.
An experience is something that can’t be imposed, it has to be suggested. It has to exist then be discovered. I have found that, first and foremost, clearly defining what I want to feel – what I want another person to feel – is the most important step to creating an experience. When developing a brand, I focus on the emotion – the essence of who the company is and what their consumer needs to feel. Then it’s all about grabbing inspiration to paint that picture. Mood images, objects, textures, words that when put together embody the emotion, the brand, the experience.
It becomes the same process as making ‘little atmospheres’ for myself as a kid. Pulling together elements to make something that just feels right. That tells a story.
The foundation of any company, of any individual even, is brand. Once we have found that tap root, it is seamless process to bleed into all other materials. A website, stationery, language, interior space, style. A well established brand subtly communicates that experience in every extension of its being. It is in the details. The thought. The story behind the curtain.
And I get to be the storyteller.
I share a similar dilemma most creatives do, how do we utilize our talents best? It’s interesting to see how my vision of helium has shaped a growing family who has embraced it’s vision and ideals. My passion for creating a brand stems back to childhood days when I would draw out whole communities. Planning details as far down as the signs for the various businesses and community buildings. Light poles, where residences would be located and, of course, landscaping were all planned. It wasn’t just a sketch, it was a completely thought out experience.
This passion for architecture, landscape and urban design very easily could have been the path helium could have taken. Instead my creative passions shifted one day while sharing my creative dream of being an architect was met by the reality of mathematics being involved. What, how could this be? I fear math and quickly looked at other ways in which my passion for creating experiences could be used.
Fast forward a few [well many] years and I’m living in south Florida with a vast collection of inspirations from travels and growing up in Lancaster, PA. My eclectic inspirations found their home while developing my newest dream and passion, helium creative. This was something where I could create every aspect of the experience. I could decide which rules to follow, which ones to break and make our own along the way. From breaking the rules of using a lower case letter for our name, carving my own path in doing business together to the way in which we ultimately execute the brands we create.
In making the shift I was inspired by many brands, one most notably from the start I felt really mastered this complete experience. Of course I would be referring to Apple. Most recently Starbucks, who provide a cohesive experience through every detail. Some may be noticed and in most cases they go completely unnoticed. Whether aware of them or not they all combine to form the success of the brand. The essence of the experience and the level of trust that cannot be matched. For many, these fine details seem unimportant, however are key to long term success.
My passion for these details from a young age, although shifted in their delivery, has provided an amazing platform from which the helium family has grown and evolved into a brand centric company. As we always say, brand is the foundation and once set, everything else is poised for greater success. Whether brochure, website, ad campaign, app and anything in between, we have an established platform to create from.
My passion may have shifted from one design outlet to another, however this never changed my love for creating full brand experiences.
When I first sat down to write this, my topic was entirely different. Well, not entirely. The topic is still largely the same but my stance on it, my tip for the reader, did a total 180. I was going to argue that art and design are two different things, my caveat being that they overlap with regularity. This segment of our eblast was going to be cautionary, advising designers to be designers first and artists second. I’ll spare you the details but, in pitching the topic, I sparked a lengthy internal debate. We easily spent over an hour going back and forth on what could be qualified as design or art. It was exhausting.Anyway. Long story short, I was wrong.
I eagerly googled the meanings of both terms and, by definition, I was wrong. Art is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Design is defined as “purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object.” The bottom line is that art has an overarching definition; it encompasses design. There is not a single human being on the face of the planet that is devoid of creative skill and imagination. And without either of those two things, purpose, planning, or intention cannot exist. You can’t design anything without expressing creativity and being imaginative.
What defines art is so extremely subjective that it almost becomes objective. Everything is art. You could argue that tasks the furthest from what is commonly thought to be art are actually the most artistic.
Ok before I continue down this rabbit hole any further, I’ll answer the question you must be asking yourself. Where is the damn design tip in any of this nonsense? Here’s the thing. I was so hung up on art and design in the first place because I’m always hesitant to refer to myself as an artist. I just don’t like saying it, it feels weird leaving my lips. I was putting far too much stock in the assumed meaning of a term and it became a handicap. So my advice to everyone, and I mean everyone, is to find the art in what you do. Create it if you don’t think it’s there. We are all artists inherently so let’s get out there and make the mundane into a masterpiece.
Several weeks have now passed since returning back from Guatemala, a trip that truly changed my life forever. Upon returning I had a goal of writing my perspective of this trip and just like that life rushes back in and here we are almost a month later.
Without even a moment to reflect my feelings I’m right back to where I started… in the hustle and bustle of what most of us call normal everyday life. The fast passed lifestyle most have come to know as part of that American Dream. But just like that I can remove myself from it all and get back to basics.
We had been planning, fundraising and preparing for this trip for months. It all started back last fall when we visiting C&I Studios Guatemala tribute during an ARTWALK. They were sharing photographs and stories of those they touched during their recent mission trip. This instantly inspired us to join in and do what we can to bring what we love, ART, to those who may not have it otherwise.
That evening was the inspiration for helium inspires, helium creatives non-profit. A way for us to do our part to share the arts, creativity and the joys that comes from it, with those who may not otherwise experience it. We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to be creative and we all first-hand understand and appreciate the importance of fostering and nurturing your creativity. We are pleased to be able to do our small part of sharing what we love. We came together as family, worked together as a team, bringing happiness to each of us and allowed us all to see through our hearts and not our eyes.
So now that you know a little background, let’s go back to Guatemala. The morning of the 24th of May we arrived in MIA and met up with those from C&I that would be joining on our first mission trip. 14 strong we gathered our belongings as they called us for boarding. Arriving in Guatemala we were instantly transported out of what we know and into a place most of us had ever experienced.
I don’t think any amount of traveling truly prepares you for the unique experience you encounter arriving in a new destination and that was certainly the case here. We were all the same, however our surroundings had completely changed and this was just the beginning.
We quickly got to experience exactly why we were here and the importance of opening our hearts and sharing with others. Our first visit was to an orphanage where most will call home for the rest of their lives. This was the first of the many humbling experiences; in that instant I was reminded of the simplicities in life and how things can be taken for granted. We think we need all of these possessions to be happy and here these children have all they could need. They had a stable home and the love and support that this home provides and just like that I was reminded of what is truly important. To most in the states they would say they have nothing, for them they had it all!
They were just as eager to learn from as we were of them. There may have been a language barrier but we all communicated just fine through sharing our passion. You should have seen their eyes light up as we brought out the art supplies and they began to paint and draw. Instantly nothing else mattered, the stresses back home, the hustle and bustle was gone and we were all the same. We were all being creative and sharing in a moment regardless of our background. We got to share what we love and in turn have it shared back to us through their eyes, which was just as inspiring.
The next day we made our way to Chiquimula, a small town 4 hours from Guatemala City where we met with a local mission that provided hope and support for so many. Our first day we met with families whose faces were glowing and their smiles from ear to ear confirmed what I had already learned. They are truly happy and there is so much we can learn from them.
The following day we had the privilege of visiting their homes in the mountain behind the mission. These were homes that are much different from what we think of, however they had so much more. They had true happiness, love and support. They didn’t need all of the extras we find necessity. They cherished what they had and took great care of everything they owned. It wasn’t a matter of what they didn’t have but rather what they do have, and what they have is so truly a lot! A humbling reminder of what we so easily forget… we come to believe that these things bring happiness and here in the midst of homes much different from ours I was reminded again of what is truly most important.
They may not have all of the things we feel are important and bring happiness, but what they did have is so much more than most of us have. They have happiness, love, family and community based on who they are and not what they have.
I can only hope that this experience can be a reminder for myself of what happiness truly is. It is the experiences, the love, family and community based on relationships and being there for others… It’s not the things that make us happy. The stress, hustle and bustle is all a result of this belief we have all so commonly taken on as a way of being happy.
For me I will carry these memories with me and can only hope that the humbling knowledge I was reminded remains with me. And here I thought we were going to be the ones inspiring those we met, instead we have all been inspired and will take with us memories for years to come.
If there is one thing I wish is that our time with the children, families and friends we met was as inspiring to them as it was for me. I hope that the creative inspiration helps them grow, follow and believe in whatever they want to be. I look forward to our next trip and can only hope to gain as much from each to come as I did from this one. Thank you Guatemala and thank you to all who have touched my heart and allowed me to view the world a little differently, if only for a moment.
P.S. From a helium standpoint and moment that I will cherish was the day we were visiting the homes in the mountains and noticed something very familiar. Amongst their belongings and prominently displayed was something we had brought, a helium inspires pin. For me that was a reminder of the dual impact we made and just how important the mission trip was for all.
I needed this trip. I’m quick to take things for granted. It’s a fault of mine that I struggle with. Too often, I look at material possessions others have and catch myself envying them. Maybe I’m a product of my environment but that feels like a cop out. The facts: I consume in excess and it’s never enough. At least it wasn’t.
I could go on and on; I could detail every minute of the trip and it would never have the same impact that being in the midst of it does. If pictures and movies couldn’t convey the experience, I doubt my written words would be able to. But I can try. I’ll tell you these two things with certainty: as bad as it was, there are people who have it even worse. And, save their physical ailments, those we met were content if not happy.
Our trip was amazing and it was more than I ever could have expected or hoped for. Most importantly though, it provided fresh perspective. Being in Guatemala revealed vast room for improvement in my character. I was unprepared for what I saw there. I’m way too comfortable in my little bubble here in The States. I think a lot of us are. We have it all yet we want for things we don’t need. I know I do anyway.
We met families who found shelter in houses built out of sticks and mud or repurposed metal shutters if they were lucky. Metal walls came at a price though; durability also meant more heat. Humidity was high and the brutal sun beat down. Retired garments, dated advertisements, and weathered tarps were strung up around their homes to cast any bit of shade they could muster. I had never seen living conditions like these in person. Photos and videos didn’t do them justice.
Children scaled the hillside barefoot. The few toys and stuffed animals they had were caked with dirt. Their clothes were ragged and stained. But their eyes beamed and they smiled big the whole time. This life is all they have ever known and they’re appreciative of what they have. They don’t need the latest and greatest status symbol. They know where their next meal is coming from. Maybe some of them aren’t in good health but they have their family and they take care of each other.
Thursday, May 29th at about 2:30 AM we landed in Miami. My girlfriend, Palina and I got back to our place a little after 4 AM. As we crawled in to bed, exhausted from the trip and a long day of traveling, I thought about all of the people and things I’m fortunate to have in my life.
I have absolutely all I’ll ever need, and then some. This trip gave me a new lens and I was reminded that everything is relative. The reality check was unprecedented and past due. I’m clinging to memories of being in Guatemala because they remind me of how privileged I am. We are lucky to live where we do and to take that for granted is criminal. I plan to visit Guatemala to do more volunteer work later this year and return as often as possible. It’s truly the least I can do.
-Casey Schumacher [designer]