Don’t call Stephanie Morace a balloon artist. She’s a balloon engineer.

Shaping balloons into whatever she can imagine is artistic, but it has a lot in common with her former career as an engineer.

“To me, it’s like building a structure and you build on top of this structure until you see what you want it to look like,” Morace said.

Morace, 34, is competing for Team USA at the World Balloon Convention in New Orleans this weekend. Over 27 hours, the team will build a huge sculpture at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel, competing with teams of “twisters” — as they call themselves — from all over the world. She will also compete in individual competitions and make balloon creations for the public on Sunday.

Working with a church children’s ministry, Morace began making balloon figures 2½ years ago. Now she works full-time at Baton Rouge-area restaurants and events making balloon animals, cars, people — just about anything.

Morace learned to twist balloon figures from the Internet and from a group of party clowns and face painters. Then she started designing her own creations.

Copying older balloon designs just wasn’t her style.

“That is fun, and I think that is sufficient because it makes the kids happy, and that is what it is about,” she said. “But I like to come up with new stuff. I like a challenge.”

Operating as Balloonatics of Baton Rouge, Morace goes to area restaurants, bringing her case of 15,000 balloons in every size and shape available. Youngsters will also give her challenges.

A UFO abducting a cow? Morace can do it. A white tiger holding a gray sword while driving the Batmobile? Done.

Morace has won awards at all three balloon competitions, and hopes this weekend is no different. “I could be hard to live with for a while,” she said with a laugh.