SPRING HILL — A chandelier of snowflakes, a bucket of bubbling champagne, a gallant tin soldier, all can be had for holiday décor from the deft fingers of balloon artist Sandra Smith of Balloons Beyond.
Fashioned, yes, from balloons of multiple shapes, sizes and colors, the whimsical creations carry an aura of the magical. "They put a smile on everyone’s face," said Smith, who brought her sunny craft to Florida nearly four years ago from New York.
Smith was going through a rough patch in life when she watched a You Tube video on crafting a flower from a handful of pencil balloons. "I challenged myself," she said. In a few minutes, she blew up and twisted them into a fantasy daisy, bringing a smile to her own face. Why not create happiness for others, she thought.
Balloon artistry — Smith has since taken classes in the craft at world balloon conventions nationwide — has gained exposure since the introduction of pencil, or twisty, balloons in the 1950s. "But, still," Smith said, "a lot of people have never seen them before. When they think balloons, they think of a round balloon on a string."
Smith, 53, thinks of a kiddy-ride-sized carousel she created for a circus theme party. And, a 6-foot coconut palm bearing a replica of Curious George among its fronds for a kids’ occasion; larger-than-life three-dip ice cream cones and soda fountain glasses, whipped cream atop, for a sweet-toothed celebrant.
For parties, she builds balloon arches, columns and fun sculptures, spelling out "Happy Birthday", "Sweet 16" or a celebrant’s name in airy letters. Party favors include a tiny heart balloon slipped into a clear balloon globe, positioned in a champagne flute; a life-size flower sprouting from a clear plastic pot holding candy treats; a holiday-themed mini balloon with a sprig of holly and berries, bound in a bow, each piece shaped from a balloon.
For a young or young-at-heart gift recipient, and for the awe of onlookers, she’ll enclose a 6-inch teddy bear inside a balloon.
Smith works in her home amid a stockpile of thousands of tubes, spheres and other geometrical shapes made of plastic, latex and Mylar. She employs heat sealing and cutting tools, raw air and nitrogen pumps, balloon shine compound, bottles, weights and her flying fingers.
Smith utilizes pencil balloons up to 60 inches long, spherical balloons as large as 3 feet in circumference, all stored in air conditioned space. "They deteriorate," she noted, Florida heat and humidity being the main culprits.
For parties, she builds balloon arches, columns and fun sculptures, spelling out "Happy Birthday, "Sweet 16" or a celebrant’s name in airy letters. She slips a tiny heart balloon into a clear globe, positioning the notion of love in a wine glass. Prices start at $15 for a party favor, $25 for a sculpture, $30 for a centerpiece, $100 for an arch.
Balloons have their downside. "You never know what’ll pop ‘em," Smith concedes. But even though a balloon’s life is fleeting, Smith sees the joy her creations bring to her customers.
"I like seeing people being happy about things," she said.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]