What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
Of course. I like bringing in other mediums (like Lighting/LEDs/Tulle for adding Pizzaz to Decor or Special Effects...Costumes for dressing Balloon Mannequins...always researching various Themes to come up with new ways of being creative...and certainly keeping
How did you get started doing this type of work?
While I was a Psychology Major @ the University of Maryland I designed an experiment were-in we decided to use animal balloons for it (my first time experience with them) and I love to work with my hands and use to sing and swim...so I had no trouble inflating them by mouth. Well I had opportunities to make things with them during the course of the experiment run & was given all of the left over balloons afterwards. It became a hobby/art form since then. A # of years later I was told by world class magicians/clowns that they hadn't seen anything like the level of artistry that I was creating with balloons and that I should make it a business. I had been a Broker for 4 years...then went into counciling teen age boys on probation in a group home (to experience my love for psychology and what I had gotten a degree in) & finally was in a program @ Office of Personal Management (jumping 2 grades a year). During those years I also had participated in LifeSpring (TC-12) & later Actualizations ("Self Developement/Transformational" Workshops that I even participated in building those communities over a # of years). I found myself desiring being a "Workshop Conductor" who could contribute to people's transformation & benefit their lives...and what I had observed was that those whom I respected the most had gotten to the tops of their respective fields and then were able to transfer over their living experiences into those whom they were contributing towards their developement in a deeper more profound way. So I asked myself: "What could I become the very best in the world in?"...and I was immediately given a insight/vision/ah ha moment of Balloons...and at that time I saw it only as a "stepping stone" to my developing myself into eventually becoming a Workshop Conductor. So, I committed to doing Balloons every day for an entire year (mostly for free...on the subway, at church(s), etc.) developing my craft...and then I had 2 major offers...1 being the Ramada Renaissance La Martene Lounge (Wash., DC) where I was to decorate differently every day during the work week for Happy Hour & Entertain at the Night Club as well (lasted for 2 1/2 years) & 2 working weekends & holidays mostly entertaining (& decorating) for Rosenthal Datsun (later Nissan) in Tyson's Corner, VA...so I left the Gov't/OPM just before jumping from GS 11 to GS 13 (a lot of $ & a very secure job with benefits...please know that I know I would have made far more $ having stayed with the Gov't. & still am thankful that I have chosen the path I have)...to begin "Beyond Balloons"...which shortly thereafter became "Andrea's Beyond Balloons". Basically...it was a hobby that got out of hand and became a Profession ;-). This was at a time where there wasn't even a term "Balloon Artist/Entertainer". I felt like and envisioned myself as being the "Johnny Appleseed" of the Balloon Industry (which also was in it's infant stages) & had the following as my Inspiration/Foundation: My purpose was to raise people's consciousness to what was possible with this medium...and I would do so by being "cutting edge" & creating at least 3 new things every year that would push the evolution of the industry...& that if I ever got a request for something I didn't know how to make ... that I would be able to do so the next time I was asked. I really didn't make nearly what I had been making @ OPM...however...whenever one is "Pioneering"...one is Driven by a Vision/Dream...fueled by Inspiration/Passion...Committed to Integrity,Service, Quality & Excellence...Developed/Matured by Experience/Innovation/Creativity...and Sourced by Spirit/Love/Joy" These have been and still are "Values" which I am Grateful for.
What types of customers have you worked with?
As I started with focusing on Adults...developing what would be sophisticated and interesting enough to move, touch or inspire their attention/appreciation for sustained times (which also leads to children who find that they can be in Awe when they experience "Wonderland" & yet can be quite happy with simpler presentations/offerings...I would offer the following in Priority: Corporate/Formal Events/Galas...Teen Events (Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, Graduations)...Family/Children's Events/Birthdays...Weddings, Grand Openings/Picniks...Community/Malls/Public/Political/Arena Events...Charity/Fundraisers/Non-Profit/Church/Religious Institutions (and a very few Funerals where the only way I will be in service to one is if I am pre-designated by the deceased either directly or in their will) ... basically Celebrations of all kinds...since I have been one of a very few who have developed all 3 arenas of Balloon Entertainment, Decor & Special Effects to a very high level (one of the best Internationally in all 3 arenas)...I find that I can apply creatively between the various domains I have mastered. One reason why my clients love to have me involved in both their business/family/personal lives over years. While I do a higher percentage of Decor than Entertainment (& occasionally Special Effects which can actually be done as a part of my Entertainment...simply done in a Group/Collective Format vs. Individual Give away) this is due to my having trained and developed those who can assist me or independantly complete whatever I plan out for them multiple events simultaneously ... while there is truly only one of "me" & once people experience me they usually don't want to go for those who even charge less and can't do what I do (I have entertainers who are wonderful and whom I book for events as well...including excellent Balloon Artists)...however, I am the "show stealer" whenever their are multiple entertainment acts...and always have the longest lines. I have had adults stand 4 hours in line @ black tie events.
Describe a recent project you are fond of. How long did it take?
I actually love them all...I have been practicing "non-judgement"/being present/being in the "now" for a # of years now. While I am honestly blank @ this moment ... I will come back and offer something at a later time if this comes in for me .... ahhh...something just popped in: I was contracted to do a Retirement Dinner and in exploring with my client what they were doing at the event (giving pens and paper for each person to write something personal to give to the Retiree)...We came up with adding a "Wishing Well" for the Gift Table. I did quite a bit of research on this online...and came up with a few proposals with pictures...and we settled on my ordering one of these white cardboard (assembly time for 2 people 2 hours?) Wishing Well...however their colors were Teal, Lavender & Gold...so I went thru even more research (because this is out of my normal element) and while originally I was going to have the client help me assemble it on-site...had to instead paint it and assemble it myself to bring it completed (which took me even more time)...for which I only charged $75 for (in future it will be $150 minimum instead). However...both the Client & I loved the finished product...and it was complimented by the Head Table Balloon Decor 3 Balloon Centerpieces each with White LED Lights covered in white Tulle & the 20 Table Centerpieces which had a simple yet elegant Balloon Centerpiece per...all for a very limited budget I was given and was able to fulfill. What I was proud of is my having been able to find a solution which gave what the Client loved perfectly within a very tight budget structure & my "artist" having the thrill of doing something I never had done before and in an arena which I really am not all that versed in and had to discover/learn. That is satisfying and far outweighs all of the effort involved. So...Yes...while what may be considered a "small" thing...this is what has come in for me to share.
What advice would you give a customer looking to hire a provider in your area of work?
I am a logistics master and am devoted to my clients...so I don't spare anything in truly being of service...and haven't let a client down in over 30 years of service. I do ask ?'s and am simply seeking information so that I can truly merge with/from my client's interests in giving them what they would want if they only knew...I am not mercenary and have even offered client's who wanted to hire me for what I could have made a lot of money on...other options outside of my arena that they did instead and from which I received no compensation...because it served them more to do so. I am truly not attached to what benefits me...my focus is on what I believe serves my clients and offering that...and we both learn along the way what that truly is together...which makes for a richer experience overall. I have client's who trust me so much that they simply say what budget range they have/Theme...and then say...what ever you want to do is fine by me. For an Artist who can and has done so much...& while I appreciate that level of trust...that can be a nightmare ;-) for me...so I do appreciate getting some occasional preferences/tastes/choices between options...to more fully get a sense of what they like in order to guide my creative process.
What questions should customers think through before talking to professionals about their project?
I simply love ... and find that I have been able to extend love thru this medium which I have both pioneered and developed over time into that which, from time to time, even amazes me (I've done 30 story balloon structures & more)...and yet, each client/event presents it's own unique challenges/opportunities which excite me and tests my being able to come up with solutions/creations within the structures/themes/desires that both stretches and expands who I am as a result...regardless of small or large. I would literally do this for free if I could afford it. All this from someone who was so shy that it took my making a few animal balloons to bridge my being able to connect with people to begin with...and over time having converted my "sensitivity" into a channel with individuals/collectives which heightens all of our experience. So...I am truly Grateful. I do believe in giving back to Society and do Charity/Non-Profit Events for approx. 1/2 of what I normally charge (which is close to actual costs) using their volunteers under my direction...and sometimes (when I can) even donate my services period. There was a time where I had 30 - 40 Charity Events (& climbing) a year and was almost driven out of business so I had to "protect" myself by arbitrarily keeping it to maximum of 1 per month as a policy. So...basically...I am a "giver" and offer this with my heart always. I am still learning how to be a "business man".