An enormous half circle of about 200 white balloons in various sizes dominates a meeting room at the Hilton Garden Inn on PGA Tour Boulevard. Created for a wedding reception, it’s the latest work by a gifted artist who only recently realized the scope of her own talent.
Anette Saalmann was 16 years old when she discovered the joy of decorating spaces with balloons. Her mother had a flower shop and was hired to decorate for an event. It was there that Saalmann observed another person decorating with balloons. She studied his technique and learned how balloons could be arranged into a spiral.
A couple of months later, her mother was hired by Pepsi to decorate for a company Christmas party. It happened that no one quite knew how to adorn a couple of columns, and Saalmann, remembering what she’d learned earlier, suggested spirals of balloons.
A company representative thought it was a great idea, and Saalmann was put in charge of that.
“Everybody loved it,” she said.
In the years that followed, she developed her skills by creating displays for family and friends. But even then, it was little more than a hobby.
Then, five years ago, she was put in charge of decorating for two events. The pressure was on, for the events — a birthday party and anniversary celebration — were for the owner of the hotel where she worked.
Her arrangements were a success, and she was asked to do more parties over the ensuing years including decorating for the Donna Marathon. But it was those first two events that awakened Saalmann to her own talents.
“I didn’t know my creativity until I was forced to do it,” she said.
Then, about five months ago, she went to a training session in Miami to learn about the latest techniques and was encouraged by the instructor to start her own business.
And that’s how Sparkle Balloons began.
Saalmann’s arrangements are colorful and varied and surprising.
“I can create pretty much anything with balloons,” she said.
Through hours of hard work and great patience, she can create complicated shapes — such as flowers — out of balloons. But she doesn’t think of it as work.
“When you have a passion for something, it’s not a job,” she said. “It’s fun.”
She has a preference for Gemar Balloons, which are made in Italy, because they are biodegradable. And she prefers to inflate them with air, because they last longer than those inflated with helium.
In making her displays, she said she strives to create something that people will like. And she takes joy in the reactions she gets.
“Just to see the face of the person you’re making the arrangement for, you can’t put a price on that,” she said.
The email address for Sparkle Balloons by Anette is firstname.lastname@example.org.