If your idea of balloon sculpture is variations on the sausage dog, Ironville resident Melanie Howard, 50, wants to open your eyes to a whole new world.
The owner of Ripley-based Balloon Artworks says her diary is fit to burst, just six months after deciding to go into business full-time.
Melanie said: “I worked in the voluntary sector for years - autism and older people’s charities - but it reached the point where all my spare time was filled with balloons.
“It started as something I did to liven up a work event and became a hobby. I got really positive feedback, and friends and family started asking for things. After that it just snowballed.”
Melanie performs live demonstrations, but also crafts ambitious bespoke commissions.
She can conjure up any of the superhero greats in a matter of minutes and her latest creation is a life-size model of Elsa, of Disney’s Frozen.
Melanie said: “The birthday girl was mesmerised. It was as though Elsa had stepped out of the screen and was standing in front of her.
“Moments like that make this job special - that little girl is never going to forget her birthday party. I enjoy the creative side, but the most satisfying thing is to see a face lit up with wonder.”
Melanie is also doing a roaring trade with corporate clients across the region.
She said: “The hardest thing I’ve done so far is a Harley Davidson. I’ve found adults love watching me work as much as children.
“It makes a good ice-breaker too, if you’re wearing a giraffe hat and see someone wearing a penguin.”
Melanie’s designs are inspired by an online community which is just starting to blow up in the UK.
She said: “I’m a member of two professional associations, which are a great melting pot for swapping tips, but balloon twisting is really huge in the United States. There are some artists doing really incredible stuff. That’s been the hardest part of the business - I feel I’m almost trying to create a market that doesn’t exist.
“People here find it that bit harder to imagine what I can do. Once they see the end result, they’re really excited, and they can appreciate just how beautiful and elegant balloons can be.”
Melanie is developing a menu of party packages, but says she can work to most budgets or design requests.
She said: “People like to try and challenge me to do more and more difficult things, but it’s good to grow in confidence, and persevere through all the popped balloons.”
To find out more, visit www.balloonartworks.co.uk or call 07903 910729.