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Balloon sculptor finds joy in ‘making unique, happy things’

Lana Clementson has created a "Balloon Wonderland" with gifts and decorations that bring a smile to their recipients' faces.

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Lana Clementson, who does business as Balloon Wonderland, has been creating balloon arrangements for the past 10 years, bringing joy to family, friends and customers with such designs as a Thanksgiving turkey and a Christmas tree.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise
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“A lot of people don’t even know what it is or what it can be,” said balloon sculptor Lana Clementson. “When they say, ‘What is it you do?’ and you say, ‘Balloons,’ until you show them pictures, they don’t even imagine what it is.”

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Pumpkins, ghosts and spiders were among the creepy-crawlies featured in this Halloween-themed balloon arch, which lit up eerily when the lights were turned off.
Contributed / Lana Clementson

Clementson moved from Los Angeles to Park Rapids last summer with her husband, Matt, and their daughters, Roxanne, 10, and Samantha, 13.

“My husband grew up here and was dreaming to come back and raise our girls in his pure, small hometown,” she said.

She brought with her a passion for creating colorful balloon arrangements that cause people’s eyes to light up with joy. It started about 10 years ago, when she went to an ultrasound appointment in a doctor’s office filled with balloon daisies in giant baskets.

“I was mesmerized by them, and gave myself a promise one day to learn how to do it,” she said.

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Both these flowers and their vase are a balloon sculpture.
Contributed / Lana Clementson

She started by filling her own daughters’ birthday parties with balloon decorations, then creating arrangements for their friends, teachers and other acquaintances.

Learning how to arrange balloons was a slow process. “You have to believe in yourself, which is the beginning of everything,” said Clementson. “It’s just excitement. When you see people happy, you just want to do more and more and more.”

Meanwhile, it helps not to be scared of balloons popping. “You just have to keep going and going,” she said. “You’ve just got to be determined and want to get better.”

She worked in a photo studio in Los Angeles, creating props and decorations for kids’ and families’ photo shoots, “so my mind is always looking for a picture-perfect setup,” said Clementson. “Balloon decorations look amazing and extremely festive on photos, and even more so if you add lights to them.”

Happy magic

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A rose lit by tiny tea lights is only one of many things Clementson can put inside a clear balloon. Other balloon-borne gifts have included candy and even wads of cash for new graduates.
Contributed / Lana Clementson

Besides lights, her arrangements sometimes include pieces of fabric, real flowers, hula hoops, stuffed toys, and champagne bottles. Her designs range from balloon curtains, columns and arches to Chritsmats trees, Santas, vases of flowers, pumpkins, ghosts and various animals – including dogs and cats, swans, frogs, horses, bunnies, teddy bears and turkeys.

“I love creating magic in a party or even a simple gathering,” said Clementson. “It has been my true passion since I was a child at school,” when she was chosen as her classroom’s event coordinator.

“The possibilities are endless,” she said, recalling making birthday arrangements with foil balloon numbers and messages, table centerpieces and backdrops for weddings, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, baby showers, gender reveals and big ballgames.

“I love the spirit of the holidays, and I just help to spread it,” said Clementson, adding that she particularly enjoys making balloon flower arrangements – “grandiose, big balloon flowers.”

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This centerpiece combines balloons with real roses, one of them inside a clear balloon lit by tiny tea lights.
Contributed / Lana Clementson

She said when she puts a real rose and lights inside a clear balloon, “everybody just melts.”

“Graduation balloons can be fun and filled with gifts and money inside,” she said, speaking of clear balloons lit with strings of lights to display real flowers, candy, stuffed animals or an engagement ring inside.

“People are usually very surprised how different and unique they look,” said Clementson. Her arrangements can last up to several weeks, she said.

In the past, her creativity took other forms, from arrangements of pine cones to custom signs and holiday table decorations. Since she moved to Park Rapids, she has focused on balloon sculptures.

“I’d love to do it more and more,” she said, “because it keeps me happy. When I look at something, I just want to say, ‘Oh, my God! I want to make this!’ There’s so much you want to make. But when you make it, and it looks exactly like what you had in mind, it just makes you feel so uplifted and happy. ‘Wow, did I do this? Yes, I did!’

“It’s very rewarding, and when I give it to somebody and they love it, then it’s even more rewarding.”

Encouraged to step out

Clementson credits a friend, Ginnie Petersen, with encouraging her to start doing balloon arrangements as a business.

“She had a lot of faith and believed in me,” said Clementson. “She’s been my backbone and support ever since I got here. She’s been extremely supportive, an amazing friend, and I’m so happy I got to know her.”

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A couple of Clementson's balloon sculptures in the shape of swans decorated a wedding reception.
Contributed / Lana Clementson

Clementson said Petersen “just kept telling me, ‘You’re so good, you should crawl from under the rock where you’re hiding and expose (your talent) to the world.”

Don’t worry about her bursting a blood vessel, blowing up balloons. Depending on the type of balloon, she uses either a hand pump or an electric pump to fill them with air.

She sometimes receives pictures and videos of people’s reactions when they receive her balloon arrangements as a surprise. “I just love getting those,” she said, “to see the smiles and surprise. I would love to spread more happiness to more people.”

Clementson said that every time she makes something new and special, “I feel very uplifted that I could make somebody smile in my own way. It melts my heart that people feel happy when they are getting my little creations.”

She added, “I am teaching my girls to leave a sparkle wherever they go and however they can.”

To learn more about Clementson’s “Balloon Wonderland,” visit www.balloonwonderland.net or call 818-437-4494.

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Related Topics: ARTBUSINESS
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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