Q&A: Dianna Glandon, certified balloon artist

Dianna Glandon (at right) is a certified balloon artist and owner of Above the Rest Balloons. Its team of balloon artists placed second in the Medium Sculpture category at the World Balloon Convention in Dallas—the only American team to win one of 29 awards.

What's a World Balloon Convention like?

Amazing. There were right about 1,000 people there, 47 countries represented, and some of the best artists in the world. There were lots of different competitions; we learned a lot of great tips and designs. At the end was the World Balloon Festival, and about 15,000 people came in to see the things we created. It was an amazing week.

Did you practice a lot?

Absolutely. One of my designers, Rachel Glandon, who is also my daughter-in-law, she worked on the design about three months. Then in the shop, she and I worked a couple of weeks building the framing and making adjustments. Rachel thought of the design for two years; it's pretty near and dear to her.

Did the sculpture have a name?

"Spring in the Smokies." It's a bear 4 feet in length, part of a Smoky Mountain stream, and the foliage of the Smoky Mountains. The entire thing was made out of balloons.

How many colors?

At least 30. There are 62 colors of balloons, and for this we also created some colors, with a technique we use call double-stuffing.

Did you use paint or anything?

No paint. There is metal framing, but every other thing, even the bear's teeny tiny eye, is balloons. The bear took 1,855 balloons.

Do you count them as you go?

I know how many bags of balloons we used. For the bear alone, it took Rachel three hours to bend the frame and prepare it. Five women helped create the fur, and I attached it. I worked on it for eight solid hours.

That doesn't sound fun.

It was very fun. But it was stressful towards the end, because it we had to finish in 12 hours.

Is a particular country known for balloons?

Japan. The one team that beat us was from Japan—two others in our category were also Japanese, then one from Texas, another from China, and another from another Asian country. We were the only team from America that won out of 29 awards.

You were a teacher, how do you get from there to balloons?

I was also student council advisor, and I planned lots and lots of events and trips for the kids. The last one I planned was a statewide convention for 900 students, and we hired a balloon artist to come decorate. At the end of the event, I told him, "Your job has to be so fun!" and he said, "Why don't you buy my business?" That was eight years ago, and long story short, I never bought his business but I started my own six years ago.

Can you remember your first design?

That would go back 20 years. I was teaching at Bluegrass Elementary and we used to sell 2,000 heart baloons for a fund-raiser. The first thing I ever sold in this business I don't remember, but it was probably a column. Or an arch.

Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, "Why balloons?"

Actually, no. I feel very strongly that God gave me this business. My job right now make lots of people spark their imaginations and feel moments of joy, and that's what I get to do.

For more information: abovetherestballoons.com