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Meet Catherine Olson of Creative Balloons by Cathy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Catherine Olson.

Catherine, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Being a Santa Monica College fine art graduate, hungry to make a living I decided to enroll in a digital arts program, Academy of Arts and Entertainment (AET), where I learned all manner of digital programs, from Photoshop to Dreamweaver to After Effects and, eventually, a cutting edge animation program called Flash.

The Flash instructor, Tony Grillo, cannily plucked the best students from his course to work at Flinch, his internet animation nearby in Santa Monica.

Flinch was producing some of the most innovative Flash-based animation at the time for clients ranging from Warner Brothers to Tim Burton, and working there pushed my own skill set and imagination in all sorts of interesting directions.

At the pinnacle of my nascent animation career, however, I got pregnant – which meant eight months of strict bed rest, and a fairly long hiatus from working. After the birth of my son, I decided to stay home for a few years. As a stay home mom, I taught preschool while my son was of preschool age and I could take him to work. After this extended motherhood sabbatical and being disconnected with the digital arts world, it was challenging to re-enter the workforce in that field. I opened the new Flash program and thought “My gosh, I’d have to go back to school all over again to remaster this!”

But as happens sometimes, a new creative direction had already arrived from the most unexpected source. When my son turned two he received a gift… a balloon twisting kit. Being too young to twist balloons for himself, I picked it up – and found I was a natural. In some odd way, it combined the design logic of animation with my earlier love of sculpture and ceramics (I’d won the Scholars award from the National Arts Association for ceramics while attending Santa Monica College.)

I loved this new medium, and began twisting balloons for my sons play dates, cub scouts, etc. just for the fun of it. Word spread, and before long, I was beings asked to create original ballon sculptures for grown-up parties and business occasions and the like….and suddenly, it was evident this was my new calling, and avocation.

A new career had chosen me, and it was made of colored latex and air!

I started my business with $10- a bag of twisting balloons, a pump and a bucket from the 99 cent store. I would show up at events with my bucket and twist unique fun balloons, creating smiles and happiness. As I developed my skills, I returned to my art background creating pieces that were sculptural and not necessarily “things” but abstract pieces that include color, shape, texture, not the standard swords and dogs typically created with modeling balloons.

Today I have a warehouse, a staff and we create unique, custom, large scale balloon sculptures for some of the biggest names (some have requested non-disclosure), we are thriving, and I couldn’t be happier doing what I do!

I should mention as a side-note: our unique custom sculptures are made from latex balloons, which are environmentally friendly and biodegradable! So in the end, everyone is happy, and at the end of the day, our small pile of popped balloon trash is biodegradable!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Getting to this point has been smooth as I was not expecting this career, it evolved in its own time, at the right time. It has recently become challenging as it has grown beyond what I ever expected. Creative Balloons is experiencing growing pains as we increase sales and try to keep up by training new help to accommodate the workload.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Creative Balloons by Cathy – what should we know?
We are known for unique custom latex sculptures. We love a challenge, and if a client calls and wants a 15′ wide walk through pumpkin or a 12′ wide boom box, or anything you can imagine, we accept and deliver! Its our unique designs, ands appetite for creative challenges, that sets us apart from the standard “balloon decor.”

I am proud of many designs but our original, life-sized, walk through gingerbread house for the Shoppes at Westlake Village is one of our favorites. Year after year this is a winner and watching people in awe is the highest form of payment, super rewarding!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Being unique! Taking clients needs, ideas and specifications and turning them into unique, creative, sometimes even mind-blowing designs, created specifically for them!

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