Kansas businesswoman tests Christmas tree concept with young daughter

Mary Billings, owner of Love of Character, a shop on Douglas, created this balloon tree in her home.
Mary Billings, owner of Love of Character, a shop on Douglas, created this balloon tree in her home.

Mary Billings wanted to do something different for Christmas this year.

Her 1-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, would crawl into or pluck ornaments off a traditional Christmas tree, she said. Billings prefers live trees but doesn’t like to keep them watered, and last year’s dried up quicker than you can say, “Donner and Blitzen.”

So the Wichita mom and owner of Love of Character, a party supply and paper goods shop at Hillside and Douglas, spent a recent afternoon sculpting a life-sized Christmas tree from about 150 balloons and placed it near the staircase of her College Hill home.

“It’s definitely different, but I love the way it turned out,” Billings said.

She shared a photo of the tree on Instagram Tuesday evening, and the post has garnered more than 1,000 likes.

Billings, who opened her shop in the Dockum building in 2016, has become something of a balloon-art expert lately, crafting balloon arches and garlands for special events as part of her business. She said the Christmas tree was inspired by a similar tree posted on Instagram last month.

“I decided this would be a fun way to still have a tree, and try out a new concept for the shop,” she said.

After playing with several colors, she and a colleague decided to mix pastels and pearly dark colors for the tree, including a subtle pastel pink which “added a fun girly touch for my little miss,” Billings said. They crafted several balloon garlands of different sizes and joined them together to create the tree, which is topped with a stuffed Santa Claus, also dressed in pink.

So far, daughter Elizabeth hasn’t messed with the balloon tree. “She just kind of stares at it,” Billings said.

And in case you’re wondering, the family doesn’t have a cat.

Professional Christmas decorators Susan Sage and Linda Forsythe demonstrate ways to make holiday decor lush.