short answer: light ballmade with string lights and plastic cups.
long answer: The Original Sparkleball is made with Solo® 9 oz cups joined together by staples, clips, glue or soldering. 100 mini-lights are threaded into the ball, two lights to a cup. Different cups and lights can be used. However, all sparkleballs are built by people. Nothing commercial has ever fully replicated the magic of a lighted sparkleball.
Sparkleballs started popping up around the US in the 1970s. No one knows who invented it or where the first one was made, but the craft has now spread around the world. In Italy sparkleball snowmen are popular. In Fullerton, California, one neighborhood hangs over 500 sparkleballs during the holidays. Guy kept his wife’s sparkleball going for 27 years, which is pretty amazing.
After Carl Boro saw a neighbor’s sparkleball, he went home and just figured out how to make one. With time he developed his own designs and methods, creating a garage full of colorful sparkleballs made from different cups and lights. He sent me some photos a few years ago, and we began a lively email exchange.
In 2015 I visited Carl at home near San Francisco. It’s no exaggeration to say that day changed my life. The fun we had exchanging ideas and working together cemented our friendship. It also pushed me to update and improve this website. I became more determined to share the mutual enthusiasm of friendship and craft with people like you, so that all of us around the world can work together — no matter what our beliefs or backgrounds– in a safe, creative virtual garage like Carl’s.
Below are just a few of Carl’s creations, as well as links to posts about him. Leave a comment and Carl will answer. To see over 90 photos of Carl’s wondrous work, visit Pinterest.
A few days ago, I dropped an old Hard-Cup Sparkleball I love. Five cups shattered, and there’s no way to repair it.
That’s the thing about hard cups. They’re really sparkly, but they crack. Two other important points: you can’t staple them and they are a slightly different size than solo-style cups. BUT they come in more colors!
Here are the instructions for making a Hard Cup Sparkleball. I used to use a soldering iron to melt the cups together, but now I use hot glue. (Master Sparkleballer Carl Boro uses silicon caulk.) You can also order GripperClips, which work really well on the hard cups. However, you’ll still need a soldering iron to make the light holes.
From the instructions you’ll learn that there’s a different formula in how you put the Hard Cup Sparkleball together. This is very important. If you try to make it like an Original Sparkleball, it won’t work. You’ll need more cups too.
photos below by Carl Boro, who loves making hard-cup sparkleballs.
A Valentine sparkleball? Let us count the ways. Make a sparkleball with red or pink lights. (here, here, here, here.) ❤ Make a zip-tie sparkleball with red zip-ties. ❤ Spray-paint the inside of your sparkleball red before you add lights. ❤ Spray red glitter everywhere. ❤ Draw big red hearts on the cups with a permanent marker to make a stained-glass effect. ❤ Make a clear light sparkleball and tie a big red bow on top. ❤ Make a giant sparkleball out of Solo red cups or a mini out of ‘lil Reds. ❤ Put red roses in the cups like Katrina did. ❤ Or just buy a bottle of champagne and all your sparkleball supplies and make one together.