Camper’s Friend

laber1I’ve received more than a few emails over the years saying that sparkleballs are old friends on American campgrounds.   That’s always made me wonder if the inventor of sparkleballs was part of the camping scene or if it’s simply how the craft spread, by travelers going from campsite to campsite.   It’s fun to share a new camp photo from the Laber family along with some oldies.  If you have a camper sparkleball, please share!   And psst: how great would a solar sparkleball be for camping :)

click photo for details

sparkleball how-to posts:

make The Original Sparkleball
 make The Any-Cup Sparkleball
 find the right cups
– tips for putting in the lights
–  the best stapler
–  how to hang it – 1
–  how to hang it – 2
–  using different kinds of lights
–  drilling the perfect hole

Cup Art

Hangover LampThe “Hangover Lamp” by designer Luis Luna is one of the most popular photographs on  It’s just got this incredible wow factor.   For one thing, it’s red.  Two, it’s made of cups everybody recognizes, but they’re arranged in a surprising way.   And when you look at the photo and try to figure out how to copy it, it’s harder than it looks.  (One of these days, I mean to try.)  In an interview, Mr Luna says he woke up one morning with a hangover and saw all these red cups left from the party. So he gets up and makes a cool light fixture.   Now that’s an artist:)

Read more about the “Hangover Lamp” and see other designs by Luis Luna here, here, and here.

helpful DIY how-to posts:
–  find the right cups
 tips for inserting lights
–  the best stapler
–  how to hang it – 1
–  how to hang it – 2
–  how to hang it – 3
–  using different lights – 1
–  using different lights – 2
–  drilling a perfect hole
–  how to get it really round
–  make The Original Sparkleball
–  make AnyCup Sparkleball
–  making Mini Sparkleballs

When Sparkle Balls Fail

The biggest reason a sparkleball doesn’t turn out right is you’re using the wrong cups.  Only Solo-style squatty plastic cups will make an Original Sparkleball.  If your 12 cups don’t make a nice, tidy circle then ditch your cups and go shopping.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with a sparkle blob.

“the sparkle orb disaster”    (read the story)
Lena’s sparkle “ein” (egg) in Swiss snow.

Lights can be faulty, which is why you always plug them in and check before inserting. It’s best to use new lights instead of an old string you have lying around so your sparkleball will burn brightly longer.   The stapler can be wrong, too. A lightweight stapler is probably not strong enough to hold the cups together for very long. Even my friend Carl, the master sparkleball maker, has faced failure.  This morning he went out to his garage and found this:


It seems the silicon caulk that Carl uses doesn’t like Smart&Final brand hard cups.  I had a similar problem before I learned to use paperclips to hold hard cups together after I’d hot-glued them so the glue could get a good set.

Finally, there’s The Velveteen Rabbit reason sparkleballs fail:

spotted at a Vermont barn party by Juliet

Old Age and too much love.  Cups get brittle and yellow.  Lights go dim and bonds wear loose.  It’s time to say goodbye, recycle, and move on.


The Sparkleballs of Summer

West Texas (Apartment Therapy photo)

I first saw sparkleballs used as backyard lighting on Apartment Therapy, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it.  Inexpensive, easy to make, weather-proof — and with their own sparkly festive cheer. A few around the patio.  A few in the trees.  Sumetha uses sparkleballs on timers in her backyard landscaping. Even just one can spice up an outdoor event.  On Memorial Day, when my friend Tate plugged in the dancing sparkleball out on his deck,  it was like a celebrity had arrived.   Guests were dazzled, and a few had sparkleball stories to tell, like Jeff whose dad had made them in Michigan.  Sparkleballs do love a party, but they’re just as happy to spend a quiet evening under the stars.