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. Photos really don’t do them justice. Time to make one and see :)
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.) 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.
Every New Year’s Eve there’s a party crawl in Steven Wilson’s Baltimore neighborhood. Neighbors visit 5-6 houses, then end up at Steven’s house. This year he decided to go all out with a spectacular Midnight Ball Drop. Starting the project in early December, Steven built a mega-sparkleball with 10 oz hard cups, foil tape, and Applights. He ran PVC pipe through the middle so the ball would slide down a pole and made a support out of wire hoops from Michael’s. And that’s just the half of it. Check out the rooftop lowering system.
With a little January love your sparkleball will last longer. (Guy’s sparkleball lasted27 years.) Whether you plan to store it till next Christmas or leave it up year-round, here’s a good routine.
Loosen gunk in the cups with a dry paintbrush.
Blast out any debris with a shopvac blower. Or compressed-gas duster. Finish with a wipe of windex.
Mend loose cups.
If storing, make sure sparkleball is dry then cover with a drycleaning bag or trash bag.
Hang out of the way, from garage or closet ceiling.
I’m also happy to say, that if you do nothing, your sparkleball, like a good dog, will still live a very long time and give joy no matter how dirty it is. Please share below, if you have any storage or cleaning tips. :)