short answer: round thingsmade out of lights and plastic cups.
long answer: Sparkleballs popped up in the 1970s, hanging from RVs in campgrounds, over playroom pingpong tables, and outside homes at Christmas. They may have been inspired by styrofoam coffee cup Bubble Lamps, which were a big craft thing back then.
Sparkleballs were made of Solo cups melted together with a soldering iron. Today new methods of connecting the cups have replaced burning plastic, and all kinds of cups and lights and shapes are used. (In Italy sparkleball snowmen are big at holidays.) However, all sparkleballs are built by people. Nothing commercial has ever fully replicated a sparkleball.
No one knows who invented sparkleballs or where the first one was made. One couple kept a sparkleball going for 27 years, which is pretty amazing. And in Fullerton, California, neighbors hang over 500 sparkleballs during the holidays!
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.
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. :)
There are two ways to go with your New Year’s Eve sparkleball. Giant drop-the-ball-at-midnight dazzle. (and see below) And champagne-sparkly-chic like Nargiza, Nick, Misha, and the Pinks. Happy New Year! (PS. still time to order a sparkleball kit for NYE >>>>)
see more on Pinterest and in these New Year’s Eve posts. . .
Recently I received photos of the holiday display at Slick’s Boutique in Boothbay Harbor Maine. There are 38 original sparkleballs in all and it’s absolutely magical. (We’re talking 1500 cups and 3800 clear lights.) While Slick’s dazzling display is unique, below are a few more sparkleballs-in-shops for your cheer and pleasure :)
Give the one, the only Make-A-Sparkleball Kit. Comes in your choice of ten light colors. Or do like Tate does. He buys The Kit without Lights and adds strings of solar mini-lights for his friends and family. (You can add LED or motion lights!) Guaranteed fun for all ages. Two-day shipping to most locations.
Questions? Leave a comment or email kits @ sparkleball.com