Juggler's World: Vol. 39, No. 2

The Current Crop of Prop Makers

These and many others represent the people who support "Juggler's World" and serve the juggler with their products and philosophies ranging from the high tech to the low tech, and from the serious to the silly. Thanks to them all!

Prop makers have almost always been jugglers, former jugglers and fellow members of the IJA. Aside from Lind, Raynolds and Finnigan, Roger Montandon manufactured spinning plates and practice clubs, Homer Stack made spinning plates, basins and batons and Doc Crosby also made clubs.

Bill Dunham made a wide variety of props including spinner sticks that had a barber pole effect. George Toel, Arthurs Mann, Jack Parker, Earl Davis, Wally Bickman and Jay Green either made or sold props.

The late '70s saw a tremendous rise in the number of small, independent props makers. Some, like Jugglebug, Todd Smith and Brian Dube, have achieved such well-deserved success that they have widened their base from IJA membership to mass marketing and direct mail order solicitation of non-jugglers looking for a new hobby.

The vast majority, however, have remained small, often one or two person operations set up in a basement or garage. To introduce you to our advertisers, we present a brief look at the companies responding to an anniversary issue questionnaire.


Established in 1981 by Barb and Charlie Brister, this Seattle company puts out probably the only prop that looks as good standing still as in the air. Their original "Flying Penguini," designed by Barb to give Charlie something fun to juggle with, has led to a zoo full of cuddlies: "Piglets," "Jugglebirds," "Jugglebears," "Jugglesaurus," "Scotties," "Sailing Whales," and every dog lover's delight, "Catsup."

Quality control is maintained by their two-year-old, who establishes the cuddle quotient of each new design and tests each stitch for durability against mastication. The bags have the advantage that they can be used by the beginner who needs some companionship during the lonely dropping hours, and by the pro who can wave a good yarn with the menagerie.

The success of Chasley has permitted Charlie to quit his previous job and devote himself full-time to the business of juggling - inspiration to all purveyors of quality products and a good time.

Brian Dube Inc.

Indisputably one of the top-of-the-line prop makers, Brian Dube learned juggling from Carlo and John Grimaldi, immersed himself completely in it, and began his manufacturing business in 1975 in his apartment on Washington Square North in New York City.

Although he has achieved unprecedented success and moved his operations to a commercial factory building, the company remains small, with only three or four employees. Dube's strength is in his curiosity and aptitude for research which, combined with his mathematics background, has enabled him to take up where others have left off and hone the design of his props.

He has one of the largest variety of props offered today, ranging from several models of clubs and rings to video tapes, cigar boxes, devil sticks, spinning ropes and a shelf of books.

He claims a long line of innovations, including the first molded polyethylene club, first soft-handled European club, solid wood torches with nonasbestos wicks, rubberized devil stick handles, improved and unbreakable rings, the first vinyl no-bounce stage balls and cork numbers clubs.

Oh, yes, and one small item, perhaps the first real innovation since the Van Wyck club: the silicone ball. Not a bad track record!

Fly By Night Juggling Company

Design is also the strong point of Elliott Little of Talmage, California, who has perfected the illuminated juggling ball, a source of delight and frustration for jugglers for decades.

These are truly high tech marvels, innovations Little has been working on for 12 years, held up only in waiting for the right technology to appear.

The lit juggling balls he sells are self-contained, permanent, rechargeable and can be turned on and off either by returning the ball to its stand or by a little prestidigitation with magnets. Bobby May would have loved these!

Tim Graham

Another Seattle resident, Graham has been looking for the perfect cigar box for ten years. After rejecting the designs of others, he used his construction background to make his own, trying every material and method of fastening he could think of.

He finally settled on imported birch plywood and a strong wood glue, innovations he picked up from his hobby in radio-controlled boats.

Each box is about six ounces and covered with a puncture-proof mylar in a variety of colors, and is edged with cloth tape for good hand grip. Graham took a tip from Kris Kremo and left the ends bare, finding that the extra lightweight boxes perform better without having to adjust for end-grip, the friction of which can itself cause problems. Another case of one juggler pursuing the perfect product.

Janes Juggle Balls

Jane Hussey's deep involvement with the nonprofit Creative Arts Theater and School in Texas led to the necessity of making fancy show balls for the traveling mime and juggling troupe. She offers what she calls the ball-within-a-ball design, encasing an ordinary birdseed ball in a brightly colored outer ball.

This not only proves a durable and attractive combination, it lets you juggle twice the numbers you've been able to before! Another attractive product for the iron-pumping juggler are Hussey's "Moose Balls." These four-inch, two-pound monoliths are filled with "special juggling rocks" and, says Hussey, 20 minutes a day of Mill's Mess with these will cause you to buy a new wardrobe.

Jenack Circus Corporation

Although not incorporated until 1984, Bill Jenack has been in the business more than 50 years since he built and sold his first unicycle. He thereby claims the title as oldest continuously operating prop dealer serving the juggling and circus arts community.

Specializing in juggling cups, devil sticks, aluminum spinning plates and unicycles, Jenack sells largely to schools, jugglers, clowns and variety performers. This Westbury, N.Y., company has a long tradition of quality merchandise, family involvement and service to the juggling and circus arts world through teaching, writing grants and establishing three unicycle organizations (including the IUF) and the Friends of the Circus Arts.

Jenack also works in association with Circus Education Specialists, another nonprofit endeavor dedicated to preserving the circus arts through education and entertainment, a result of programs developed through the National Endowment for the Arts.

Juggler's Prop Shop

This Tulsa, Okla., company was founded in 1983 by Ruby Brown and David Kelley. They specialize in beanbags, particularly custom made bags with the a choice of materials.

They currently offer bags in leather, corduroy and shockingly attractive lame, as well as double-knit bags filled with polybeads that have proved successful throughout the country in school juggling classes. They also carry devil sticks, lacrosse balls and Sipa-Sipa footbags.

The Juggling Arts

The mother and daughter team of Mary Ann Schabinger and Dorothy Hardwicke established their San Jose company in 1979 out of affection for fellow jugglers. They offer a wide variety of props, including hard to find mouth sticks, ball and stick clubs for beginners, torches with fiberglass wicks, rolling globes, juggling tricks and an assortment of spinning plates, clubs, rings, balls and publications.

They were inspired and encouraged by Homer Stack, the 96-year-old veteran vaudevillian. Characteristically for this juggling-before-business team, they devoted most of their questionnaire to Stack.

Renegade Juggling Equipment

With shades of black light posters, patched jeans, beads and Grateful Dead music, this fluorescent, effervescent band of anachronistic anarchists was founded at the 1982 Santa Barbara convention and have been a welcomed force in juggling ever since.

Renegade Juggling Equipment was established the next year with the guidance of members conversant in mathematics and plastics technology. Their ability to manufacture all components in-house has enabled them to maintain a stringent watch over their products, which include 25 standard clubs in a dazzling array of decorations - nuclear missiles, L.E.D.-lit, spectrum rings, numbers clubs, swinging torches and a variety of less esoteric props.

Like Jugglebug and Jenack Circus - and one gasps to mention these three in the same mouthful - Renegade combines product sales with service to the community molded from their own anti-establishment credo.

They have been involved in numerous incidents, and have lately enjoyed immense success at conventions with their Beggar's Banquet and Club Renegade.

Their philosophy is that "rules are for followers and conservative forces will be repelled, circumvented, suspended or rehabilitated with the power of comedy."

Todd Smith

As a student at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, Todd Smith got tremendously excited about juggling in 1979. He ordered a set of clubs, but had to wait nine months for them to arrive. "I put two and two together and realized there was a demand for equipment that I could meet," he said.

Raised in a family of engineers and woodworking tinkerers, he began building clubs while still in college. When he graduated in 1981 he returned to his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and set up shop. Business sputtered along for about three years, but he says "it's gone haywire" since 1984, growing at a much faster rate than he imagined possible.

That's largely because of a wholesale program of sales to a couple of hundred stores and export of equipment to Europe, which now accounts for 20 percent of sales. He moved to a bigger shop in August 1985 and has just bought a 6,000 square foot building to expand again.

His biggest sellers are European clubs, but he also markets everything from rubber chickens to silicone balls to cigar boxes. Other big sellers are his one-piece molded Elan line of clubs and a new molded ring.

Of his three employees, the latest hired is an experienced cabinet maker who is helping develop a new emphasis on specialty items such as prop cases and custom-made props. Prop making is everything for Smith, who spends countless hours in the shop. It's not an easy business, but he says he can't imagine a better time than working on the cutting edge of juggling technology.

Zen Products

Speaking of yin and yang, Ann Worth founded her Zen Products in 1977 while living across from the Flying Karamazov Brothers in San Francisco. Their routine about imaginary Zen products like Milk of Amnesia, Consciousness Raisin' Bran, and Blank of America inspired her name. Their need for good balls inspired her product.

Worth likes the fact that the word Zen can mean anything from meditation to a moustache to a moray eel, leaving a nicely open-ended name for her enterprise. She works in her Victorian flat with bolts of fabric hanging from the walls and a back room crammed with balls, sticks and birdseed. Worth also serves the community through juggling schools at the Marin Renaissance Faire and teaches at other street festivals and parks.

The Current Crop of Prop Makers / Index, Vol. 39, No. 2 / jis@juggling.org
© 1996 Juggling Information Service. All Rights Reserved.