With the convergence of the juggling and flow arts worlds, Sean knew we'd get around to making juggling props. Thing about juggling props is that they drop. A lot. They are tossed to great heights, and they drop a lot until the juggler is really good, then they drop less. Electronics are not meant to take that kind of continual abuse. But over 15 years of designing and innovating electronics to be super durable and upholding a lifetime warranty, Sean felt ready to meet the challenge of designing an LED juggling club that could take a beating. It also helped that half our production team were jugglers and egging him on to make an LED club.
The beginnings: Following initial surveys with our local juggling community, we decided to build our LED club on existing club bodies, the most popular clubs were made by Henrys from Germany, and Play from Italy. Thing is, neither made clubs that could be used for a glow club. We felt that an LED club needed to feel like a regular juggling club, even with all the electronics and batteries, and all club bodies at the time were not designed to emit any light and you couldn't simply add electronics and have it feel like it should. We approached both companies about custom-making club bodies for flowtoys. Henrys got back to us first, and Sean went back and forth with them for months to dial in the right translucency and amount of material in each part to achieve the weight distribution he needed. Meanwhile Sean got to work on the circuit board, batteries and all the accessory parts to house the electronics. We ended up custom making batteries, designing our board from scratch, and sourcing and printing all the parts. It was truly a making in the making.
The prototypes: One of the first prototypes for the vision juggling clubs was released at Club Congress 2017. They looked amazing, but didn't feel quite right. Sean kept dialing it in with numerous rounds of prototyping of different weights of various club body parts, and was able to come up with a version that he felt was ready to share with more people. It was early July 2017 and we realized that we could make it to the European Juggling Convention (EJC) that year, as our kid was going to be staying with his parents during that time. We got last minute tickets to Lublin, and went for 3.5 days. We didn't sleep much, so it felt like a week ;)
The EJC-round of prototype vision clubs were very well-received. Bach played with them lots and loved them, Wes Peden gave the thumbs up, Jonglissimo gave us solid feedback. Everyone who saw them wanted to try them out and give us input. It was invaluable in taking the next steps to making it just right for all types of jugglers.
Beta: Again as with all product development. Everything took longer than we anticipated. (You'd think we'd be better at predicting development times and budgets but they are a moving target with totally new creations.) We finally launched a round of private beta at Club Congress 2018 - they were amazing. Except that we found out later that APA sent us (and a lot of other people) bad batches of LEDs, and it took months of solving this issue before we were able to decide on a launch date for our first public beta. The first public betas will be released at the International Jugglers' Association (IJA) festival in July 2018, and we will be releasing them on our site in early August 2018.
The vision clubs are perhaps our greatest creation yet, and the prop that came with the most interesting and varied challenges. Its design evolved over 2-3 years with the work of many different engineers, and the input and feedback of many different jugglers around the world. Already it's a club that feels so good, is so beautiful and complete, that it compels people who don't juggle to want to learn.
We believe that the vision clubs will mark a milestone not just in LED juggling props, but also in encouraging juggling as a pursuit to more people. They finally provide jugglers with props that look amazing at night, and that do not relegate them to practicing and performing their craft only in the daytime or in well-lit gymnasiums. We truly look forward to providing and serving our juggler friends and community with these clubs, and seeing what amazing opportunities emerge for them.