Of course people come to the European Juggling Convention to juggle, but they also attend to stock up on hard to find props, and on my third day of exploring EJC for CircusTalk, I was lucky enough to hang out with two of the biggest international prop suppliers, Play and Henry’s on Saturday afternoon after a stint of volunteering.
While the volunteer staff was scrambling to relocate the day’s Gala show to the main hall space due to ongoing winds, I busied myself as a volunteer hanging up signs all around camp to let folks know of the change of plans. This also gave me the opportunity to see every aspect of EJC, including the far off buildings that house whip tournaments and unicycle competitions.
Eventually, just before the traders tent opened up for one last frenzied day of getting gear, I popped in to visit Davide Cattaneo, founder of Play, and Heiko Meyer, co-founder and managing director of Henrys. I wanted to know what the benefits were to attending EJC for a companies that do much of their sales via online ordering and national distribution networks.
Meyer of Henry’s says one of the reasons they set up shop is because when building their products, they love to get live feedback from jugglers. In fact, they work with many pro jugglers who test their prototypes. “We work a lot with schools also and if you make a diabolo for people who juggle five diabolos there is a different need than there is for children at school.” They try to catch all of the important juggling conventions, “Its international and if you have a new item, especially for juggling, people from all over come here, so its the best advertising. Its much more easy than advertising in books or papers because you can show people the props. They can try it. For us its important if they find it good or not good. Its feedback and it doesn’t make any sense to sell something that nobody wants. Its the pricing, is is too expensive…? We find out everything here.”
Henry’s is best known for their clubs especially, but also for their diabolos and yo-yos, They also manufacture beans bags and balls now. Meyer described how they send their distributors all of the parts for the clubs and diabolos, and teach them how to put them together, because the trend for customized multi-colored clubs makes it difficult to stock every option. He demonstrated how he puts together a Henrys club, showing me the ash wood dowels as he fixed a huge box of used clubs people had dropped off for repair, set between him and Henry. Both founders spent the majority of their 10 days here at the workshop seat repairing and sprucing up old clubs for free.
Cattaneo of Play gave me a tour of the wide array of props they sell, from aerial to clown noses, and even Quat Props juggling board. Their products have a sleek look to them and come in some fancy color schemes, including pastels and glitter. The big crowds formed to ogle their colorful variety and sizes of poi and juggling balls, or to customize their own clubs right on sight. Cattaneo demonstrated the making of their clubs, and unlike Henry’s, even their dowel rods were customizable. PX3s and Px4s are simply fancy number systems for the material, weight and flexibility of the dowel. Cattaneo explained how the needs of a street juggler who juggles for hours would differ from a show performer and a new juggler. For the street performer, he’d recommend a strong, flexible core, and for the show performer a heavier rigid one to avoid breaks. The new juggler would get the lightest model, presumably so they didn’t give up from cracked fingernails and callouses before they got hooked for life.
Photo by Kim Campbell