Monday, August 18, 2008

Scott Seltzer

This week I am featuring an interview with the very talented Scott Seltzer. This interview actually has a lot of personal meaning for me because one of the first juggling videos I watched online was his Open Juggling performance from one of the Israeli juggling conventions. It is not a cliché when I say that his juggling is truly inspiring.

Behind the Juggler Presents: Scott Seltzer

Name, how old are you, and for how long have you been juggling?
My name is Scott Seltzer and I’m 37 years old. I learned how to juggle 3 balls in 1978 but started juggling more seriously (clubs, 4+ balls, passing) in October of 1992 when I came to Israel. My first roommate at the time had just gotten into juggling. He had “The Complete Juggler,” some professional beanbags, and Beard Beach Clubs. Since I had a good foundation with the cascade (14 years by then) and a few basic tricks, it was easy for me to learn clubs and new tricks quickly. We had a blast practicing and put together a routine for a talent show. That was really the start of my serious obsession with juggling.

At what point did you know that juggling was what you wanted to do, and would make up
a critical part of your life?
I’ve been totally obsessed since 1993.

To date, what is the most unusual thing or set of things that you have juggled?
My trademark in my shows is egg juggling. I devised numerous humorous ways to juggle them and splatter them all over me and around me. I do tricks with 3, 4, 5, and sometimes 7 eggs. I break about 2 dozen or more eggs in every show.

I also perform with a 10 kilo pumpkin (or watermelon) and 2 balls. And I have another routine where I play a kazoo while I juggle it and 2 balls. I never performed it, but I can juggle and play a song with 3 kazoos while showering them in and out of my mouth. Another original thing I sometimes perform is 3 opened hedgetrimmers (think a big X with 2 handles and 2 sharp blades).

What has your juggling career entailed so far?
I started street performing in the summer of 1993 on Ben Yeudah Street, a pedestrian mall in the center of Jerusalem. It started out more like practicing in public but some performer friends gave me advice and by the end of the summer I had a fairly polished torch juggling routine.

In the fall of 1993, I got a great gig at a Roman-themed restaurant in the Old City of Jerusalem. I did a comedy juggling routine that included juggling impressions of different religions and of ancient Roman architecture. I ate apples, juggled a watermelon, and did fire juggling, too. I did about 200 shows/year there (in the evenings so also maintained my day job in hi-tech) and worked there until 1999.

I took a break from performing when I moved out to the country and had my first child in 1999.

In 2003, I started my comeback and did a few big community shows and started doing more birthdays and bar/bat mitzvahs, which is basically what I do these days. I’ve also performed in malls and schools and other large community events.

In the summer of 2007, I was on the TV show, "HaMofaah HaBilti Nitpas" (the Israeli version of America's Got Talent) doing something I had never performed before. They said that they already had enough jugglers participating so I put together a routine of balancing things on my face. It was fairly standard balancing stuff, but I had one big trick – throwing a baseball cap behind my back to a nose balance and then juggling 3 clubs while maintaining the balance. You can watch a clip here:

I still work in hi-tech but do a handful of shows each month.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I was the finale performer at the Israeli show of the Israeli juggling conventions a few years ago. It’s great to be recognized by your peers and I still get people coming up to me years later telling me how much they liked my act.

How many of each type of props do you juggle?
Balls: I perform 15-20 throws of 7, I can qualify 8, and do more than a flash with 9.
Clubs: I perform 5 clubs and in practice can do dozens of tricks with 5 clubs. I have done more than flash with 6 and 12 throws of 7 clubs.
Rings: I don’t really juggle rings but can do many tricks with 5 and have flashed 7.

I don’t work on numbers at all anymore. My favorite is really tricks with 5 balls or clubs.

Do you specialize in any auxiliary props or non juggling circus arts?
I am pretty good with a yo-yo and diabolo. I can do basics with nearly everything.

Generally speaking, do you wear socks while you juggle?
Only when people pay me enough money (i.e. when I perform)! I wear sandals 365 days/year and I practice in them or barefoot.

At what types of venues do you usually perform?
Bar/bat mitzvahs and birthday parties are my main thing. Occasionally community shows in malls, community centers, synagogues, municipal functions, etc. Since I have a day job, I can’t really do schools and camps and such.

Anything amusing or unique ever happen at one of these shows?
Well, I’ll share with you some of my favorite audience responses. Once a parent told a girl to thank me for my performance and she came over and said, “I love you!” - that was truly sweet! Once a very little boy didn’t know how to express himself with words so he just came over and gave me a hug. Recently I even had an ultra-Orthodox rabbi give me a hug after my show. I don’t get them often, but I’ve had a few standing ovations which are amazing.

Are you a clown?
Nope. My show is fairly technical but I do have some humor that is fairly clown-like. I do eat apples in my show.

What makes up a standard juggling practice for you?
I mostly work on 4 and 5 clubs. I never warm up and for years started with 5 clubs but recently have been starting with 4 clubs sometimes. I have a small handful of tricks that I’ve been working on for years and occasional new tricks. I can spend 30 minutes or more on repeating attempts of a single trick and I never get bored or frustrated. At my age and infrequent practice regimen, I don’t improve so quickly anymore – but I still have a great time trying!

What is it that will make you want to pick up your props tomorrow and keep juggling?
I really love juggling. I like the challenge of trying what was once impossible. I still impress myself with new accomplishments. I also enjoy creating new tricks and showing off for jugglers.

What goals are you currently working towards?
Some tricks I’ve been working on recently are (all with clubs): 5551 with 5s backcrossed (in either triples or doubles), 5551 with the 5s backcrossed and the 1 placed on my nose directly into 3 clubs with balance, 3 clubs with a balance and continuously changing which club is balanced (placing in a new club just as one is dropped down). With 5 clubs: 95551, backcrosses, 4 clubs with balance, 744, and 645.

Which prop is your favorite to juggle? Any specific reasoning?
Recently I’m more into clubs but a couple summers ago I almost only worked on balls (5 ball 3- and 5-up pirouettes, 5 and 6 ball siteswaps, and 7 ball endurance).

Are there any specific jugglers that inspire you?
Sure. Historically, I’ve been impressed with Evgeni Bilauer, Alexander Kiss, Francis Brunn, Bobby May, and Bob Bramson. Modern Technical favorites include Jason Garfield, Thomas Dietz, Anthony Gatto, Vova Galchenko. And Creative Technical stars are Jay Gilligan, Wes Peden, Ori Roth, Yanos, Sebas.

Do you have any “claims to fame” in the juggling community?
I had a lot of influence in the mid to late 90s because I had a fair amount of unique online videos.

I created the IJDb video database and was instrumental in creating the IJDb. I’m the 20th most prolific writer on rec.juggling (according to IJDb stats).

In the Israeli juggling community, I’m very active. I’m involved in the organizing of our convention and I’ve performed numerous times. People still come up to me at the convention every year telling me how much they liked my routines that I performed several years back.

I have one of the biggest commercial video collections in the world.

Where do you see yourself in terms of juggling in a month, a year, 10 years?
I would love to practice more and perform more but I’d be satisfied with more of the same.

It’s interesting about when I get older. I’ve already got some grey hairs and I wonder if I should change some of the silliness out of my show? Will it be appropriate for someone in their late 40s? I’m not sure what will be…

Art or Sport?
I’ll pass for now on this one. I’ve written a bit on r.j about it so search the archive.

Balls, Beanbags, or Russians?
I’ve been using SuperCharlie bags in practice and performance since he first created them in the early 90s. He changed the recipe for his main line but still makes me a custom version that are the most catchable bag I’ve ever used.

Generally, I reserve the last question for anything the juggler would like to let us know about him that the rest of the questions didn’t have time for, but this time around I’m going to take the opportunity to express my personal thanks to Scott for everything he has given the juggling community over the years. Without the IJDb and the Video section I can’t imagine ever being able to get into juggling. His juggling is inspiring and I really wish everyone would take the chance to watch one of his videos and to take the time to thank him for his hard work.

Interested in being interviewed for “Behind the Juggler”? E-mail me at

-David Stephens
Just your typical Juggler Next Door
Sponsored by:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Flying Clipper

Over the past couple of months I have had the privilege of testing and juggling of Flying Clipper’s Tossaballs. The specific model I was using was their Hybrid 2.55” inch Orange Balls.

Flying Clipper can be found here:

The specific ball I was using:

I figure that rather than giving a typical review, I would present this as only I can, as a Behind the Juggler interview with Jim Fitzgerald, co-founder of Flying Clipper. So, “Behind the Juggler” proudly presents:

Behind the Balls: Flying Clipper

It seems that Flying Clipper has a huge focus on footbagging, and understandably so from reading through your “About Us” and FAQ sections. When did the company start moving towards incorporating Juggling Bags as well?

We have been making juggle balls since the very beginning. All if our footbag designs were enlarged to make juggle balls. As you have read, we (the partners) followed the footbag sport and competed at the world championship level but we have also been jugglers for fun. Most footbaggers juggle. Check out Peter Irish. He is doing the kind of movement that footbaggers have dreamed about for years. Using hands and feet together is what is fueling our latest line of products, the Hybrids.

How many workers does the company employ for the actual assembly of the bags?

Right now about 20 people, the partners being retired from production sewing for a few years now, sewing more than 100,000 footbags and 50,000 juggle balls between them.

Obviously your bags have a high number of panels in comparison with other Juggling props on the market, what advantages do you see the extra panels give your bags?

We have made juggle balls from four panel construction to sixty two panel construction. The roundest pattern we have found is the pentagonal dodecca hedron..
We also are designing a rhomboidal dodecca hedron for a near future release.

How do you find the process of designing and making juggling bags compares to footbags?

Designing is the fun part, coming up with new ideas to make a better “mouse trap”. All of our products are hand made and therefore labor intensive. Juggle balls are as easy or difficult to design as footbags, but of course the parameters for each are different.

Explain about your concept of “hybrid” juggling balls, what makes them “hybrid”?

Hybrids are our attempt to “crossover” as it were, and bridge the gap between hands and feet.
Also hybrid juggle balls/footbags are an attempt to add heavy and light filler on the interior of the ball in an innovative way. The concept isolates heavy filler on the outside rim of the ball while light filler material on the interior gives the ball volume. Heavy filler material is trapped between two layers of fabric leaving most of the balls weight on the outside of the rim. The physics of such a design, we believe, gives the ball several advantages over all other hand made balls.
1. true flight
2. double durability (two layers of material)
3. rolls like a contact juggle ball
4. easy to stall
5. complete washability
6. keeps its shape

In my experience a lot of bags are filled with millet or a similar material, what fillings do the Tossaballs use?

Footbags are filled with plastic pellets or sand. Our juggle balls traditionally have been filled with millet (seed) or plastic pellets. Millet never has set well with us because organic material breaks down, especially if it gets wet and also some people are allergic to millet, etc.. On the other hand plastic pellets usually do not give the juggle ball enough weight. Adding crushed rock adds enough weight to make a superior juggle ball.

Where did the name “Flying Clipper” originate?

Our home town of Eugene, Oregon is the birth place of footbag freestyle. As far as anyone knows, the first footbag trick ever done was the flying clipper and that is how we took our name.


Tossaball® is our registered trade name for our line of juggle balls and they are very “Tossable”. We considered other names but felt Tossaball was the most playful.

I know your products have a lot of history behind them, so tell us about the history as well as awards and competitions that your products have won.

As far as competitions or awards for our products, I cannot say, however we have been producing footbags and juggle balls for more than 26 years now. Approximately 20 years ago an article was sent to us that showed the results of several different manufacturers’ juggle balls being dropped from a ten story building onto the street in Chicago. Ours was stated as the only one that survived the impact. We build our products to last. Rhys Thomas of the Portland (Oregon) jugglers has Flying Clipper juggle balls he has juggled that are more than 15 years old and are still going strong. Many pro jugglers and footbaggers come to our products because of our quality standards and our commitment to service. I guess that is more of a reward than an award but it keeps us going.

End of Interview

Needless to say, Flying Clipper creates incredibly durable and well made balls.

I might as well tell a little about my personal juggling ability so that anyone reading this can know where my opinions are originating. Juggling wise, I can juggle 7 balls, but I spend the vast majority of my time working on 3-5. I am particularly proud of some of my three ball work, but find no pattern more relaxing then a 5 ball cascade. As many jugglers know, the bulk of my time contributing to the juggling world is spent working on the Synergy Projects, as well as with my Behind the Juggler interviews.

As far as balls go, I have juggled my fair share since I started juggling. Originally I used “klutz” bags, and then moved on to lacrosse balls. I can most likely attribute the cleanness of my 5 ball pattern to the use of lacrosse balls and their tendency to fly away if even the slightest collision is made. After that I started to make my own which was quite an experience unto itself. I made everything from 4 -8 paneled bags, though they were hardly ever spherical. I currently am using 6 panel fergie-like bags.

These hybrid Tossaballs are certainly bags that I could not even dream of making on my own. The intricate design patterns detailed above are simply a wonder to behold. Flying Clipper creates a bag that no other juggling company can, because they have the knowledge of footbaggers. I have had the privilege of watching Peter Irish perform and there is nothing quite like the kind of manipulation that footbaggers can accomplish when mixing juggling and footbagging. That is exactly the idea that Flying Clipper is attempting to capture with their hybrid products. It is the fusion of footbags and juggling bags.

I personally do not footbag, and I so I bring a different perspective. I did wonder at first how these neon orange bags were going to hold up and handle. The first thing that of course deserves note is the fantastic color. I really needed something that would show up against both sky and gym, and these balls definitely do the trick. Of course the shape is another aspect that cannot be understated. The 12 panel hybrid design creates a near perfect sphere. Thanks to the unique “hybrid” design, they do not lose their shape or “sag” while they are in the air. At the same time they are able to come to a stop after being dropped without rolling away. They accomplish this much better than my set of MMX balls.

An understandable worry regarding any set of bags is how they will break in over time. Tossaballs not only break in to a comfortable and relaxing feel, but they do not lose their shape. No doubt due to their “hybrid” design and mixed filling, the bags consistently keep their roundness. In fact one comment I got about these bags were that the person thought they were oranges. In this case that is a definite compliment to Flying Clipper for creating great looking bags. [Trust me, I know about citrus comments because my personally handmade yellow bags were once called “lemons” and that’s how I know I did a bad job sewing them]

In terms of normal wear and tear, I would say that these bags hold up equally if not better than most that I have juggled. Simple soap and water will clean up scuffs and marks. Cleaning also brings back a bit of the luster of the color which understandably will begin to fade over time.

At first I only used these bags for my 4 + work because I did not like the feel that they had with my 3 ball patterns. Over time as they began to break in, I found them a solid substitute for some of my lower patterns. These balls have a unique property in that they almost seem to “float” through the air. Physics tells me that this isn’t the case, but be that as it may I still feel as though they have a great ability to hang. For this reason I really enjoy using these bags for my juggling with more than three objects. They really give patterns a great solid look and feel that cannot be found in “saggy” or “rock hard” bags.

Tossaballs look great, feel great, and juggle great; I have no qualms about slapping my seal of approval on these bags!