One of the main goals I had when I first set out designing begleri was to establish some standard forms and models. There were already a lot of begleri out there, but they were mostly being developed as one-off or small batch works of art. When I started playing, I looked around online and didn't know what made a good set... what weight, what size, what materials, what shape. When I looked online for videos, I noticed that different players were all playing with different string lengths, and that added to my confusion. It seemed a bit like the wild west. I wanted a set and setup that I could be confident investing my time in, with the expectation of being able to do a good range of tricks. I did a bit of research and went straight to the foundations... I bought a bunch of sets of the standard issue Greek metal begleri, from different sellers. This seemed to be the best standard available to work from. After talking to a few of the best players I could find online, I got some solid tips for string length, and I was completely hooked on the toy.
My first real begleri design was the set I called the Little Bosses. They were small, round, and stainless steel. I loved those heavy little monsters, and ended up doing a few different versions of them in small batches. After gaining some skills and some confidence, I felt like I was ready to design something a bit more bold.. a set of begleri optimized for the skill toy market. I wanted it to be bigger and brighter than what was available, so that it would be good for filming, and it had to feel solid in the hand. I partnered with MonkeyfingeR design, another skill toy company famous for its beautiful anodized yo-yos, and the Wukongs were born. The Wukongs gained some good traction, and largely fulfilled my initial goal of establishing a standard model that would be a reliable starting place for new players, and something that they could use as a reference in discussing other possibilities. But my own thinking developed further from that point, and I started to feel some limitations with the spherical beads, and of course, I wanted to go titanium.
After a ton of draft designs, and several rounds of prototyping, I eventually finalized the design for the Titans. This new gumdrop design was unlike anything else out there at the time, and allowed for the shape, weight, and feel that I was after. I designed the Titans to be a more technical set of begleri.. smaller than the Wukongs, making some of the more intricate tricks easier, and heavier, which slows down the play and increases the momentum to carry the beads through rolls and aerials at a steady speed. Not only that, but I quickly realized that I could use roughly the same design, and by sizing it up slightly and making it out of aluminum, I could add an option which satisfied the initial goals of the Wukongs as well, and possibly even better... The Titan AL Sport series is, bright, smooth, and extremely playable, at a very accessible cost. This satisfied one additional goal which I set mid-stride... As the begleri community has grown, I wanted very much to make these products as accessible as possible, so that anyone wanting to get into this new hobby would be able to get in on them. While the titanium Titans are a premium product, and admittedly a bit pricy, their aluminum brothers are a much more accessible alternative.
The support for the Titans has been amazing, and the feedback has been awesome, and has motivated to keep working hard to help grow the begleri community, to develop new designs, and to imagine what this great little hobby might become. I've heard from people who have upped their game with the Titans. I've heard from collectors who appreciate their beauty as design objects. I've heard from people with anxiety and attention disorders, that have found relief through playing them. And I've heard from people with injuries such as RSI and boxer fractures that have been experiencing positive results in rehabilitating their hands and wrists while using them. In the image on this post is a small sample of the unsolicited feedback I have received, through emails, social media posts, and direct messages. And below, I want to include one additional user review, which was posted as a comment on one of my earlier posts by a very experienced begleri slinger who picked up a set of Titans near the start.
"This is an end user review. Unpaid, unbiased and unapologetic. I traveled to Greece in 1998 and I was immediately intrigued by locals playing with begleri. I bought a couple of pairs and promptly brought them back to California for some substantial use and abuse. I noticed that any casual observers of my begleri use were immediately transfixed by the hypnotic motion a good begleri routine presents. I fielded countless questions from curious individuals who had never been exposed to begleri play before. Unfortunately, the sets I bought in Greece ended up being destroyed after a couple of months due to being manufactured from resin / plastic. Having gotten hooked on playing with the damn things I needed replacements. I've made more than a few sets from off the shelf items or purchased cheap sets online which functioned marginally but never felt or performed all that well. This continued for the past 18 years. And then I stumbled upon aroundsquare's Titans. I bought a pair of natty Titans and upon their arrival I immediately knew they were a game changer. Literally. The look and feel of the titans is unprecedented in my fairly length experience with purchasing and making begleri. The weight and hand feel of the titans sets the bar far above anything else I've ever come across before. The kinetic sound they make while being used is also vastly satisfying like cracking your knuckles in church. The attention paid to the design of the titans was clearly paramount for the aroundsquare guys and they truly have nailed it. I've now spent countless hours putting my titans through the paces and I love the light and unique wear that they now exhibit. Like fingerprints, my titans are now completely unique and have a story to tell. My titans are now battle tested and have come out standing tall. In short, I will be purchasing a second set and if your on the fence I would advise plainly that they are worth it."
Matthew Hiebert 2016-10-09