begleri - worlds on a string

Aroundsquare has been working on a little project behind the scenes for a few months, and it's time to post a little teaser. I've got okay focus when I need it, but I've never been a fan of just sitting still, and I've always liked having something to fidget with, and better still if there are tricks to learn. I grew up on yo-yos, but I would get in trouble for playing them in class. I spun pens, I doodled, I kept busy however I could. I wish I had known about begleri back in my school days. 

Begleri is a traditional folk toy from Greece. As near as I can tell, it originated as an adaptation of the rosary or "kolomboi" which would often be flipped around in different ways to keep the hands busy. Begleri boils this down to its essence, with just two beads.. one on either end of a short string. The beads can be made from anything, but most players seem to favour heavier materials like stone or metal, as opposed to plain wood or cheap plastic. The begleri can be twirled around and between the fingers, with moves and tricks similar to what modern pen spinners and balisong flippers perform, as well as others unique to begleri itself. 

Having created Monkey Knuckles over a decade ago, and having played around with all sorts of size variations over the years, I couldn't help but note the similarities. I made my first set of begleri from string of metal nuts I got from the local hardware store, and I immediately took to the toy. I started playing it all the time.. partly because of satisfaction I get from a smooth line of tricks, and partly because of how portable it is. I can take it and play it anywhere.. walking, sitting down, carrying groceries.. whatever. I played the heck out of that first set, and eventually decided to start refining the design. 

What has followed has been a long series of experiments and prototypes. Over the past few months, Aroundsquare has been hard at work on a collaborative project called MonkeyChucks, with an unannounced and freaking awesome partner, which aims to bring a refined and heavily play-tested version of this classic toy to players around the world. We've also been hard at work honing our own skills and flows. Check out our latest over on Instagram @aroundsquare .. look for #15sfreestyle and #worldsonastring

Matthew Hiebert 2016-01-15