The Extraordinary Surprise Ball

via Mieke Willems

Contributer post by Andrea of Hula Seventy

If you've not yet seen Gina Namkung's surprise balls, you're in for a treat. A few years ago, Gina generously gifted me one. I was instantly taken with it but tucked it away someplace safe to save for a rainy day.

hardest part

Fast forward to said rainy day, January 2010. One dreary afternoon, my family and I decided to unravel it and oh, the fun! Buried between layers of bright-colored crepe paper, we uncovered the sweetest surprises-- confetti, paper balloons and vintage trinkets galore! (You can read a little bit more about our experience here)


The surprise ball is as magic as it looks. When it was all said and done, I wanted to wrap the whole thing back up and do it all again. The concept is simple enough but there's something special about the way Gina puts them together. I recently asked her a few questions about her process and of course, she was kind enough to share:


What's the story, the personal history behind the surprise ball?

GINA: It must be part of my DNA to have always been drawn to that small thing. The gum ball ring I saw a boy give to another girl in the first grade. A Cracker Jack prize (back in the day when you actually got a prize as opposed to a sticker). A teeny tiny toaster with an even smaller piece of plastic toast that my best friend had for her Barbie... I coveted with all of my envious heart. Let's not even talk about the cigar box full of trinkets from Boo Radley. A birthday party where we played "Pass The Parcel" was my welcomed initiation into the unraveling of a surprise. Eventually I found commercially made surprise balls and for a while, handmade ones (from an amazing kind of shop in Seattle that sadly closed its doors).


How did you first come to make the surprise ball? How long have you been making them?

GINA: It wasn't until my eldest son's second or third Easter when I made my first ball. Some twenty plus years ago! Since then, I've made them for countless birthday parties, more Easters and Christmas Stockings, for classroom show and tells, as presents for young and old and as it turns out, I made one for a friend who in turn ordered twenty for his store at- most fittingly- Easter time. That was in 2005.

the goods

I have to ask, where do you find all your amazing vintage goodies?

GINA: There's a shop in L.A. that's a treasure trove of things I like, but as much as I would prefer to source from independently owned shops for the quantities needed, the reality is that I couldn't do what I do were it not for the internet. Primarily through ebay and Etsy I've managed to "meet" many a wonderful seller. Twenty four boxes of baby crayons from a seller in England! A gross of celluloid pins with feathers from one in Philly. Vintage novelty keychains of Danish food products from another seller in Minneapolis. Dozens of paper honeycomb strawberries! Another gross of wonder flower seashells! So yeah, I spend a lot of time with my laptop.

what was left

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Gina! I knew your answers would be interesting.

I leave you all now with a terrific little surprise ball video from the folks over at Kade Spade New York. By the way, you can find Gina's Surprise Balls over at Kiosk. Each one contains a minimum of fifteen surprises, mostly vintage trinkets! And should you feel the need to make a ball of your own, check out these fun tutorials over at Craft Zine and Not Martha.

Again, many thanks to Gina! Who is clearly making the world a better place. One extraordinary surprise ball at a time.


Jan Halvarson


sr. calavera said...

it's so so cool =)
love the surprise balls!

Michelle said...

This is amazing!

Jennifer said...

I've been dreaming of having one of Gina's surprise balls of my own ever since I first heard about them. I love all the wonderful little trinkets you got in yours! And what a nice interview with the creator too :)

Lady Grey said...

what a sweet idea... I love it!

Melissa Righero said...

So awesome!!! I want to make my own now!

Kayla said...

Wow, that is such a neat idea! I would love to get one of those! Or make one.... :)


Megan said...

This is the best gift idea EVER. So glad you shared it!

Masha said...

Oh, that so cool! I'd love to get one and I can't even imagine a child's reaction to a surprise ball.

sMacThoughts said...

Oh this is just great!!! :D

jenni said...

these are so wonderful. i have made them for gifts for some of the special kids in my life its always the hit gift.

leel said...

i *have* to make some of these. my nephews and fun-loving family will love them! awesome...

Mallory said...

when i was little, my mother and i would make a surprise ball whenever i went to a birthday party. my gifts were always the biggest hits, mostly because of the packaging. / caitlin said...

i love surprise balls! i made my mom one for her birthday the other year..

gina's is beautiful! love that surprise balls are an example of fun for all ages! haha

KTBurn said...

Tiny Things Are Cute is an awesome website where you can purchase lots of these little knick knacks at a great price. Also, Party City has a lot of these types of toys in their party favors department, where you can buy them individual for just mere pennies.

I am going to make some as stocking stuffers for my family! :) Thanks for the cool idea!

-Katie Bush

Unknown said...

oh wow these are wonderful.
going to have to buy a couple, one for my friend and one for me!!!