We’ve all come up with crazy ideas from time to time, but most of us never have the patience to see them through. Not Ben Ahles. The artist spent 10 months carefully gluing 42,000 matches into a giant sphere, only to let it burn in an oddly satisfying video. And all this magic happened with just $500, a lot of hot glue, and even more patience.
The idea came after he’d been playing with some matches and wondered if they would form a sphere if he kept gluing them together. So naturally, he had to find out. But he didn’t just go into things blind; Ahles actually used modeling software to see how many matches he would need and what the final sphere would actually look like. The resulting model was so data-heavy that it crashed his computer while rendering it.
So, the gluing began. “I think the best way to describe this process is to articulate my mental and emotional state while gluing matches together for hours upon hours,” he shares. The sphere started to take shape, but at a much slower pace than he’d anticipated, so Ahles quickly figured out that by lining the matches up in the same direction, he could grab and glue even quicker.
There was a hiccup in the middle when the boxes of 300 matches he’d been buying weren’t enough to complete even one layer of the sphere—as it was at its widest point. But, he pushed through and persevered. “I kept going! And it kept growing! And it started to look less like a sphere and more like a child’s approximation of a sphere. I had to let go of the idea of perfection when I saw that I hadn’t been able to maintain a perfect growth just by eyeballing the placing of the matches. I guess I could have templated the curvature and really tried to nail it but I was so far past the point of caring that I just wanted to get it done.”
In the end, he ended up with a slightly warped, but still distinct, sphere that even differs in its coloration. Though all the matches he used were green, it’s possible to see striations of different color throughout the match sphere, making it even more dynamic. And then comes the exciting part—watching it burn. Ahles captured this moment from four different angles out in the snowy woods and the resulting video is hypnotic.
Artist Ben Ahles spent 10 months creating a giant sphere from 42,000 matches.