Rob Brouillard makes and hides marbles. A physical therapist by day, he started the hobby after taking a Groupon class at Boise Art Glass. Many people there work with glass full time, but Brouillard didn’t have that luxury, so he slowly learned to craft marbles.
“I just needed more practice. That was a thing. Anything you want to get good at, you want to practice,” Brouillard said. “Five to 10 hours a week — you’ll get good at it.”
At an art fair, one customer asked if he hid any of his marbles. Brouillard had never heard of such a thing and was surprised to find that dozens of people in the Boise area bought, hid, and put clues online so that other people could find their marble.
“So I’m like, ‘Oh, I’ve been making all these marbles, I didn’t know what I was going to do with them,’” Brouillard said.
This is essentially how it works. A person hides a marble in a tucked-away location, like in a bush or underneath a plant, so that random people do not stumble upon it. They then post a clue or two of where it is on the Facebook group, World’s Biggest Marble Hunt. This clue could be a picture of it and the location, just a picture and a riddle.
Brouillard is a contributor to the nationwide marble hunt hosted by World’s Biggest Marble Hunt. In mid-to-late July, the organization will release a clue to the location of a treasure chest of hundreds of marbles valued at $45,000. This is all to celebrate the United Nations naming 2022 to be The International Year of Glass.
This chest is filled with marbles made by artists from around the country, some 1-inch in diameter and others the size of a tennis ball. On the same day that the organization releases the clue, every artist, including Brouillard, will post a clue to the location of a hidden replica of their marble in the chest.
“(During the pandemic) people were kind of mad about everything, but at least you get on this group and there wasn’t a bunch of politics,” Broulliard said. “It was just having fun and being outdoors and stuff like that.”
As a medium, marbles take a lot of precision and have some unforgiving aspects.
“Imagine painting and being three-quarters of the way through your painting,” Brouillard said, “and you accidentally do one small thing and you just ruin the whole project. There are parts of the project that you only get one chance to do it right.”
Some of the glass and materials are so thin that it breaks easily, and also some materials can’t be untwisted.
Though there is so much beauty in marbles. The different colors in marble mainly come from metals, like opal, silver and even gold. Even the tiniest bit of opal gets magnified by the layers of glass, allowing artists to make complex, beautiful designs.
Some of Brouillard’s designs are geared at pop culture. For the release of “Spiderman: No Way Home,” he hid a Spiderman-themed marble in the bushes outside Cinemark Majestic Cinemas. He then posted on Facebook a picture of the marble in the foliage, without even saying which theater or having any buildings in the photo, and it was found in three hours.
“I put a marble on top of a wine stopper. My wife hid it up near Bogus Basin in November, so it was snowy,” Brouillard said. “So she put it in the spot and she posted it at nine o’clock at night. And someone found that at 6 a.m. They’re like ‘I know exactly where the spot was.’’’
Brouillard sells his marbles online and many of his buyers make his work a part of little treasure hunts. When he hides his own marbles, it is almost like free advertising, because he’ll sometimes get people from across the country, as well as locals, commenting on how beautiful his art is.