Meet The Engraver
Ball artist Rion Prise
"When I purchased my first bowling ball the owner Jay Marine asked me if I
wanted to put my name on the ball. It was a Red Storm Reign edition. I
always had a thing for Greek Mythology so I named the ball itself "Hades""
Engraving on a bowling ball has been around since some of the first modern day balls were mass produced for the growing sport. All the big ball companies needed to tell the customers of the brand and a balls name. As the sport took off engravers offered simple initals to be etched onto your ball to personalize and later we began to see logos and designs. The art of making your ball more personal started to die with the new breed of technology and bowlers who began to have a bigger choice and a need for different types of balls. The age of two, three and four ball bags was here and like the premier soccer players of today buying cars bowlers invested in 4-10 balls or more in their arsenals so lost was the connection personally to a ball. That and players could no long be bothered adding initials and names to every ball and some pro shops no longer provided that service.
One man though has different ideas. We meet The Engraver aka American Rion Prise.
Great to meet you Rion, It is obvious you are a talented artist, what made you take your skills into engraving bowling balls?
When I purchased my first bowling ball the owner Jay Marine asked me if I wanted to put my name on the ball. It was a Red Storm Reign edition. I always had a thing for Greek Mythology so I named the ball itself "Hades" I asked what letter fonts were available and he said it was basic lettering. With that I started thinking of what I could do so I went home, picked up my hand engraver and started to play with what he had already engraved.
What is the process from start to finish when engraving a ball, do you just copy a pre made design freestyle onto a ball?
It all depends if a person wants a specific image or its a freestyle design. With specific images I freehand the image onto the ball and depending on the size, I will make a copy of the image and visually freehand it onto the ball at that scale. With freehand designs its really what comes to mind while i'm engraving the ball and I Let the creativity in my mind take it from there.
How long does a typical design take and which has been the longest in terms of detail?
On average a specific image that is requested can take anywhere from two to five hours depending on the level of detail. I can't really say which image has taken the longest considering I have not sat through from start to finish any image.
What tools do you use to perform the designs?
Well believe it or not one of my first tools I often use is a common screw, after that its an assembly of files and hand engraving instruments which all vary on the task at hand.
If someone came to you wanting a design on their ball, what would the cost be, does it depend a lot on the design and the time taken to complete?
Without a doubt, the level of detail and scale of the image involved has the most effect on the time it takes to complete the task. On average it can range from $50 to a few hundred depending on what's involved.
This not your day job of course, what do you do when you are not engraving designs?
My Day job is landscaping and masonary design, From day to day I could be doing anything from mowing lawns to installing walkways and patios.
Engraving is nothing new in bowling but your custom ball engraving is something many bowlers could be interested in, Is it a dream of yours to turn it into a business maybe?
I think on i'ts own it already has, Originally all I was looking to do was make the ball more personal to myself. As I did I started bowling with it, People saw what I had done and the next thing I knew people were asking me to personalize their bowling balls.
There is obviously a few routes you could take to turn your art into a business from pimp your ball website to enabling bowlers to take a standard polyester ball and come up with their own name for a ball to team logos. If a ball manufacturer contacted you for custom designs, limited editions or promotional balls is this something you would look at?
Without doubt the ability to offer the industry either by the manufacturer or the personal bowler and work for both I would more than be happy to share my talent.
Of all the designs you have done so far which one is your favourite?
The Autism awareness sash, Jay Marine who I got my first ball from has a son who has autism. After her saw what I did to the first ball I bought, he asked me if I could engrave the autism awareness sash onto his bowling ball. A simple thing to do but had the most impacted on me because I knew the trial and tribulations that a parent with an autistic child could go through on a daily basis. It mean more to me to have my art have meaning as a whole than anything.
If you could do a design something for any pro bowler who would it be?
Any design that I can offer to an individual pro bowler on it's own is enough for me. To make anyone stand out with the uniquness that they have among all others is the best end result that any of my art can do for this industry.
Some of the designs are quite big, how does this affect the bowling ball still being legal?
What I do is no different than how the manufacturers label their product. In my eyes as long as I am keeping the image outside of the bowlers track it has no effect on the performance or stability of the ball they are using. My work only makes the ball more personal to the person using it than anything else. *See notes at bottom of article
On a personal level how did you first get interested in bowling?
Jenifer Rose Vogel, We met in ate 2010. After some time had passed she asked if I would be interested in going bowling. We did and after a few weeks of playing I purchased my own ball. This became a regular outing for us and the rest is history.
Did you ever think your designs might attract the gaze of the World bowling community?
Not a chance, that was the furthest thing from my thoughts. At the time I was just trying to set my ball apart from anyone else's. Never did I think it wouldcreate the buzz that it has.
Is there anything you couldn't engrave or is the sky the limit?
I have not tried everything so an honest answer still awaits. But as I see it, the sky is the limit and i am always up for a challenge.
We would like to take this chance to thank Rion for the interview and we think we could be hearing a lot more about this uber talented artist in the future. If you would like a design or want to see more of Rions work you can visit his facebook page here
*Notes on legality of additional engraving
Please be aware though that engraving of bowling balls as
described above would make the ball illegal
according to USBC and WTBA and specifications. Scores rolled with an
illegal ball are subject to disqualification from any USBC or WTBA
Below is the relevant language from USBC’s equipment and specification
“Any bowling ball used in USBC certified competition must be approved
and identifiable as a ball listed in the “approved bowling ball” list ….
the ball’s original brand and product name logos must be engraved on
each ball. No additional logos or designs may be added to a
previously-approved ball without approval from the USBC.”
“The surface of the ball shall be free of all depressions or grooves of
specific pattern, except for holes or indentations used for gripping the
ball, identification lettering and numbers, and incidental chipping or
marking caused by wear. Engraved pictures, logos, and/or designs from
the manufacturer are not considered grooves of specific pattern.”