Seattle inventors create a more realistic souvenir: `RainGlobes'

Dec 20, 2012

File this story under the category, "I should have thought of that." A team of Seattle entrepreneurs has created a souvenir that pokes fun at our soggy climate. Their invention? "RainGlobes" - that's their trademarked name.

Yes, it’s true, snow has actually fallen this week. But come on – on any given day, you’re more likely to hear "rain, rain and more rain" on the weather forecast. 

So why do they sell Seattle snow globes? Wouldn’t a rain globe make more sense? That’s what Josh James thought years ago and then floated the idea by his friend Fred Northup.

"And so, I heard that idea and said, I’m on it," Northup said.

Sounds easy enough, but it turned out to be a huge challenge. It’s taken seven years since that conversation to actually have RainGlobes on the market. Northup’s background is in video production and comedy improv – he didn’t know much about the science of water. It took him two years to figure out how to make the raindrops drop.

"Water, because of its viscosity, either is going to cling if there’s a little hole and not actually go through the hole, or once it’s a really big hole, it’s just going to pour through," Northup said. 

But he tinkered away and created a rough prototype made of Tupperware, cocktail skewers and duct tape. Then as luck would have it, he sat next to Jeremy Kolenbrander on an airplane. Kolenbrander makes IV drips used in hospitals. A-ha! Kolenbrander took the prototype and made it into a real RainGlobe.

You tip it upside down, the water fills up in the clouds, you turn it over again and it rains all over the space needle, the ferry and Mt. Rainier for 20 seconds.

"I definitely think people appreciate the humor of the rain globe, which is why across the bottom it says, `Surprise! It’s raining in Seattle,'" Northup said. 

And now, Northup has even earned some science cred. He’s one of the people listed on the patent they got for their RainGlobe.

"Our patent is titled, `Device for creating and displaying liquid medium movement within a vessel containing a dioramic scene,'" Northup said.

In addition to Seattle, there are RainGlobes for Portland, Washington state and even Noah’s Ark. New ones are planned for the Oregon Coast and Ketchikan, Alaska. They’re working through their initial shipment of 10,000 and are planning to order another, bigger batch that will get here just in time for June Gloom.