Creative Soccer Culture

Lifting The Veil On JonPaulsBalls’ Latest Project, 12 Pentagons

We recently spent time chatting with Jon-Paul Wheatley, AKA JonPaulsBalls, as the wildly talented designer takes the next step in his journey by introducing the world to 12 Pentagons, his new company dedicated to unique ball designs.

Few people are lucky enough to say that they found their calling in life, but one man that fits that bill is Jon-Paul Wheatley, better known by his social media handle, JonPaulsBallsThe expat Brit who now resides in St. Louis sort of stumbled upon his rather unique and niche talent for creating custom football designs, often using inventive panel configurations and created from anything from standard leather to old Nike Air Force 1 sneakers and even Steven Gerrard’s old boots. It’s a field he never aimed to land in. Then again, who would? It’s hardly at the top of the career guidance counsellor’s list at high school, is it? Being a creative with a background in design and a love of football though, back in 2021 Jon-Paul decided to try his hand at making his own football, and following that first – and admittedly rough – attempt, countless others have followed, including a personal favourite, the Predator ball.

Having discovered and then developed his talent, creating bespoke footballs quickly grew to become an obsession (one look at his apartment in St. Louis confirms this, with the sheer volume of balls on display). Working with the likes of adidas, FIFA and Burberry became commonplace, and now, what started as a passion project has grown to become a fully fledged business in the form of 12 Pentagons, fulfilling a dream that would be the envy of most – business fuelled by passion. Two years and his entire lifesavings later, it’s a decision that’s been well and truly vindicated, with his first ball, the Original 92, selling out in a little over four hours of its launch.

Having previously profiled Wheatley’s work, and embracing a time where the very nature of what a football is and can be (the likes of Sophie Hird deconstructing its very essence to blur lines with the fashion space) we felt the need to touch base with the creative to find out more about the next stage in his exciting, self-made career.

Jonpaul 6 Min

Tell us about what you do. Tell us about you.

I make balls, basically, and then I make videos about making balls. And then I post them to the Internet. It started as a hobby that spiralled out of control, that I got very obsessed with very quickly. And I feel just very, very lucky that I get to make balls all day. I have to pinch myself all the time to convince myself I'm – so far – getting away with this. On paper, it doesn't seem like it would be viable. Each ball takes usually about a week minimum, sometimes more, to design and create. If someone told me they made these things and it took that long, I'd say OK, that's cool. It's a cool hobby, but it's probably going to remain a hobby. And that's it. I'm basically a guy that got obsessed with something and somehow I'm getting away with being successful with it!

What's your background?

I basically made a ball because I wanted to give it a try. And I thought if I did it again, I could probably do it a little bit better. And that's honestly just the headspace I've been in ever since. Now there's hundreds of balls in my apartment. My background isn't in ball-making or anything, but it is in product design. I've started a few different projects, and usually they're just things where I want to just try and make certain things. I never went to university or anything. I just went through the school of making a lot of bad stuff. Eventually, slowly getting to the point where it's less bad and less bad. And that's basically it.

Jonpaul 3 Min
"I'm basically a guy that got obsessed with something and somehow I'm getting away with being successful with it!"
Jonpaul 2 Min

Where did your love of football come from?

I grew up in England, so anyone around my age loves football. It's just how you meet people, it's how you hang out with your friends, every playtime on the playground, so I've always kind of loved it. Growing up as a kid I was much more into it from a following point of view. When I came to the US about 10 years ago, it was a bit harder to follow, a bit harder to pay for all the TV services, watch all the games. So, there was a period where I was still into it, but I kind of dropped off slightly. I still miss playing and I love craft and making a ball, so this has totally reinvigorated my interests. And now I'm following everything that's going on again. So that's my football story, I guess.

Jonpaul 7 Min Jonpaul 8 Min

Talk to us about 12 Pentagons.

So it's basically an extension of what I've been doing already, which is make a new Ball every so often. I’ve been referring to my social media accounts as my public R&B Lab for a while now, which is really just a fancy way of kind of saying I'm going to try later stuff. Some of it will be interesting, some of it will be terrible, but I'm just going to share everything and maybe something interesting comes out the other end. The way 12 Pentagons comes in, it just sort of formalises that process a little bit, so nothing will change in terms of content, although I hope that it will get a bit better and maybe I can post a little more often. But the plan is just to keep treating the social media accounts as my public R&B labs, trying, flailing around, experimenting with different stuff, and if a concept resonates and people really seem into it, there's now this path to actually bring those balls to market. And if people are interested, they can actually get their hands on one. That's the basic idea.

A lot of the balls I work on most ball companies wouldn't go anywhere near. And there's a reason why most balls don't look like the balls that I work in that they’re impractical. They're not really commercially viable ways to create a ball. It takes a very long time to make them, it’s very labour intensive. In a way, I think that's what makes them so interesting. The fact that they're not these mass-market, mass-produced things. A lot of work went into creating them. I wanted a way to bring these more interesting, esoteric, crazy ideas to market basically and that's where 12 Pentagons comes in.

Jonpaul 12 Min
Jonpaul 11 Min

How do you categorise your balls? They're not performance…Are they collector's pieces?

That's a good question. Honestly, the plan is to release all different types of balls through 12 Pentagons. There were definitely some pretty expensive, very impractical, very limited edition balls catering to the crazy people in the world. Most people won't want to buy them. That's part of the balls we want to release. But I don't want to rule out making actual performance-based thermo-bonded balls that will be cheaper and more optimised for performance. We even kicked around the idea of doing a penny floater, catering to the full range, from a penny all the way up to most expensive balls in the market. It will depend on the ball and it will vary depending on which one we release.

The one that always resonates was the Predator ball that you made. In terms of something like that, where does the brand stand? Will there be any obstacles when it comes to retailing your balls?

It depends on the ball. That ball in particular, I was just a massive fan of those boots and I thought it made a really sick ball. So, I didn't ask for permission or anything, it was kind of a one off. That's not something that we can sell at scale. So, something like that was purely a fan made piece to put it out there. Adidas actually ended up inviting me and my wife to their HQ to mess around with the ball and show it off there. It was purely just that I was a fan of theirs, the video resonated with a lot of people and they just wanted to reach out. No money exchanged hands for that one.

Occasionally, though, I've done different branded balls for different brands where they want me to do different things. I just did one with Burberry, which was an interesting challenge, using the Burberry fabric to construct a ball. So sometimes there are paid projects or opportunities like that, which I do really enjoy doing, but every time I always feel like slightly hampered by whatever brand guidelines there are, or if it's part of some campaign and they have their own goals or aspirations for it. So one of the reasons I want to do 12 Pentagons is to not feel constrained by that. Just be able to have somewhere that's full creative control and I can do whatever I want. That was the goal.

Jonpaul 9 Min
Jonpaul 10 Min

Tell us more about the Original 92?

The Original 92 is the ball that started it all for me. It’s my daily driver; it’s the ball I would carry around, the ball that would start a lot of conversations. People asking what's that, where did it came from, they didn't know I made it. They just thought I had this cool ball. I've lost count of how many people have DM’d me asking if they could get hold of one of my daily drivers. Would I ever sell one of my daily drivers? So there wasn't much strategy into deciding that that should be the one. It just kind of presented itself. Honestly though, that's kind of the model: release all these balls and combination of comments we get, DM’s we get, views the videos get, it kind of dictates the release schedule.

Does 12 Pentagons mean an expansion of the team?

Yeah, it's a very small team at the moment: me and my wife, then we have one sort of part, part time employee who's helping us behind the scenes. If things go well though, I would definitely like to bring in more people. Someone to help me stitch, that's the biggest bottleneck right now. Maybe someone to help produce more videos around the whole process as well? I don't want to get carried away. People have to buy the balls first.

What does your launch calendar look like. What else have you got in the pipeline?

The plan is to periodically drop balls throughout the year, indefinitely from this point forward. There's so many ideas that I want to bring to market and play around with, but it's going to be a slow ramp up. I'd love to get to the point where we were releasing a ball every month or maybe every couple of months, that kind of thing. But that will probably take us a couple of years to get there. Maybe we could expect two to three more balls this year and then it will ramp up as we get into 2025.

custom balls 9-min.jpg
custom balls 4-min.jpg

Of all the balls you've made, what's your favourite?

To be honest, you mentioned the Predator ball, and that's right up there. The Predator ball is actually the same construction as the Original 92, and I've lost count of how many times I've made it to be honest. There's also been a few of my most popular videos that use that construction, so it's a theme that I keep coming back to.

The first time, it was probably three or so years ago now, I just made the construction of standard brown leather and for some, of all the balls around me at any one time, that was always the ball that I’d grab. It became my daily driver, that's how I'd refer to it, which is one of the reasons why that's the first ball that we're releasing through 12 Pentagons. For whatever reason, it's just something special about that ball. It's a bit of a hedge answer because it encapsulates a few different balls like the Predator ball, but that's probably my favourite construction.

Jonpaul 4 Min

Check in at to sign up and not miss a drop!

About the Author
Dan Jones

The veteran of the team. It's not the years, it's the mileage. Some of his greatest achievements include playing (and scoring) at Anfield, Goodison and Camp Nou, and he'll happily talk you through all three (in great detail) over a nice cuppa. Specialises in boots and kits and will happily talk you through them (in great detail) over a nice cuppa – although you might need something stronger...

The Creative Soccer Culture Brief

Sign up to our newsletter and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the world of Creative Soccer Culture.