Hikaru Dorodango – The Delicate Japanese Art of Making Perfect Shiny Spheres Out of Dirt
Hikaru Dorodango – The Delicate Japanese Art of Making Perfect Shiny Spheres Out of Dirt published by Evanvinh
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Posted on 2016-04-28
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Hikaru Dorodango, which translates to ‘shiny dumpling’, is a relaxing Japanese art that involves crafting shiny spheres from dirt. That might sound super simple, but it actually takes years to perfect and several hours to manipulate the dirt. It’s all worth it in the end though, because, in the hands of a true master, the end results are nothing short of mind-blowing.
To make a shiny Dorodango, you start by packing mud into your hand and squeezing out all the moisture. You then press into into the shape of a sphere and spend the next two hours rubbing on more layers of increasingly finer dry dirt. Once this is complete, you pack the dumpling in a plastic bag for three or four hours and later polish it with a cloth and varnish until it shines.
The craft is widely taught in schools across Japan, thanks to the efforts of Professor Fumio Kayo, a a psychologist who researches children’s play at Kyoto University of Education. He first came across the glistening dorodango balls at a nursery school in Kyoto in 1999, where the teacher showed him how they are created. He became fascinated with the idea of making mud shine and started practicing the technique himself. It was tougher than it looked, but through trial and error, Kayo managed to perfect the art and also make it more accessible. After hundreds of failed experiments, he devised a simple method that could be followed by adults and children alike.
For Kayo, the art of Hikaru Dorodango became not only a fascinating hobby, but also a way to study developmental psychology. Professor Kayo found that young children were often enthralled by dorodango-making and were willing to spend several hours kneading mud and polishing it. They also became attached to their dorodango balls even if they were not perfectly round or if they did not shine. He feels that making shiny mud balls is a good way of searching for the essence of children’s play.
But while children may enjoy making shiny balls out of dirt, the most impressive Hikaru Dorodango creations are made by experienced adults. American artist Bruce Gardner, for example, is an accomplished dorodango sculptor who spends hours carefully crafting new shiny balls to add to his collection. “Once I read about it, I had to do it myself,” he said. “I was out doing it the next day. It took me 30 tries, maybe a little bit more – I was very persistent and kept at it solid for probably a month. I always want to experiment with different soils and there’s always a chance I’ll get better at it. It’s very relaxing and it’s so easy to get sucked into a flow state.”
As for the feedback he gets from people who see what he’s capable of creating out of dirt, Gardner says: “The responses are amazing – either they get it right away and think it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever heard of, or they think it’s just completely absurd and a waste of time.”
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