The making of ‘dorodango‘ is a favorite pastime for Japanese schoolchildren, that has grown into an art form in its own right. The dodorango is actually a ball made from mud and dirt, and now people are painstakingly and methodically refining these balls into “hikaru dorodango” (literally: ‘shiny dumpling’), perfect, polished spheres that can take days to complete.

This Japanese craft is meditative and deeply satisfying in its making and is seen by many as the primary motivation for the art. Layer upon layer of fine dirt is applied to the mud core, forming a hard outer shell. This is then polished with a cloth to give the dorodango an appearance similar to that of a snooker ball, perfectly round and shiny to an unbelievable degree. How can simple dirt become so lustrous?

You may remember a previous post about a DIY project in Japan where people were creating perfect spheres from aluminium foil. This was obviously inspired by the ancient technique of making dorodango. While in America kids are eating Tide Pods and poisoning themselves, Japanese kids learn the value of patience, perfection, and craftsmanship from constant refinement, by creating these beautifully simple pieces of art.

Making dorodango was actually a forgotten Japanese traditional pastime until recently, when professor Fumio Kayo, a psychologist who specializes in children’s play, made it popular again in Japan and worldwide. Bruce Gardner has become a master of this DIY craft, and experiments with the many different soils he finds around Albuquerque, New Mexico. He first encountered dorodango in an issue of TATE magazine, entitled “Shiny Balls of Mud: William Gibson Looks at Japanese Pursuits of Perfection.” He has been a devoted enthusiast ever since. “I am always working on two or three pieces in various stages,” Bruce told Bored Panda. “They can take weeks to finish. It is more than a hobby for me – it’s a weird amalgam of art, compulsion, and meditation.”

“Different soils have varying amounts of silt, clay, sand, etc. Every soil sample has unique properties and requires adjustments to my process. I work within a certain sample of soil until I have one or two pieces that I’m happy with. Sometimes that happens right away; other times it takes several attempts.”
Despite the ultimate goal of polished perfection, Bruce’s favorite pieces are actually beautiful for their imperfections. “Years ago I created three pieces from a sample of Albuquerque soil; all three formed tiny little cracks on the surface, so I put them on my ‘seconds’ shelf to later be crushed up and attempted again,” he told us. “After a year or so, they all started to oxidize in amazing ways and the cracks became the feature rather than the flaw, similar to Raku crazing.”

Bruce has given several workshops and demonstrations for this deceitfully easy DIY over the years and has recently presented to a group of soil scientists at the USDA. You can check out how he does his work in the video below, and it will make you want to try it yourself! And if you find it too challenging but still want a dorodango, you can buy one of Bruce’s. Contact him via his site for details.

Scroll down to learn more about hikaru dorodango, and let us know what you think in the comments. Where you inspired to give it a try? How did it go? Tell us and share your pics!

It all starts with collecting the soil

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Then the rocks are separated from the soil

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And the shaping begins

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More layers are added over time

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This process takes at least 30 minutes

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And it’s where people relax more and more, as they shape the ball to perfection

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This step is very tricky, because the ball can easily crack and break

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Then it’s left to dry in a plastic bag for at least 20 minutes

After repeating the process a few times, the polishing begins

Lots and lots of polishing…

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And it turns into something like this!

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The color varies because of the different soil types

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People have fallen in love with this oddly satisfying DIY project

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Image credits: Beth Iwamoto

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And are sharing their own creations on various social media platforms

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Image credits: ボンボンTV

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It’s a perfect activity for meditation groups, classes or camps

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Image credits: Amelia Milazo

Watch the video for an in-depth look how artist Bruce Gardner makes his perfect “shiny dumplings”