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The Art of Hikaru Dorodango

    “[A]n artifact of such utter simplicity and perfection that it seems it must be either the first object or the last...”
    Authour William Gibson is describing the haunting elegance of hikaru dorodango in his essay in TATE Magazine, "Shiny Balls of Mud: William Gibson Looks at Japanese Pursuits of Perfection"
    I first stumbled across this modern Japanese art form through my love of natural earth building about 20 years ago. The word dorodango in Japanese means “mud dumpling”. This has been a traditional pastime of Japanese school children and like many Japanese arts and crafts has a Zen or meditative leaning.
    In recent years, the process has been refined from pastime into the art of the hikaru ("shining") dorodango, which results in a glossy surface. There are different techniques used to create dorodangos but they all require patience and concentration. One Japanese maker states; “To make Dorodango help you to enter a meditative state that give a material result, for each instant of distraction your Dorodango will likely show a defect, so the end result will clearly show you your progress (or your lack of attention). You will anyway be pleasantly surprised at your progress when you make your second, then third Dorodango.”
    Making dorodango is not as easy as it may look, which is part of it’s renewed sweeping appeal in Japan. It is a process that requires discipline and concentration or your dorodango will crack and fall apart. Yet, once you have succeeded, your polished clay dorodango are then displayed as artwork in the home or office.
    Here is the easiest method to make your shiny Dorodango. Good luck and send me a picture of your effort!
    1. Pack some mud into your hand, and squeeze out the water while forming a sphere.
    2. Add some dry dirt to the outside and continue to gently shape the mud into a sphere.
    3. When the mass dries, pack it solid with your hands, and rub the surface until a smooth film begins to appear.
    4. Rub your hands against the ground, patting and rubbing the fine, powdery dirt onto the sphere. Continue this for two hours.
    5. Seal the ball in a plastic bag for three or four hours. Upon removing the sphere, repeat step 4, and then once again seal the sphere in a plastic bag.
    6. Remove the ball from the bag, and if it is no longer wet, polish it with a cloth until it shines