Introduction: Dorodango - the Art of Polishing Dirt!
Hikaru Dorodango, translated into english as "shiny mud dumpling", is a Japanese art form that has been around for many years but has only recently been acknowledged and appreciated. Making Dorodango is a process where you take common soil, form it into a ball, and polish it until it gives off a magnificent shine. To see something make such a transition from a useless material to a work of art is so satisfying! People who see a finished Dorodango can hardly believe that it is 100% dirt!
I am surprised that this subject has only been touched on once or twice here on Instructables. sugarhi911 did a great job with their Instructable here but left out a few important steps and an image of the final product!
Today, I will teach and show you how to make your very own Dorodango from start to finish which will be one of the greatest conversation starters you will ever have in your house. I promise that whoever sees this will be baffled by your amazing artistic skills!
I'm so excited to do this Instructable with you! Let's get to it!
- Plastic Grocery Bag
- Cookie Sheet / Plastic Container
- Dirt (different types of dirt will have different features and challenges)
- Small Mason Jar
- A smooth glass surface like a bottle or this glass ice cream cup (this is EXACTLY what I used to get the final shine and it works like a dream! Also fun to eat ice cream out of too! :D)
- Hand rag/ Hand Towel/ Microfiber Towel, Old T-Shirt (All will work just fine)
Like the pictures in this Instructable? Get your very own camera here so that you can take your own!
Bruce Gardner is the Michael Jordan of Dorodango. He goes a lot more in depth on the steps of how to make Dorodango, the best materials, different soils, various textures for Dorodango, and many other things as well. You don't need this book to do this Instructable but if you find yourself hooked on this new hobby, then this book is an excellent resource!
- Dorodango: The Japanese Art of Making Mud Balls by Bruce Gardner
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Step 1: Picking Your Dirt
The beauty of this Instructable is that to get your dirt, you can either walk outside into your yard and pick up the first dirt you see, or you can go exploring and find some really cool, different colored dirt.
Like all things you make, try and create something that is meaningful to you! For example, my wife and I have moved once since we have been married. To commemorate that move and to remember our old home, I made a Dorodango from the dirt found outside that old home. Similarly, when you go on vacations, you can bring back (if it's legal to do so) some dirt and make a Dorodango from that. The beauty of projects like these are in the details!
A couple of years ago, I managed to get my hands on some red dirt while my wife and I were on vacation. I will be using it for its vibrant color! Remember, if you do not have access to different colors of dirt, you can used different dyes that can be found here
Step 2: Sifting Dirt
Using a basic household strainer, begin to sift the dirt. Try and remove larger particles of rock, hard dirt, or any twigs/grasses that may have been allowed to fall through the strainer. You want the dirt to be as fine as possible. If larger rocks or twigs get in, cracking or surface deformations may manifest as you are polishing. While you are sifting the dirt, wear a mask so that you don't inhale the fine particles of dust directly into your lungs. Safety first!
Step 3: Add Water
Soils are all different so the amount of water needed may vary slightly. For example, the red dirt for my Dorodango needed more water than my regular household dirt. However, no matter the dirt you still want to aim for the same consistency in all cases - brownie mix. Yes that's right, your easy-bake oven days will now come in handy.
Slowly add water while mixing in the dirt. Be careful not to add too much or the next step simply will not work. If you find yourself adding too much water, add more dry dirt into the mix to bring it back to the right consistency.
When you've achieved the brownie mix consistency, it is time to start forming the ball.
Step 4: Forming the Sphere
Form a sphere with the dirt that you prepared in the previous step by cupping your hands together and compressing the dirt together. You may want to take off any rings that you may be wearing so that you don't nick the surface as you form the sphere. If there are small holes or cracks in the surface, fill it in with the wet dirt. Once the sphere is in its general form, place it in a plastic bag and allow it to dry for around 12-14 hours. During this time, it will start to solidify but will still be malleable. You will know when it is ready for the next step when the sphere feels cool but not cold.
Step 5: Perfecting the Shape of the Sphere
Once the sphere is in this semi-dry state, grab a mason jar and begin to shape the ball to its final shape. This is done by rotating the mason jar around the surface of the sphere. It is important to note that the opening diameter of the mason jar will effect the final size. For example, if you made your sphere much larger than the diameter of the mason jar you are using, the jar will shave the extra material off which will make your Dorodango smaller than intended. If you want a bigger Dorodango, use a larger Mason Jar. Using a mason jar is great because it will make a PERFECT sphere.
As you rotate the mason jar along the surface of the sphere, wet malleable dirt will begin to accumulate on the rim. Remove this dirt as it accumulates with a paper towel. Otherwise, the dirt on the rim of the jar will begin to peel off layers of the Dorodango's surface. Doing this will remove the need for excessive repair of the surface. Also note that you should use this accumulated dirt to fill in any small holes or cracks on the surface as they present themselves.
Keep running the jar on the surface until you no longer hear the scratching of the dirt on the jar. If you can still hear it, it's not smooth enough. When you hear clean movement along the surface, it is smooth enough. Finally, leave the Dorodango out to dry completely.
Step 6: Quenching the Dorodango / Polishing Pt.1
Now this step is where I diverge from traditional Dorodango makers. Usually, you would continually add layers upon layers of wet dirt and clay (repeating the last step over and over again), but what I found to be the fastest (while not compromising results) is to quickly run the sphere under some cool water and quickly begin to smooth out the surface using the bottom of the ice cream cup (or a bottle) with a medium amount of pressure (using same method you used to smooth out the surface using the mason jar). This quickly and efficiently introduces the dirt into the surface and will almost immediately start to produce a mid-to-high level shine. In 30 minutes you will see great results. In an hour, you will see fantastic results. Be patient with the process.
Again, if you see some small holes or cracks on the surface, be sure to fill those in with some of the extra wet dirt that comes off of the surface as you are polishing. This is also the part where you would add in any dyes as well. This is done by simply sprinkling the dye onto the surface of the Dorodango and gently spreading it into the surface with the bottom of the cup/bottle. I prefer the organic look myself but it is up to you!
Again, be sure that your are routinely wiping off the build-up that accumulates on the surface of the glass. I noticed that if you leave wet dirt on the glass and continue to polish, it may start to pull off dirt from the surface - which would then ruin the surface finish. If this happens you can either fill it in and buff it out with the glass, or re-quench the whole surface and try this entire step over again. (I had to re-do this step twice to make sure I got it exactly right so don't worry if you have to try again - don't give up!)
When the Dorodango is giving off a pretty good amount of shine, leave it out to dry completely for the final time!
*Note* this glass/quenching method will produce 95% of the shine instead of polishing by hand which is contrary to popular belief. As a result, make sure you are satisfied with the level of shine before leaving this step!
Step 7: Polishing the Surface Pt. 2 (with Cloth)
This final step REALLY makes the sphere shine! Like the other steps it will take some time, but it is well worth it.
For this final step, I have seen people use microfiber cloths, dishrags, hand towels, socks, you name it. I have seen Dorodango done using each one and I can safely say that as long as you put in the time, it doesn't really matter which one you use. I will mention however that some cloths may make the process go a little fast and others may introduce little fibers into the surface that are undesirable so keep an eye out for that.
Note:I have also seen people use wax to buff-out/shine the surface as time-saver. If you want to be done quicker, that is certainly an option. However, to stay true to the essence of the craft I would encourage you not to do it. It really is satisfying to tell someone that your glistening Dorodango was made of 100% dirt rather than 99% dirt and 1% wax.
The best method that I have seen/used is to hold the dry ball in the rag/towel while cupping the bottom with my hands. Then, with my thumbs, I do small circles in a concentrated area until the ball really starts to shine. Then I shift the ball slightly and move on to the next area. Beware of over polishing and the pressure you apply. Dorodango is fragile and may start cracking if you are polishing too much/too hard. Also be careful of polishing over small surface defects - this will also peel up the glossy surface and expose the rough interior.
Finally, after much polishing over the entire surface, your Dorodango should be absolutely glowing!
Step 8: Display!
Now that you are done, place your beautiful Dorodango in a special place for all to see! Like I said, people who come over to your house will be (and have been in my experience) shocked to hear that the shiny, smooth and beautiful piece of art on your coffee table is only made of dirt!
With this art form comes a respect for the simple things around us and the patience required to recognize the intrinsic beauty that different objects possess. Who knew something so mundane and overlooked as dirt could become something so amazing?
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I hope you had fun learning how to make Dorodango! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
I will see you on the next one!
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