Introduction: Rainbow Origami Kusudama Ball Mobile

Kusudama (medicine balls) are paper models made from smaller folded paper models that have been stitched or glued together. They are traditional and date back a number of years, with a great many different variations of flowers and geometric shapes used to form the ball itself. We decided to create a beautiful rainbow flower one to hang from our ceiling and brighten up our space, and to introduce some of our younger makerspace members to modular origami and to paper folding generally. The folds are super-easy to pick up and you can create a stunning artwork with a few sheets of paper, some glue, and not as much time as you'd think!

You will need:

  • Origami paper squares: 10 sheets each of 6 different rainbow colours. You can use regular paper, but because it will be thicker, it will be trickier to work with and to keep looking neat. The squares can be any size you like (obviously the bigger the squares, the bigger the finished mobile) but they must be exactly square and exactly the same size!
  • Paper Glue. We have found that PVA is a little messy and takes time to dry, but is strong. If you use glue sticks, ideally use extra strong ones.
  • Clothes pegs, to hold bits of paper in place while they dry
  • If you wish to hang your mobile, some ribbon or similar and a hole punch

Step 1: Fold Petals Part 1

The ball is made from 12 identical flowers. Each flower is made from 5 sheets of origami paper. Each sheet of paper is folded in exactly the same way before being glued. It seems a little complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is quick and easy and you will be able to make them without looking at the instructions at all!

First, fold your sheet in paper (fig 1) diagonally, coloured side outwards, so that it forms a triangle (fig 2)

Next, fold each of the two corners at each end of the long edge up to the other corner to crease (fig 3), then fold them back down again (fig 4).

Step 2: Fold Petals Part 2

Fold one of the corners up at the crease you just made, and squash it down so that what was the edge runs along the centre of the flap, on top of the crease. Do the same with the other corner, so that it looks like fig 5 from the front and fig 6 from the back.

Can you see the white parts peeking out where you have just folded? You want to fold these down. You can tuck them in, so that the white can't be seen, org you can fold them outwards like we have in fig 7. We like the white part, as it adds contrast to the colour!

Next, fold the two flaps inwards as we have in fig 8. Run some glue down one side of the flap (fig 9) and press the two flaps together to create a petal (fig 10). Secure with a clothes peg while the glue dries!

Note: In the picture, you can see us using a glue tape dispenser. We really don't recommend glue tape for this project - it just isn't strong enough! We learned the hard way, so you don't have to ;-)

Step 3: Create Flowers...

Repeat the previous two steps a further four times, using the same colour of paper. By the time you have done this you will be a pro, and probably won't even need to look at the instructions to follow each step any more!

Once you have done that (fig 11) you are ready to build your first flower. Run a small amount of glue along the edge of each petal. Carefully place them together, using clothes pegs to secure. We found it easiest to glue the first four petals together, then once the glue is thoroughly dry, glue the fifth one into position.

Step 4: ...Lots of Flowers!

Way to go! You created your first flower! I'm sure you can think of lots of ways to use these flowers as they are, but to create the flower ball, we need another 11 of them. We created 2 each in 6 rainbow colours, following the same steps each time. It sounds laborious, but you will get really quick at making them!

Once you have done that, it is time to start gluing the individual flowers together. To do this, run a glue down the length of the spine of one petal each of three different coloured flowers. Press the three spines together so that the tips of the petal meet, and hold together with a clothes peg until the glue has dried. Repeat with the next petal along, so that each flower ends up attached to one flower of each of the other colours by two petals each. Don't be tempted to glue too many at a time, especially once the ball starts to build up - the flowers will require quite a bit of pressure to hold into place, and the more areas where the glue is still wet, the harder that is to do.

It can be hard work visualising what colour goes where - I would suggest by attaching each of the other colours round one central flower, then checking what goes where by figuring out which colour is immediately opposite in the ball, and making sure you place the same colour. This can be a very good exercise in visualisation! Depending on your company, it can also lead to all types of questions - first about colour itself, then about colour perception, whether we all perceive colour the same way, and how we even know that (an incredibly worthwhile and valuable conversation!)

During this time, your ball may look a bit of a mess - mine certainly did, as you can see in fig 14! Don't be disheartened, it will look like this right up until the last flower is glued in place, but then it will all come together, I promise ;-)

Step 5: Hanging Your Finished Kusudama Ball

You don't have to hang your ball if you don't want to. It would make a great decoration as it is, or you could attach it to a dowel to make it stand like a flower, but we chose to make a mobile to hang. All you need to do is punch a hole in one corner of a flower, loop with some ribbon or string, and hang!

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