Introduction: Rattling Tree Spirits (Princess Mononoke)
If you've ever watched the Studio Ghibli movie "Princess Mononoke", you probably remember the Tree Spirits called "kodama". They are cute in their own weird way and are a sign of a healthy forest.
I actually own a little figurine I bought in Japan which is very cute - but that's the only feature it has. So I wanted to try making a kodama that spins its head and makes a rattling noise - just like you see it in the movie.
- air dry clay
- a rock
- bottle caps (metal or plastic)
- thick plastic or a zip tie
- plastic straw
- black paint
- small paint brush or toothpick
- toothpick or sculpting tools
- hot glue
- nail scissors / something pointy
- sand paper or file
- white paint
- for glowing kodama: see step 10
Step 1: Research
I really wanted to make a kodama that moves exactly the way you see it in the movie, so I watched this video a LOT of times. xD
Step 2: The Twisty Part
Instructables is full of amazing moving projects, but I have no experience in that area, and I wanted to use cheap and accessible materials.
After a lot of thinking, I came up with a simple idea: The spinning part could be a flat strip of plastic - that way the head will always twist back to its original place.
I learned the hard way that the plastic needs to be strong - it needs to hold the weight of the head and still twist enough to make a good sound.
You can find strong and thick pieces of plastic in ice cream containers or shampoo bottles. Zip ties also work well.
I used an ice cream container here and peeled off the print to make it completely white.
Cut it into a thin strip that fits inside a straw. If you have a white or clear straw that's better, but I just used a blue one I had at home.
Step 3: The Rattle
Next, I took a metal bottle cap and pierced it with some old nail scissors. I inserted the strip of plastic and it was a tight fit - which is good, because otherwise you might have to use hot glue to hold it in place.
I then added some beads for the sound and another bottle cap on top. You can experiment with the beads - I liked the sound of two big plastic beads and a smaller one.
Make sure that all of the metal is covered with tape (especially where the slit is), otherwise it will rust in contact with wet clay later on.
Step 4: More Options
Instead of the metal cap you can use a plastic bottle cap. It is a bit harder to shape into a round head, so it will turn out bigger. Since we want to use as little clay as possible, I recommend that you first make the head shape with aluminium foil or cling film. Then you can cover that with as little clay as possible.
Instead of the plastic strip you can use a zip tie.
To cover the bottle cap I just used a piece of cardboard and taped it shut.
Step 5: Finished Rattle Mechanisms (Two Options)
The rattle mechanisms sound pretty good, but adding clay to them will unfortunately muffle the sound a little bit.
Step 6: Shaping the Head
Now we can sculpt the head with air dry clay! I'm using the brand "DAS". If you want to make a 2 ingredient clay yourself, I have a recipe in this Instructable: https://www.instructables.com/Dragon-Egg-Christmas-Ornaments/
(store-bought clay will be easier to sculpt with though)
Once again I learned the hard way that the clay can make the head quite heavy - which makes it spin less - which means less sound and movement. So I'm using as little clay as possible.
Use water to smooth out the shape as much as you can.
If you wish, you can sand the head with a file or sandpaper once it's dry.
Step 7: Hot Glueing
Next, decide how long you want the torso of the kodama to be, snip off the "spine" and add a straw.
Then it's time to look for a rock! Yet again I learned the hard way that the rock should be washed (yes I was too lazy) and have as much texture as possible. That way, the hot glue will stick much better and the kodama's butt won't come off so easily!
Decide on a pose for your kodama and glue the spine to the rock. Try not to use too much glue so it can be covered with clay later on.
Step 8: Sculpting
Now you can sculpt the body of the tree spirit! I started with the torso and of course had to add a butt crack :p Then I moved on to the legs and the arms. I don't sculpt that much, so it took me a while to get the poses kind of right, but you can do as much or little detail as you want!
I used mainly my fingers and a toothpick - so you don't need to own sculpting tools :)
Step 9: Finishing Touches
The rock will inevitably get messy with the clay, so I brushed it clean with an old paintbrush and water once the kodama was dry. A toothpick and even a needle are helpful too.
You can sand the clay again, add more clay or add white paint.
Then you can finally draw on the face! Find the tiniest brush you have or use a toothpick. I found that a stiff brush worked better than a soft brush.
Step 10: Glowing Experiments
This step is optional, but it just feels right to make these guys glow. I tried a few things: two different glow-in-the-dark paints, glow-in-the-dark nail polish and invisible ink.
The paints were both disappointing - they couldn't be layered, so they looked a bit patchy and grainy. It kinda has its own charm, but was not what I expected.
Nail polish can be layered, so in the dark it looks the best. It does make the kodama more yellow and shiny though.
Another thing I tried out is brushing invisible ink directly onto the clay (doesn't work as well when there's paint on the clay). That looked very smooth in UV light - and as its name promises, it's invisible in daylight.
Do you have any better experiences with glow in the dark paint?
Step 11: Let It Glow!
The first picture shows the kodama I covered with one layer of the nail polish (I was too lazy to give it more layers).
The other ones are of the kodama painted with invisible ink (the brand is called Noodler's Ink by the way). It was lots of fun to do this in UV light.
And that concludes this tutorial! I spent far too much time on this project, but it was fun and hey, I made my first moving thing ever :) Thanks for checking it out!
Second Prize in the
Rocks, Gems, and Stones Speed Challenge