So, you heard about shiny mud balls, you got curious, and you’re thinking you’d like to try it.
Start With Gardner’s Book
I suggest that you purchase, as I did immediately upon learning of Hikaru Dorodango, Bruce Gardner’s book, Dorodango: The Japanese Art of Making Mud Balls. The book itself is very beautifully done and makes for relaxing, even contemplative, reading. But somehow, without breaking the calm, Gardner manages to include numbered lists and steps to lead you from inexperience to your first Dorodango mud ball.
If you are not sure you want to purchase the book yet, you are in luck! Gardner offers some simplified directions on his website.
Gather Your Tools
When I started doing Dorodango, I was very premeditated. I wanted to be sure that I gave myself the best chance at being successful, and I was until I got impatient and tried to use a jar. It was too early in the process and I marred it permanently!
My son calls the nasty area Australia!
Here’s where I vary from the approach in Gardner’s book (start with regular dirt and then put it in a bag, more,yet finer dirt, bag, finer dirt, bag, and so on).
I also vary from the approach shown in the Nito Project: (start with dirt, let it dry for two hours, finer dirt, get it wet, shake it, jar, and so on until a perfect orb pops out).
I discovered, where I live on Long Island, that I can extract the clay from dirt using the water extraction method, and simply form a ball with pure clay and just enough water, and let it dry. When it’s ready, it shines to a mirror finish.
What’s the Next Step?
So, here’s what you do next:
Choice 1: Get the Gardner book or follow the Gardner simple instructions (the links are in the second paragraph above)
Choice 2: Watch the Nito Project videos and follow their suggestions.
Choice 3: You can try doing it like I do.
• extract clay using the water extraction method
• process the clay you mine from that (spread it out, dry it, grind to fine powder)
• add just enough water to the clay to make a ball with a size comfortable enough to work with (the clay sticks together and is able to be shaped into a ball without falling apart!)
• compress the ball, shake it (which distributes the water throughout and reduces voids)
• place the ball on a leather glove, hang it in a painters cloth bag, etc. in order to let it dry (or make a cradle like the one shown here)
• Check it every thirty minutes to gently reshape it (if it is developing cracks or strong lines, get a little water in your finger and smooth the cracks away. After several hours it will be hardened past the point of reshaping.
• when the surface looks dry and dusty, gently wipe off the dust with pantyhose or a silky, very high thread count fabric
• you have to be careful at this stage not to press too hard as you polish, but being pure clay, it polishes well and arrives at a point where quite a bit of force can be exerted on the ball.
Let me know how it went!
This has been my experience with my clay, but as it is with anything like this, practice gives us experience and an opportunity to develop our skills.
If you have questions, email me or leave it in the comment section!