Dorodango - the Art of Polishing Dirt!

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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!

If you like this Instructable, please leave a like and a vote for this Instructable on the Remix Contest page.

I'm so excited to do this Instructable with you! Let's get to it!

Supplies

  • Water
  • Mask
  • 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)

Optional

Like the pictures in this Instructable? Get your very own camera here so that you can take your own!

Bonus Info:

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!

Disclaimer: I may earn an affiliate commission when support me by purchasing products at no extra cost to you by using the links provided above. Thank you!

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?

If you liked this Instructable, please consider leaving a like and a vote for this Instructable on the Remix Contest page. I really appreciate it!

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!

-MM

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129 Comments

0
chloe7473
chloe7473

Question 3 months ago

I made one a few years ago and the instructions I showed drying out either in a plastic bag or in loose plastic wrap. It's been so long ago that I don't remember why it was suggested. Is there any difference with the process if I allow it to air dry? I also want to try your suggestion of shaping with a jar opening.

0
poguemahone
poguemahone

7 months ago

Is there a set sand/clay ratio?

3
kmccarty5
kmccarty5

1 year ago

I'm going to try this with my 5th graders. Wish me luck!

0
youngpatriot
youngpatriot

Reply 7 months ago

Please just use dirt. lol

0
Mastering Me
Mastering Me

Reply 1 year ago

Sounds like fun! Let me know how it goes!

0
karinlease.gcsd

I have a problem with the writer calling soil USELESS! Jeez...what planet do you live on?!?

0
Mastering Me
Mastering Me

Reply 9 months ago

Sigh, thanks karin lol

0
peytonpecia
peytonpecia

Question 1 year ago

How durable are these spheres? My friend and I did a science fair experiment a while ago where we tried making dirt bricks from fine Mars simulant, but they just fell apart. I’m wondering what makes these stick together and polish so well, and if I can adapt that to my Mars dirt for a no-bake, more durable brick.

0
Mastering Me
Mastering Me

Answer 1 year ago

What makes them stick together so well is the clay component in them. If clay were not present, the spheres would be difficult if not impossible to polish to a shine. Due to the hardening process of the water and the clay/dirt mixture, they are quite durable. Durable in this case meaning they will not crumble on their own. If dropped, however, they will almost surely break.

-MM

0
LeslieGeee
LeslieGeee

1 year ago

Hi MM, this would make a wonderful Christmas present. You commented to one of the questions that the dirt should have some clay in it. How would we know if our backyard dirt has clay in it? I am hoping that any kind of dirt or soil or loam will work. The comment about the sand balls was interesting. Wonder if they make them with white glue. I understand that professional sand sculpture is a mix of sand and glue and other things. Thank you for sharing your process and for taking the time to answer. :)

0
Mastering Me
Mastering Me

Reply 1 year ago

Hi! Backyard dirt should contain some amounts of clay. Generally, if you squeeze the dirt together it should hold in place - that is a pretty good indicator that there is some clay content in there. Alternatively you can dig deeper into the ground to find pure clay. The more clay content the shinier it gets. A mix of clay and sand will work but pure sand wouldn’t work unless you bound it together with something like you were talking about. Sounds pretty messy to me though. Long story short - there is a reallly good chance if you have dirt in our backyard there are clay particulates in there somewhere. This process has a bit of trial and error but give it your best shot. I think it took me 2-3 good tries before getting it right. Good luck to you!

0
LeslieGeee
LeslieGeee

Reply 1 year ago

Thank you for replying and for your tips. :)

3
KarelK16
KarelK16

2 years ago

This is very cool! Good instructible!
When I was young I learned the craft of making sand balls from my father. Sand balls are different from the mud balls described in this excellent instructible, as sand from the beach is used, which is without a clay component. Always fun, always draws attention. It is the challenge to make them bigger than your hands, but that takes a lot of strength :-) Sandballs do not get such a shiny gloss as the mud balls, though.
Maybe someday I'll write an instructible about it.

zandballen.png
0
KC Smith
KC Smith

Reply 1 year ago

Would love to read your instructions! KC

0
Mastering Me
Mastering Me

Reply 2 years ago

Wow so cool! Please do! I know we have had a few inquiries on here about sand so I think it would be well received! Thanks for the nice comment!

0
KC Smith
KC Smith

Question 1 year ago on Step 8

So does it ever fall apart, shouldn’t pick it up, just how fragil?

0
Mastering Me
Mastering Me

Answer 1 year ago

Once done it is incredibly solid. Want crumble on its own. If dropped it will certainly break

0
KC Smith
KC Smith

Reply 1 year ago

Thank you for your quick response! So excited to make some!
KC

0
KIRSCHMANTIMOTHY
KIRSCHMANTIMOTHY

Question 1 year ago

Wow! This is great! I wish I found this before we moved instead of after. Amy how long do you think it will take for regular garden dirt to partly dry as in the fourth step? Thanks for posting!

0
Mastering Me
Mastering Me

Answer 1 year ago

Sorry for the delayed response - a couple of hours still!