William Gibson is describing the haunting elegance of hikaru dorodango. His essay in TATE Magazine, "Shiny Balls of Mud: William Gibson Looks at Japanese Pursuits of Perfection" was my first exposure to this trend sweeping through Japan.
Hikaru dorodango are balls of mud, molded by hand into perfect spheres, dried, and polished to an unbelievable luster. The process is simple, but the result makes it seem like alchemy.
A traditional pastime among the children of Japan, the exact origin of hikaru dorodango is unknown. The tradition was dying out until taken up by Professor Fumio Kayo, of the Kyoto University of Education, as a means to study the psychology of children's play. In the course of his research, Kayo developed a simple technique for creating dorodango. With the help of Japanese media, Kayo has revived and extended the popular reach of this tradition to the point where it is now an international phenomenon.
After reading Gibson's essay, I had to try to make a dorodango myself. At first the going was rough - it took over 30 attempts before I created what I considered to be a dorodango, despite having Kayo's instructions in-hand. However, even my rough, mal-formed first attempts grew precious to me as I worked with them. This curious attachment to the dorodango, documented well in Kayo's work, is part of what make hikaru dorodango so special.
As I've experimented with dorodango over the past few years, I'm struck by how these objects, created from such humble material, are nearly the perfect expression of process refinement. Over time, I've added my own changes to the technique; you can find these in the create section. The gallery section displays dorodango that I've created from different soils found in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico.
If this is your first introduction to hikaru dorodango, I invite you to read more in the links provided in this site. The Gibson essay from the September 2002 issue of TATE can be found in his collection of essays and articles, "Distrust That Particular Flavor." Above all, I encourage you to try making hikaru dorodango yourself.
Thanks for visiting this site. Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions you might have.