Dorodango -- a perfectly spherical, smooth mud ball polished to a luster -- looks more like a polished stone than a combination of mud and dirt. Traditionally a craft enjoyed by Japanese children, these balls in theory are simple to make, but take practice to perfect.
Dorodangos are made from nothing but dirt and water, but you'll need a few other supplies to start your own mud sphere project. Choose a work area such as an old table outdoors or a table covered in a plastic tablecloth, because you'll make a mess. Fill a plastic tub with dirt to use for the dorodango, unless you have access to the dirt -- such as from your own yard -- anytime. An old plastic pitcher for water, a soft cloth, a bowl, a plastic bag and an optional window screen are the remaining supplies you'll need, as well as a small pillow or beanbag.
Scoop a handful or two of dirt into a bowl; the more dirt, the larger the dorodango. Break up any chunks between your fingers and remove anything that's not dirt, such as pebbles. Pour a little water into the bowl of dirt -- just a tablespoon or so to get started. Stir the water in with a wooden spoon or your hands, and then work the dirt between your hands to make mud, adding more water as needed. Continue working the materials until the entire bowlful reaches a consistency similar to dough. There's no specific dirt-to-water ratio, as it depends upon the type of dirt and its absorbency.
Forming the Ball
Scoop the mud between both hands and form a ball with it, squeezing it a bit to release excess moisture. Shake it from time to time to help remove air pockets and create a more consistent ball, which helps ensure it won't break apart as you're working with it. Continue smoothing it and squeezing it to form a solid ball shape. Once it's spherical and feels slightly tacky on the surface, sprinkle dirt over it, smoothing the dirt over the sphere with your fingers. Add enough dirt so the surface feels smooth and dry without cracking. Place the ball in a plastic bag; close the bag, and set it atop a soft substance such as a pillow or beanbag for 20 minutes to help draw moisture out of the dorodango. Once water condenses inside the bag, remove the sphere and sprinkle more dirt on it, smoothing the dirt over it until the ball feels dry once again, but not cracked. Continue alternating the bag treatment and more dirt until the dorodango feels a bit like hard leather.
A fine, dust-like layer of dirt is what helps polish the dorodango, making it look beautiful instead of like a ball of mud. Pat your dry hand into a dusty dirt area to pick up fine particles, and then pat the dorodango. If you can't find fine dirt nearby, sift loose dirt through a window screen, or place some in a plastic bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the closed bowl; open it, and pat the dust off the inside of the lid and onto the dorodango. Place the ball in a fresh plastic bag, and then remove it and add more fine dirt after 20 to 30 minutes. Repeat the process as many times as needed until fine dirt no longer sticks to the dorodango. After 20 minutes, gently rub the dorodango ball with a soft cloth such as a microfiber cloth, rubbing until the ball becomes shiny.
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