Local artist transforms New Mexico dirt into ancient art forms

Community Reports

ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico artist is turning piles of dirt into art.

Hikaru Dorodango art is shiny, glossy, colorful balls of dried mud. Originally they were created by Japanese elementary students working to make their schoolyard as beautiful as possible, but today, the art is practiced by perfectionists all across the globe, and one of them happens to live in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill.

“It’s amazingly complex you wouldn’t think it is but it’s very complex.”

Bruce Gardner, Artist
Gardner works on dorodango in his home studio

In 2002, Bruce Gardner says he picked up a copy of Tate Magazine at Flying Star. In the very back, on the last page, was an article written by William Gibson. It explained the subtle beauty that comes from turning a humble pile of mud into a perfectly refined sphere, each with a unique story to tell.

“I think it’s a great art form because you’re not using any chemicals and you’re not destroying anything it’s just creating art out of something that we’ve all just kind of forgotten about or that we don’t even notice anymore,” said Gardner.

After reading the article Gardner decided he had to try it himself, and so his hobby began, but achieving perfection was not a quick process. Gardner says it took him 30 tries over a period of months before he ever achieved a dorodango he was truly satisfied with. He now has an entire workspace dedicated to the dorodango.

“Within three miles of Albuquerque, there’s more colors than you can possible imagine.”

Bruce Gardner, Artist

It all starts in the mountains, with a shovel and keen eye for color. Gardner travels all over the state collecting as much as 20 pounds of dirt for just one dorodango. From Golden, New Mexico, to Placitas, and even right in his own backyard, Gardner looks for bright colors of dirt that truly tell a story.

Adding dirt to water, the beginnings of a dorodango

Back at his studio he screens and sifts the dirt, getting each consistency separate. He then mixes a variety of the rocks, silt, and gravel with water to create, you guessed it, mud. Then, almost as if some sort of alchemist takes over, the shape of a sphere forms. He begins to add water and more layers of dirt packing the surface together.

Eventually, after some polishing and lots of patience, he’s left with a perfect sphere and a sense of accomplishment. The hobby has landed him a feature with National Geographic, and on a special AARP segment with Barbara Hanna Grufferman.

“Almost universally people are interested and really find the idea compelling.”

Bruce Gardner, Artist

Gardner says working on the art form has made him appreciate the state’s beauty, but also relaxes him and gives him peace of mind. He plans to host a workshop on dorodango this summer, but has yet to set a date or location.

To learn more about his work, click here. To learn to make your own dorodango, click here.

The early stages of a dorodango

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest Video

Now Trending on KRQE.com

Albuquerque Hourly Forecast

Don't Miss


Photo Galleries


News Resources