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The tradition of Temari threadballs is centuries old and found in both, Chinese as well as Japanese cultures. It spans almost 1400 years and have transformed from play objects to objects of art, evolving from a rough, leather-ball foot game, to a child's toy, to an opulent and courtly activity, then back to a children's toy again, and finally, to an ornamental object of elaborate design once more.
In its earliest stages, Temari probably began innocently enough in China as a leather game ball made for kicking around by adult male players, the first mention of which was noted at the Imperial Court of China.
In a popular game that dates back to 644 C.E., the ball was constructed of two spheres, in the shape of buns and seamed together at the centre. The ball itself was probably stuffed with horsehair or it may have been leather stretched over a bamboo frame, inflated by an interior bladder. The game was played within a court measuring ten square feet and required four, six or eight players who stood in a circle while the ball was kicked high with the inside of a player's foot without allowing it to fall to the ground. It was noted that more than seventy different types of kicks were used in the game with rigid etiquette rules surrounding its play.
Prevalent from the 600s to the 1300s and after enjoying tremendous popularity, the game eventually evolved into a children's tossing ball game. Wrapped around a wadded core of paper or cloth, recycled remnants of discarded textiles, kimonos, and other woven goods were used; colours were carefully separated and applied by deliberately wrapping the strips of fabrics to create surface patterns. (Source: Vandervoort, D., temari.com, 2008)
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Later on in the 17th century, when the noble ladies of the Imperial Court took up Temari, they challenged one another to contests to determine whose ball was the most intricate, the most opulent and with the most beautiful use of colour. Ball surface patterns evolved and developed one from the other - the once functional stitching used to create sturdy game balls matured into more decorative and detailed form, displaying intricate designs - and were embroidered using traditional Japanese stitching techniques and employing silk floss and metallic threads, normally used to embellish court dress. In addition to some of the symmetrical and geometric patterns seen today, natural scenes were also favoured in the 17th century and included flowers, trees and garden figures. Then, as today, intricately embroidered Temari balls reference the symbolic association of the Chinese Flaming Pearl of happiness and prosperity - historically depicted clutched in the talons of a dragon.
But the ornamental thread balls originally used for games at Court came to be regarded as folk toys, with a core of paper covered with thread and embroidered with beautiful designs, suggesting that the status of Temari had declined from a courtly pastime to a more domestic and conventional one. As such, Temari falls under what is known as "mingei" - meaning art of the people or folk craft. Mingei refers to functional yet beautifully made items created by hand and before the onset of mass-production of the industrial age; it includes collectible items such as ceramic wares, hand-woven and bamboo goods, toys, games and even furniture - most of which are unsigned by the artisan or craftsman. (Sources: Vandervoort, D., temari.com, 2008; Thompson, G., temarikai.com, 2010)
As with many hand-crafts, Temari thread balls, hitherto created at home by mothers and grandmothers to occupy and amuse young children, lost some of its appeal with the introduction of modern rubber and plastic balls and toys. Prior to its decline, Temari balls were made all over Japan and reached their peak during the Edo Period of the 1600s at the court of Shogun Tokugawa (Temari balls were introduced to Japan about five or six hundred years ago from China). Whereas they were originally intended for actual play and appear coarse and rough by contemporary standards, today's Temari balls are created more for ornamental and decorative purposes with complex designs and highly intricate patterns.
These days, Temari balls are given as formal commemorative gifts much as plaques are in western countries. A formal Temari ball usually has a dragonfly knot and includes intricately braided and knotted foot-long tassels; Temari balls are also symbolic of loyalty and deep friendship among individuals. But remnants of its past tradition as token of maternal love (especially between a mother and her daughter) is still practiced when, upon awakening on New Year's morning, a child finds a brightly coloured Temari ball lying on her pillow, so that when the child first opens her eyes, the first object she beholds is something beautiful - the first happy vision of the new year. (Sources: Vandervoort, D., temari.com, 2008; Thompson, G., temarikai.com, 2010)
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Modern day creations may begin by using either a Styrofoam ball or a large wooden bead (the "mari" base) at its core. Then it is wrapped in yarn and then by a layer of regular weight sewing thread - both yarn and thread must be applied smoothly to the surface of the core to ensure the perfect, spherical roundness of the ball. The ball is then divided with relational geometry using a thin paper strip. The divisions are indicated by pins and then marking threads are used as guidance. If the marking threads are to be incorporated into the finished design, then they will often be of gold or silver thread; if not, the marking threads are usually of the same colour as the base thread used to wrap around the mari, so as to eventually blend into the background. Once the ball is wrapped and marked, the designs are embroidered using different coloured threads. The patterns are accomplished by using either stitching - a few simple, basic stitches are employed - or by wrapping techniques. In the past, when Temari balls were created as toys for children, it was traditional to place some grains of rice in the mari core to create a rattle when the balls were handled and played with; today, jingle bells may be included in their centres as good luck charms. (Source: Thompson, G., temarikai.com, 2010)
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"A Holly Jolly Temari"
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"Illusions of Blue on White"
"Gold Ribbons ~ Christmas Ornament"
"Ribbon ~ Christmas Ornament"
"Red & Green Symmetry ~ Christmas Ornament"
"Christmas Diamonds ~ Christmas Ornament"
"Candy Cane ~ Christmas Ornament"
"Deck The Halls ~ Christmas Ornament"
"Twin Stars ~ Christmas Ornament"
"Little Midnight Star ~ Christmas Ornament"
"Blushing Pink Symmetry"
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Tips on learning how to begin making a Temari ball, please visit: http://www.temari.com/tips.htm
Temari: How To Make Japanese Thread Balls (1992), by Diana Vandervoort: Oxford University Press
Temari Traditions: More Techniques for Japanese Thread Balls (1995), by Diana Vandervoort: Oxford University Press
Temari Treasures: Japanese Thread Balls and More (1997), by Diana Vandervoort: Japan Publications Trading Co.
Temari: A Traditional Japanese Embroidery Technique (1999), by Margaret Ludlow: Sterling
Japanese Temari: A Colorful Spin on an Ancient Craft (2007), by Barbara B. Suess: Breckling Press
The Simple Art of Japanese Temari (2009), by Dominique Herve & Alban Negaret: Search Press