How to make a daruma doll

Written by allison boyer
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Daruma dolls are small Japanese dolls used for wishing. These are less like the babydolls children carry and more like small sculptural pieces. Traditionally, they have no limbs and are meant to represent Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, a religion and school of thought. Most daruma dolls are male, but there is one type of daruma doll (called princess darum) that is female. You can purchase daruma dolls near Buddhist temples in Japan, but you can also make your own using these directions.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Clay or plastic egg
  • stones
  • tape
  • papier-mache
  • Paint
  • Paint brush
  • Black marker

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Create a round, bottom-heavy shape, either out of clay or by covering a plastic egg with papier-mache. If you make the form out of papier-mache, tape some stones in the bottom of the egg first to make it stable on the bottom.

  2. 2

    Use the clay or papier-mache to form the face of the daruma doll. You don't need to create facial features, except a small triangular protrusion for the nose. The face on a daruma doll is simply a flat surface that is sunk lower than the rest of the body. You'll paint on the features later.

  3. 3

    Bake your clay piece or allow the papier-mache to dry. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying or baking times and temperatures.

  4. 4

    Paint the sunken face surface with a flesh colour and the body with bright red. Allow the base paint to dry.

  5. 5

    Paint two large white eyes on the doll's face. Do not paint the pupils of the eyes.

  6. 6

    Use black paint to create eyebrows, a moustache and decorations on the cheeks and temples. Some people like to paint symbols representing their wish on the cheeks of the doll.

  7. 7

    Use gold, black, white and green paint to decorate the red body of the doll. Most people paint their name on the doll's chin.

  8. 8

    Fill in the pupil of the left-hand eye (right-hand when it is facing you) with a black marker when you are ready to make your wish.

  9. 9

    When the wish comes true, fill in the other pupil.

Tips and warnings

  • If you do not want to make the doll's base, you can purchase an unpainted daruma doll and just do the painting yourself.
  • At the end of the year, many temples have daruma doll burning ceremonies. Burning your doll with just one eye painted signifies that although you are not giving up on your wish, but you are pursuing other things in life too. It is customary to only have one doll in mid-wish process at any given time.
  • Some people consider eyeless daruma dolls discriminatory against blind people. Consider the feelings of family members and friends who may be guests in your home before displaying your dolls.

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