A form of ancient Japanese folk art, temari balls are brightly colored pieces of needlework covered with elaborate patterns. In the Edo period, aristocratic women created temari balls using pieces of silk from spare kimonos in a challenge toward perfection. To a wider public, they became a sensation several years ago after a 92-year-old grandmother’s temari collection went viral.
Even after hundreds of years, these painstakingly patterned balls, which are now typically created using embroidery thread, continue to captivate. Interestingly, they were originally crafted as toys for young girls—people often still put bells inside to hear the pleasing jingle. Over the course of many centuries, temari—which translates from Japanese to “hand ball”—elevated from colorful toy to folk art object.
Given the time-consuming nature of the craft, it’s no wonder temari balls have also become a symbol of a cherished friendship and good fortune. The brilliant colors are purposeful, symbolizing a wish of happiness for the recipient. And while traditionally it took a 40-year apprenticeship to become a master of temari, these days a resurgence in needlework means ever more practitioners.
Just where do the intricate patterns come from? It all begins with a pattern pinned to the inner core. At that point, the process becomes a bit more complex. While the balls may seem light and playful, an eye for geometric design and symmetry is key to obtaining a pleasing result.
We celebrate this artwork and all its complex beauty by looking at brilliant kaleidoscopes of geometric patterns on temari balls.