Tag Archive for 'kusudama'

Tips for Making Quality Kusudama

Gelli arts kusudama

A friend inquired yesterday about how to make one of the kusudama balls that Matt and I make each year for Christmas ornaments. I realized I never shared the ornament we made for Christmas 2017.

Gelli arts kusudama

I thought I’d pop in again to share the ornament and some quick tips that might help make your ornament go smoother. We’ve done it now for 10 years! Only 7 actually fit on the tree, because I kept having to relearn the same mistake for the first 3 years. That brings me to tip #1.

#1 Start with 3″ square papers for a 6″ diameter ball.

Unlike origami where you start with one piece of big paper and it folds down to a tiny size, the finished kusudama ball will actually be roughly twice the size of one square paper that you start with. The first year we probably used a 6″ square and ended up with a foot wide “ornament” that is really just table decoration now. The next year, trying to learn from my mistake, I think I referenced the instructions again and made 5″ squares, still not small enough. The third year, I thought I was going smaller yet, and still did a 5″ piece, both of these ended up being 10″ balls that are also too big to fit on a tree, and sit alongside the gigantic one for holiday decorations.

Gelli arts kusudama

#2. Origami paper is not preferable for a long term keepsake kusudama ball.

We’ve done a few in origami paper and after a few years of storage and use in between, the corners have all gotten mangled. The paper is just too thin and flimsy. In previous years, we have used recycled magazines, origami and wrapping paper. Christmas 2016 was the first year that it occurred to me to use a paper I decorated myself. I picked a color scheme and used regular office paper with gelatin prints on the front and back. I use basic, cheap craft paint ($1-$2 a bottle) on my gelli plate and the added layers made the paper firm, but not too heavy to fold, or the ornament too heavy to hang from a branch of the Christmas tree.

Gelli arts kusudama

3. It takes a lot longer to make one than you might think

You fold down and glue 60 squares of paper, into 12 flowers with 5 petals each.

I remember the very first ornament we made, I started out thinking if it went quickly enough, maybe we could decorate a whole tree with these handmade ornaments! That was a joke. One, because we made it TOO BIG, and Two, because the paper was so big, it took us way longer to fold and glue Three Since it was our first time doing it, we were learning as we went, and we had to reference the tutorial a lot and that added time and Four, we used white craft glue like the instructions said. Now, we have it down to a science, don’t need to reference the tutorial, and can pump it out in an efficient manner. Still, it takes the two of us working continually about an hour to make an ornament (just the folding and gluing, not including the printing of paper and cutting it down to size, etc.). It takes 2 hours for just me to make one. 10 years later, we have 10 ornaments (7 that actually fit on the tree) and I like having one for every year as a mark of our tradition.

Gelli arts kusudama

4. Use a hot glue gun

The tutorial we originally referenced instructs you to use white glue. Um, no. That will easily triple or quadruple your assembly time and will result in a lower quality finished piece, with a shorter life span. I also tried a double sided sticky tape (like a tape runner), also a no! Every year when I take them out again I have to kind of “fix” the original 3 (white glue and tape runner) and that means gluing them back together again because these adhesives start coming apart over time. We now use a glue gun and it goes SO FAST and the pieces have stayed together marvelously. You have to know how to use a hot glue gun, be safe and efficient. There’s no take back if you glue something together wrong and you want to get the pieces together with fairly good precision. That being said, Matt glued this year and maybe last year’s pieces together, while I folded. If you look at our pieces you can see the meeting point tips aren’t perfect, but off much more and things might not meet together to glue.

Gelli arts kusudama

5. Make sure you work space is clean

There’s nothing worse than soiling a piece you’ve invested a lot of time on.

Here are all of my previous kusudama posts, so you can see the other ornaments we’ve made, individually as well as in the collection.

The original tutorial we referenced has changed, and is now asking for donations and that people don’t share or direct people to the instructions? (how will people be able to donate if you get no traffic), but I’m sure there are tons of other instructions out there by simply googling it.

If you make one and share it to your blog, I’d love to check out the link. Thank you!

2016 Kusudama Ornament

And the finished result #robayrekusudama made from #gelliarts printed paper #gelliprinting I'll post more to the blog shortly.

Every year since 2008, Matt and I make a Kusudama ornament. I always reminisce about how the first year I thought we’d make enough to decorate the whole Christmas tree. Two hours later (racing each other the whole time to make as many petals as possible) we had ONE ornament finished and it was the size of a soccer ball. Now, we finally make them ornament sized and only aim to make one a year. We are up to 9, though only 6 of them are small enough to hang from the tree (it took us a while to get the size right).

Making messes

This year, like every year, I wondered “what are we going to make the ornament out of?” The first few years we used old catalogs and magazines. Then for a few years we used origami paper, then wrapping paper and finally last year an old page-a-day calendar. This year it occurred to me that I could MAKE my own paper. I looked at my Color Inspiration board on pinterest and was instantly taken with this picture of a pillow on a chair. So, pinks and rust as a base with pops and accents of color and pattern.

Trimmed down, hand printed papers for our annual kusudama ornament

I printed, double sided, on the paper using my gelli arts plate and hand cut paper stencils, and trimmed down the paper to 3″x3″. It actually worked better than a lot of the other papers we’ve used because with the additional layers of paint, it was that much more sturdy. The origami paper ornaments have a tendency to get banged up corners because the paper is so thin and fragile.

See previous Kusadama ornament posts here

We follow this 2 step tutorial each year.

Annual Kusadama 2013 edition

Happy New Year!

Our annual #kusudama ornament. We've made one every year, starting in 2008. Our first one was an oops and ended up being about 10" in diameter, too big and heavy for the tree. #robayrekusudama

I wanted to drop in and share our new kusudama ornament we made for 2013, above. We used a black and white patterned origami paper I picked up from Michael’s. Below is 2012′s ornament that never got shared on the blog.

Kusadama from 2012 (but made in 2013)

We didn’t get around to making it in time for Christmas 2012, so we went with all red colors for Valentine’s day instead.

When we made the first one in 2008 I had a vision of having a tree decorated entirely with these, but then we realized how labor intensive it is, so we just made the one, but now we have 6! Only 4 of them are small enough to actually fit on the tree, but still, it is cool to see the collection grow each year. I love this holiday tradition.

  2010 kusudama ornament cropped
2009 Kusudama ornament  recycled ornament

You can click on each picture above to read that year’s post.

Just some facts about the ornaments if you are interested in making one for yourself:

Paper squres (64 pieces) should be no bigger than 3″ square for a resulting 4.5″ ornament. Trust me, our first “ornament” is about 12 inches in diameter!

The instructions (if I remember correctly) say to use glue. There is no way you’d ever get this done if you were waiting for each piece of paper to glue together. The first year or two we used an adhesive tape, but that started acting funky over the years, so we have switched to glue gun and it speeds up the whole process and the pieces hold together SOLIDLY!

We follow this 2 step tutorial each year.

Our Annual Christmas Ornament


Yesterday Matt and I made our annual Christmas ornament. I like the idea of using recycled or repurposed papers to make such a beautiful thing. So far we’ve recycled paper 3 years, and purchased origami paper one year. This year I was fortunate enough to pick up some waste paper from a song book we were printing at work and it made for a beautiful ornament. This is the tutorial pattern I follow every year. This was also the first year we used hot glue and it is by far the sturdiest ornament yet. I highly recommend using hot glue. If you don’t have a glue gun you can find them at your typical marts and craft stores for under $10. Also, don’t make the same mistake we made, use small paper! Our first ornament ended up being the size of a soccer ball and will never make it to the tree. Now we use 3″ square and it works perfectly.

12.19 2011 ornament

I like this picture above with all the ornaments we’ve made so far. It’s our first year in our first home and this picture captures so much. It’s like an eye spy. There are four ornaments on our dining room table but can you see the a handmade table cloth that Matt’s great grandmother made? How about a nosey kitty, and a christmas tree, and don’t forget a tired Matt lounging on the couch?

12.20 christmas tree
And since we are on holiday decorations, here is a picture of our first full sized tree. Previously we had a little 3 foot tree that was more of a pain than anything. The cat was constantly trying to eat it and it was always falling over. This new tree was gifted to us by Matt’s parents. Please disregard the lack of a tree skirt. I’m working on it. The tree is covered in white lights (my preference), my handmade gold and silver garland, and a collection of both of our ornaments from since we were babies.

Recycled Kusudama Paper Ornament

Recycled Kusadama Ornament, originally uploaded by robayre.

Tonight Matt and I sat down to make our annual Christmas ornament. And eeep, if last year’s ornament was too big to hang on a tree well, check out this year’s (the larger of the two). My original vision last year was to make a whole bunch of these and cover a tree with them and white Christmas lights.

I followed this 2 stage pattern. Make sure you have lots of time, it takes about 3 hours with two people working at it. AND we use translucent double faced tape. I can’t imagine how long it would take if you used glue like the instruction say. This year I followed the directions for size and the instructions call for 60 7 inch square pieces of paper. It wasn’t until afterward I reread my post from last year and saw that I stated I used 4 inch square papers. Basically this year’s ornament is equal to a good sized globe in diameter.

Once again I cut apart an old art magazine with a good weight, luster and variety of colors. Next year I hope I return to this post and read it before creating the third ornament. Robyn, cut the paper down to 3 inch squares please. Not that it will make the process any faster, but perhaps one year we might actually make an ornament that can fit on the tree.

recycled ornament

recycled ornament, originally uploaded by robayre.

Last night matt and I worked on this ornament. I had visions of covering a tree with these recycled ornaments after seeing them here. But, shortly after starting, I realized it would be a bit of work. Starting with 4 inch square pieces of paper cut from a Toast catalog, this ornament is about 6 inches in diameter, so it is a little big to be hanging from a tree. It also took us about 3 hours to put it together, working non stop in a fast paced, competitive “who can make more pieces” mode. Oh yeah, and it said to use glue, but we cheated and used this double faced gummy tape stuff, which made it go A LOT faster.

Maybe one decoration a year is more feasible.