Losing your marbles for ‘marbleous’ creations?

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Marbles available at Miyabi in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, come in a wide variety of colors, patterns and textures.

When it comes to rolling and flicking something around for fun, marbles have long been a go-to choice for children in Japan. But the multi-hued glass balls are not just for the young, as artisans have also been using them in stylish art projects, much to the delight of marble afficionados.

“Marbles have a wide variety of tones and patterns, making them as beautiful as jewels,” said Masae Horima, who runs Miyabi, a marble specialty shop in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo. “They can change hue. For instance, red ones can appear orangy depending on how the light hits them or the angle from which you see them.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Masae Horima

Originally from Tokyo, Horima became attracted to marble-based crafts after coming across a shop in Iwate Prefecture, where she moved after getting married. In 2013, she began taking classes with the aim of becoming an instructor of marble crafts certified by the Morioka-based Marble Art association. She opened Miyabi in 2015 and holds workshops there. She also sells her artworks online.

Her shop boasts more than 200 types of marbles that come in eight sizes with diameters ranging from 8 millimeters to 30 millimeters. Some are strikingly monochromatic, and others appear as if they were somehow painted from the inside. Unusual items, such as translucent frosted marbles and bubble-type marbles, are also available.

Marbles are becoming popular as items used for interior decoration.

“Marbles look really nice when displayed inside of clear glass or when used as the base in an aquarium,” said Horima.

Some of her customers include a toy-figure enthusiast who uses marbles for decorations as well as an architect who incorporates them in the interiors of walls. Before the coronavirus pandemic, one customer purchased marbles to use them as additional tips while on overseas business trips.

Marble artworks are also on display in her shop. Horima bends wires with pliers and gradually wraps them around marbles until a work is done.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Marble crafts depicting goldfish and seahorses are seen in a box made in the image of an aquarium.

Horima has created about 80 works of art, including one made to look like an aquarium. She skillfully created depictions of goldfish, seahorses, guppies and other marine creatures and arranged them in a box.

Accessories such as fan-shaped brooches, a lamp with a marble shade and other practical items are also available.

“There are different ways of appreciating the beauty of marbles. I want many people to enjoy their own styles, such as crafting art,” Horima said.

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Cracked marbles

Eye-catching cracked marbles

Cracked marbles, characterized by fissures in their interiors, stand out from the others.

“Light reflecting inside cracked marbles appears more complex and glittery than in ordinary ones,” Horima said.

Some types of cracked marbles are exclusively available at her shop.

However, the process of producing cracked marbles results in increased fragility, making them unsuitable for use in games.

Horima recommended using them for decorations and as material for artworks. A special protective coating agent can also be applied to their surfaces.

Horima is certainly enjoying a “marbleous” life in art.