Temari balls are a folk art form that originated in China and was introduced to Japan around the 7th century A.D.
Historically, temari were constructed from the remnants of old kimonos. Pieces of silk fabric would be wadded up to form a ball, and then the wad would be wrapped with strips of fabric. As time passed, traditional temari became an art, with the functional stitching becoming more decorative and detailed, until the balls displayed intricate embroidery. With the introduction of rubber to Japan, the balls went from play toys to art objects, although mothers still make them for their children. Temari became an art and craft of the Japanese upper class and aristocracy, and noble women competed in creating increasingly beautiful and intricate objects.
Traditionally, temari were often given to children from their parents on New Year’s Day. Inside the tightly wrapped layers of each ball, the mother would have placed a small piece of paper with a goodwill wish for her child. The child would never be told what wish his or her mother had made while making the ball.
This amazing collection was given to (Flickr user) NanaAkua by her 88-year-old grandmother who began to master the art in her 60s. She has since created hundreds of them, nearly 500 of which you can see right here.