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AAAYA DC: Paper Ball Making at the Arlington Library

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

On a gray Saturday afternoon early in January, Yalies from across the DMV gathered in the Bluemont Room of Arlington Central Library try their hand at arts-and-crafts. The day's challenge: constructing a paper origami kusudama ball that, when complete, would be little bigger than 6 inches in diameter.

The event was an opportunity to reunite after the winter holidays and gear up for celebration of the upcoming Lunar New Year. Our participants read through horoscope predictions (this is a particularly auspicious year for the Goat, Pig, and Dog) and learned how to write Chinese phrases of goodwill: 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè), 恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái), and my personal favorite — 福 (fú) written upside-down to construct a pun.

Crafting the kusudama was no small feat. The construction required six individual pieces of paper, all folded into impeccable symmetry. Once the pieces were complete, they had to be assembled with the help of a glue stick and some fairly deft fingers. The ball could optionally be completed with a hanging lucky knot or written inscription. Those with a little more ambition went for both.

Heads bent over small squares of paper, brows furrowed, as table neighbors consulted with one another to perfect their techniques. Were you the kind of craftsman who oversaw the construction of each individual element from beginning to end, your workspace gradually proliferating with small paper blooms? Or did you turn your table into an assembly line with your children, bringing your pieces to fruition in slow, methodical stages?

The kusudama ball is admittedly not in itself a new year tradition that I'm aware of. The version we presented was an amalgamation of inspirations: distant memories of summer days spent at Chinese school; various online tutorials scattered across the web; an interest in designing a fitting craft for a new year event. In other words, it was really "more about the vibe." But looking around the room at the creativity on display from people of all ages and backgrounds, their shared connection to Yale the central unifying thread, I realized we just might have started a new tradition of our own.


Deandra Tan, Yale College ES '13

AAAYA DC Board Member

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