Kitchen Table Crafts : Soot Sprite Center Piece
Susuwatari (Japanese ススワタリ,煤渡り; "wandering soot"), also called Makkuro kurosuke (真っ黒黒助; "pitch-black assistant"), is the name of a fictitious yōkai which was devised by Hayao Miyazaki, drawn by Studio Ghibli, known from the famous anime-productions My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away where, in the former, they are identified as "black soots" in early subtitles, as "dust bunnies" in the Streamline Pictures English dub, and as "soot sprites" or gremlins in the later English dubbed version. - Wikipedia
My first encounter with Soot Sprites or "pitch-black assistants" (that's such a bad-ass name) was in Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, as they are assisting Kamajii in the boiler room of the bath house. Susuwatari are not capable of speaking any human languages and instead make certain squeaky murmuring sounds to express their emotions. While they are not capable of speaking, they seem to be able to understand it, and respond to orders given to them by Kamajii. They are also capable of exhibiting very human emotions such as anger and happiness also showing affection to an individual, as seen when they begin to respect and support Chihiro in small ways after she is accepted by workers of the bathhouse. Soot Sprites do eat, they thrive mainly off a diet of Kompeitō (a colorful hard Japanese candy).
Although they may not have a pivotal role in the whole of the movie, they leave a lasting impression. I have seen everything from drawings by fans, to necklaces, and even tattoos of these little guys, many seem to share in my opinion of them.
So I decided to create my own version of the Susuwatari in the form of a table center or mantle piece.
- Glass Jar
- Medium size Pom Poms - I bought 2 bags to be safe but I only used one.
- 1 sheet of White Stiff Felt
- Black jewelry wire
- Black Puff Paint
- Multi-colored Star shaped beads
- Round thick cardboard base
- White paint (optional)
- Hot glue gun, and glue sticks
I wasn't really feeling the gray cardboard look, so I decided to paint the base a simple white, because white goes with everything. I had to use 2 coats of acrylic paint to get a even cover.
After the base was nice and white I moved onto the actual Soot Sprites, I decided to make 8 sprites that would have eyes and arms, even some legs. I cut out 16, 1/2" diameter stiff white felt circles for the eyes, and gave them each different sorts of expressions or eye positions. Next I made the arms and legs out of the jewelry wire (I used jewelry wire because I didn't want the arms or legs to be too heavy on the body of the pom poms), measuring out 3 1/2" cuts I made 16 arms and 8 legs.
They already look cute!
The assembly came next, fist I glued the jar to the painted cardboard base, and then poured almost 1/2 the bag of the stars (I had a giant bag, so use as much as you would like) into the jar, building them up on one side. The jar is supposed to symbolize the sprites collection or hoarding of Kompeitō, so I stacked the remaining pom poms around the base of the jar (and inside) on top of each other to show them "working together" to get the candy inside the jar.
After that I scattered the sprites I made with eyes, arms, and legs around the piece. Some I put together holding a star and some are by themselves, but each has a star in their "hands". I liked doing this as it almost gave them their own personalities and made them seem more likable.