In the recent issue of Craft magazine (#3), there is an article about dorodango, or "shiny mudballs," an ancient Japanese craft of making mud into shiny decorative spheres.
When I saw this, a flood of memories came rushing back! When I was a little kid, my sister and I used to make "mud babies." We would take mud and form it into a ball, using the ash in our Washington soil (from the Mt. Saint Helens eruption years before) to vary the color and consistency. The "babies" would then go through an involved process of being buried in the ground for several nights, and each day we would powder them with more ash and work them into more and more perfect spheres. Then (strangely) we would carry them around like small, delicate infants.
When I think back, it was one of the most satisfying projects I've ever done. We never thought to make them shiny; but who knew we were tapping into some ancient Japanese craftiness!