Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Collectible Kokeshi Dolls

Kokeshi dolls
I am drawn to different art forms made by the Japanese such as lacquerware, woodcuts and kokeshi dolls. Their design aesthetic carries through in everything they do and the kokeshi doll is no exception. The kokeshi doll is a Japanese folk art form. Kokeshi dolls originated in the Tohoku region of Northern Japan in the early 1800's. It is thought that the dolls were first made by woodworkers, called kiiya, who sold the designs as souvenirs in the winter season to tourists who came to visit the well known hot springs resorts.   
Vintage Creative Kokeshi
Woods typically used for kokeshi are cherry, dogwood, Japanese Maple and Mizuki. The wood is left outdoors to season for one to five years before it can be used. The woodworker turns and cuts the dolls on a lathe and then polishes them to a very smooth finish. The head and body are usually turned separately; then attached together by a plug. Then the kokeshi doll is painted. There are two types of kokeshi dolls, traditional and creative.

Traditional Kokeshi
Traditional Kokeshi

Traditional Kokeshi
Traditional kokeshi, produced only in the six prefectures of Tohoku, are very simple in their design with round heads and cylinder like bodies sans limbs. The floral and linear patterns painted on the kimonos have been developed and passed down through generations of kokeshi makers and are distinctive to the area where they are made. The primary differences between styles are the shape of the body and head, as well as the painting and colors used. The type of wood and lathe used may also differ.

Creative Kokeshi
Creative Kokeshi

Creative Kokeshi

Creative Kokeshi

Creative Kokeshi

Creative Kokeshi

Creative Kokeshi

Creative Kokeshi

Creative Kokeshi

The creative form of kokeshi dolls, called Shingata, are not limited in terms of shape, color and design. The artist can paint and style the doll however they wish. The only requirement is the use of a lathe, the same tool used for traditional dolls. Creative kokeshi, which developed during World War II, are limbless also.

Craftsman making Kokeshi dolls

Kokeshi Craftsman
Every year in early September, wood craftsmen throughout Japan gather in Naruko Onsen, where the kokeshi is honored through competition. The artist who creates the best kokeshi doll receives a prestigious award from Japan's prime minister.

Creative Kokeshi

Creative Kokeshi

Mother and son Kokeshi

Kokeshi are generally bought by Japanese people as mementos. In addition to being ornamental, they are also seen as charms to prevent fires or even ward off evil. The Mizuki wood often used to make the kokeshi doll's head, translates as "water tree". It is a very moist wood and some Japanese believe that having a kokeshi in their home helps prevent fire.

You can find Kokeshi dolls at estate sales, antique stores, thrift stores, websites and eBay.

Resources

5 comments:

  1. Lovely post!

    I love kokeshi dolls and on my trip to Japan I bought one for my niece because it was just so charming... I'm crossing my fingers that she'll keep it for a long long time!

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  2. I never knew what these dolls were called...
    thanks for enlightening me...
    pretty collection...

    maureen

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  3. thanks for info...I've got a very small collection of old Kokeshi dolls (if three can be considered a collection!) but knew nothing about them.
    I like your blog...header is fab!

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  4. Thanks! Like your blog too and am now a follower

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  5. Those are charming. I'd never heard of them! Glad you visited my blog so that I could find you in return and learn something new.

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