Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.
Kokeshi (こけし / Japanese wooden Dolls) originated from Tohoku region in northern Japan. The round-head dolls with their cylindrical limbless torso, were initially handmade by woodwork artisan to sell as massage tools to bathers in onsen (温泉 / hot spring / spa). The bathers would tap the dolls on their shoulders while enjoying the hot bath. After that, they would usually bring the dolls home as souvenirs, or as toys for their children.
As porcelain dolls were luxuries in olden Japan, the wooden kokeshi soon became popular with children of poor farmers. They were also commonly given to newborns as gifts, which doubled up as teething toys for the young babies.
Today, Kokeshi has become a well-recognized folk art of Japan. Kokeshi that follow the classical shape originated from Tohoku, are known as Traditional Kokeshi (伝統こけし). Authentic ones were made by skilled and properly trained craftsmen, who followed distinctive features passed down from their masters/fathers.
Here is a link to see Abe Kazuei, a skillful Takumi (Kokeshi craftsmen) making a traditional kokeshi. Fascinating!
Creative Kokeshi (新型こけし), on the other hand, are expressed freely in any theme, shape, colors or in any contemporary style of individual artists. Like every work of art, each Kokeshi is named by its creator. Since 1954, annual kokeshi competitions are held and the prime minister’s prize is awarded to the most creative Japanese wooden doll.
Winners of kokeshi competitions are truly talented. After seeing some of their works, I was so juiced up that I churned out several kokeshi-inspired illustrations. I will share them in the following blog. So stay tune!
Japanese site with list of creative kokeshi artists (See under 作家紹介)