A scrapbook of whatever I'm making, collecting, or just obsessing about
at the moment.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: "The World of Japanese Dolls" by The Tokyo Doll School

This book is useful for learning new dollmaking techniques, even if you don't want to make a traditional Japanese doll. I remember reading that the amazing dollmaker Antoinette Cely studied this book early in her career and based some of her methods on it--particularly the face masks, as I recall.
All of these dolls are, to my mind, technically "figurines," as they are designed to hold one graceful, pre-determined position. I don't mind that, but if I make one I may adapt it for movable arms and legs, just for fun. Probably my goal won't be to make a rigorously authentic model--although I can't rule it out entirely.

They are stuffed with "wood shavings," which I think is the same thing as the "excelsior" that other Japanese dollmaking books of mine have called for.

Maiko: Dancing Girl of Kyoto
The book begins with general information about Japanese dolls and their history, along with some color plates of samples. The second section, "How to Make Japanese Dolls," is divided into six parts, the first three instructions for making dolls with face masks. For "Maiko," you're told to use a pre-made mask--you may have to improvise for that. Illustrated instructions and diagrams are provided for making a kimono, painting the facial features on the mask, and creating the hairstyle.

Next, instructions for making Ocho Fujin (Madame Butterfly), a doll with a face mask which you design and create yourself. This process calls for paulownia powder--and if you know where to find that, please write and tell me because I don't know what it is. My plan is to figure out a substitute for it. You're also shown how to create hands with individual fingers.

The last of the mask dolls is "Ukiyo-e, who is supposed to be very easy compared with the first two dolls. She is constructed of cloth as a "stump" doll (no legs) It looks like they have you make her mask by sculpt her nose, mouth, and ears with paper mache and applying them to the face. Later you smooth out the face by applying extra paper clay and then covering it "white knit (hosiery) material."  It's cute that they have you make separate little feet to stick out from under her kimono, as if she did have feet!

From the "Maiko" doll instructions
Next comes a "toso" doll, which looks to be a wooden doll whose head is sculpted onto a tombstone-shaped wooden core, then covered with washi paper and painted. An all-cloth doll, "Yakko-san," has a needle-sculpted face with a fabric covering to smooth it out; complete instructions for his clothing are given.

Last is a section on egg dolls, bottle dolls, and paper dolls (chiyogami).  These all look quite simple--maybe too simple to bother with, unless you really like the origami ones. The book ends with cutting diagrams for the clothing, plus several pages of Japanese hair styles to create with the hair rooting instructions already provided. Tucked inside the back cover are the paper patterns you need for cutting out the cloth parts of the dolls.

Overall, this book seems like a reasonable, realistic attempt to teach traditional Japanese dollmaking techniques to Western dollmakers. It can't cover everything, but what it does offer seems do-able, and the unusual materials called for shouldn't be too much of an obstacle to resourceful people, especially now that we can search for items on the internet, and have materials like paper clay and instant papier-mache readily available. I might only ever use this book for technique ideas, but if I do attempt a doll I'll post a photo of her.

Copies of this book are currently available on Amazon marketplace at reasonable prices.

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