I had never heard of Kokeshi before i received an Etsy conversation from designcandy's Christina Conway who offered to trade me some blank kokeshi forms for one of my small original paintings. In addition to the trade, she invited me into a Kokeshi show she is curating that will be at the Japanese American National Museum in LA. July 11 - September 2009. SO before i start working on my piece for that show i am making some fun ones for practice, figuring out what paint i want to use, and how much i want to extend past the original form of head and body. V gave me a drill with a little tiny bit to make holes for my Kokeshi bugs' antennae.

Kokeshi are traditional dolls from northern Japan. The classic style is a simple form of body and head with no arms or legs; a simple face and patterned or floral body decoration. I like that the head moves on a dowel, giving the dolls some degree of attitude.

i tried a little squirrel design, knowing it would please my summitteer friends moi, shamu and boxer but i think it really needs ears for it to work. they are painted on the sides but the look seems more like a squirrel coming out of a tight sock or something. and though i painted the tail on the back, i have not resolved if i want to try and shade for dimension or keep it kind of flat and "designey". The forms for the kokeshi show are taller and skinnier than these -i actually find these shorter one's proportions more pleasing.

Clearly i am drawing from my designs that i use on my christmas ornaments, as this "love bug" looks just like them. All my kokeshi bugs have nice wings on the back. you can see more details on them at my Etsy shop.

Here is the first trio of kokeshi. I think the kabuki/geisha one on the left is best.


  1. me too, love the kabuki/geisha one the best. They are all really cute tho'. [btw its roxanne.]

  2. Maybe it's part of the art form to have new items to see as the statue is turned.
    Then the painted tail (squirrel) and or ears would show.
    The idea is pre-cubist art, and Cezanne studied the dickens out of it, but, I think without coming to grips with what it meant.

    You know what 'floating world' pictures are?
    That is two dimensional.
    Given three, one sees from that new angle all that encompasses the new angle.

    Then again, lil ears WOULD look cute on the beggar, eh?
    The bugs are WAY cool!

  3. tres cool ! I love the bugs but then I love bugs. Can't wait to see what else you come up with. Happy Spring !

  4. My parents were married in Japan and my Dad actually imported Kokeshi Dolls, so I had quite a few of them around growing up. I love seeing you combine your ornaments into something with a body/etc. They are all great, but I like the one of the left best - it actually looks like a Kokeshi Doll. REALLY well done. Sell! Sell! Sell! Next; PUPPETS.

    (I tried to make a video out of the Squirrel and cat ornaments, but the top of the ornament got in the way.)

  5. i like kokeshi ..
    i like your kokeshi ..
    my dad brought back a couple of kokeshi when he was stationed in korea for a year during the 60s ..
    i still have then sitting out behind a glass cabinet.

  6. Is there something wrong with a squirrel that looks like it's coming out of a sock?

    These little buggers are quite clever. And I agree that you geisha cherry blossom kokeshi is the best.

    The chickens have invaded the land of the squirrels.

  7. Congrats on the invitation to exhibit your art at this LA show.

    You have done an awesome job with these and I will certainly go to the etsy site to view the bug wings, squirrel tail etc.

    On the three below, you did invite me in postings past to review your
    artwork "anytime" so .....

    Definitely they are all infused with great character and color but the geisha on the left is superior for the following reasons:

    1) The styling of the costume is more clearly Asian, particularly with the colorations and detailed flora of the garment.

    2)The stark white "make-up" style is the classic high contrast of Asian theatre art.

    3)The curiving lower line of the slanted smiling eyes denotes high cheekbones. Yet another brilliant choice for evoking association of an Asian "beauty". Quite the accomplishment in what is actually a spherical form!

    4) the fat to thin brushwork of the legs is reminiscent of the line work of Asian script so again you have utilized this element to project cohesion to things Asian

    5) the show runs July - September so the green, pink, white palette is seasonally appropriate.

    6) You have successfully honored this Asian art form while making it uniquely your image.

    Bravo! on a job well done K9

  8. Or, the squirrel is going through a wind tunnel?

    My fave is the kabuki/geisha one, too, because although the other two are tres cute, I think the geisha is the only one that "reads" as kokeshi. Are those lilies on her body? Lovely!

  9. tinkerbell: so good to see you! im glad you stopped by. how about the chicks? i bet youre dying to get a chicken, right?

    boney: i did paint the ears and tail but it bothers me that it doesnt help the design from the front. maybe i will hack up a kokeshi flay it out and have a cubist kokeshi - multiple views at once

    susan: i too am a big fan of bugs - or these kind anyway. have a happy saturday at 29 blackstreet

    boxer: how cool! maybe i will paint over the other two and make more geishas... i think i am going to make some other kind of animal. im having a bad neck day so i wont be doing much art and shouldnt be on the computer either. more movie making? you need active things not my ol still ornaments. unless mickey destroys one or something. ;-)

    foamy: neat! are they red and black like the ones in the post? you and boxer are way ahead of me on this - never knew it existed now i look at all the products surrounding them - stickers and fabric and little charms for cell phones...

    shamu: hahahahahahaha! no, i guess not. maybe i should do a chicken kokeshi!

    fishy: wow. you are a really good art critic. and i thank you. and, i agree. i think the first two are me on auto pilot and the geisha more thoughtful. good news is i can paint over any i dont like and start again. the blank forms i have left are tall and skinny which evoke other characters. thanks fishy for your kind words

    moi: yes: stargazeresque lillies. i started with cherry blossoms and then went off track. i might do a cherry blossom one when i get back to work. im not good today.i actually have my neck brace on and my left arm is heavy which means nerve compression somewhere. GAH! and its tres beautiful outside i just want to work in the yard.

  10. Take it easy K9, don't overstress. Just relax and let your neck and arm recover. We'll see ya when we see ya.

  11. WOW!

    they're all lovely

    and congratulations on a great
    opportunity to take your talent to a whole new audience and market -- awesome!

    well, i'd have to say the geisha is most appealing to me, too -- beautifully done and appears to most closely relate to the tradition

    rock on!

    ¤ ¤ ¤


  12. Hope your neck/arm situation resolves quickly.

    About those taller, thinner forms .... you do know Asian artists are very fond of beautiful , colorful
    Fishys ????????

    As a funny note, I never think of myself as an art "critic". Not really qualified for that mission. I do know myself to be someone who loves many art forms and do think about, not just respond to, art. Also, when I go to art shows I get tres annoyed with the uber pretentious interpretatoins I hear.

    Am off this afternoon to a "Pieces of our Lives" quilt show ... a really great art form for people of patience.

  13. Have you had trouble with your neck and arm for awhile?

    I LOVE the kabuki/geisha! Makes me smile just lookin' at her!

  14. no ..
    the colors and style are a bit different probably since they are from korea ..
    one of them is actually a black kokeshi..
    the heads are kind of lopsided at this point since i remember playing with them as a kid.

  15. Your trio of kokeshi are really cute, yes I think the kabuki/geisha is the best.
    I also love the squirrel, he would look so cute with ears and a bushy tail, maybe you could start a new line of forest animals.
    My cousin Jan and her husband make dolls from locally grown white cedar,some with a wildflower theme as well as other toys, here is a link if you would like to take a look Sugar Creek Toymakers.
    Have fun with your new venture. ♥

  16. Just popped by to say Goodnight, have a nice Sunday in your garden with your Trout, Dovey and little chicks...and V of course. ♡

  17. shamu: you would make the best nurse ever - i already know of your nurturing tendency with cheffing. thank you. i will.

    /t: well hell, i guess i will have to examine this truth since geisha is the consensus. i think maybe a samurai guy next? thanks, /t.

    fishy: yes! a fish has great possibilities! er, if a high falutin art critic were to review kokeshi they would say it was a commentary on our interconectedness with asian product and our imperialistic co-opting of said forms as a metaphor for our bankrupt morality. grrrrrherhahahaha! right?

    dani: yes i have. i have had two neck surgeries resulting in fusions of 3 vertebrae. the second surgery followed a rather spectacular break which was surreal in the amount of pain i was in. the last few days ive been struggling with controlling my left arm -and it is heavy too which is a sign im really inflamed and my root nerve to my arm is impinged. anyway - the docs have said once there have been fusions the other vertebrae are vulnerable - and ive been careless.

    Im glad you like geisha! thank you!

    foamy: oh i bet that black one is very cool. how neat that you still have them.

    dianne: i liked your cousins toys! in particular, i liked the historical figures like the preacher man. i wish i had bought that clay snake handler preacher i saw at folk fest last year. thanks for your kind words -even for ol squirrelly.

    boxer: i am trying. ive been icing it down and i even slept in my neck brace last night. (!)

    dianne: thats exactly what i did, very little. i had V bring the baby chicks out in the sun and trout and i hung out. i sat in my garden for a while and gently pulled a few weeds that have sprung up under the bird feeder. thanks for coming by again im always happy to see you.

  18. ya'll all called it right: geisha sold on etsy today. :-)

  19. K9,
    A bet a blogger bought your geisha.
    Ummmmmmmmmmmm...... if you ever get tired of making art YOU might consider a new career as an art critic....seems you speak their gibberish pretty well!

    I know you are getting all the advice you can stand, BUT, about your neck, if you are vertical your neck must support your head.
    Sounds stupid, I know, but an average human head weight is 8 pounds. Soooooooooooo, the best way to rest your neck is to take the load off and a neck brace, does not lessen the load.

    No mystery of how I learned this, I too spend a goodly portion of my life on the drawing board....so this is kind of a professional stress I also had to learn how to manage. Wish I had learned before my neck reconstruction. On busy "board' days, I have to take breaks and I have to be flat.

    Lying in the garden sun with trout and chicks sounds perfect to me!

  20. fishy: thank you. its pretty bad. there is major compression somewhere making my left arm spastic. it is very weird when your arm doesnt do what the brain tells it to. if this was my right arm i would be in full tilt panic right now. i have a massage tomorrow. im doing ice every hour for 10 minutes. im sleeping in the neck brace only. day time im just guttin it out.

    no, a local woman bought the Kokeshi. she actually just left the studio. she bought the squirrel too. i really like her. she makes these cool figures herself (she brought some photos) -i told her she should open an etsy shop.

  21. Goodness! You must be hurtin' something fierce! I hope the ice and massage helps.....xoxo

    My beautiful print came today and I just wanted to thank you so much for the cards. It made today an extra special one. :)

  22. dani: thank you. im glad you liked the cards. its a thank you for the tremendous inspiration youve been to me. xo

  23. Japanese Chickory? The Geisha is the best!

  24. Papa-San alarmed.
    Son play with Kokeshi doll.
    And wears Kimono.

  25. I love that one on the left too! Very clever designs. I've not heard of these dolls either but am glad to see that Troll can turn it into haiku.


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