Kimekoni Dolls

I was taught by The Kyogetsu School of doll making.

The most prestigious doll school in Japan.

Japanese tradition dictates that a doll will hold fans, flowers, ornaments or other Japanese objects. Each doll usually represents a Japanese folk tale or a piece of history. They can be children, adults, even animals. Dolls made in this traditional way are not only very beautiful and popular, but they are also considered valued treasures among collectors.

Kimekomi is a technique of doll making in which the doll form is carved of wood and then covered with pieces of fabric which are inserted into slits in the wood to give the illusion of clothing.

The wood is carved into the shape of a doll in full clothing, and all effect of folding and draping of fabric is achieved in the carving process. When the fabric is added, it is stretched tightly across the form and the edges tucked into the grooves, perfectly fitting over its area of the ‘clothing’.

This method can be so well done that until touching the figure, it seems as if the doll is wearing loose clothing. The original kimekomi-type dolls are kamo ningyo. (ningyo -doll). It is believed that during the mid 18th century, Takahashi Tadashige created the technique at the Kamo shrine in Kyoto, from which the name is derived.

Made of willow wood, the uncovered face and hands would be left unfinished, keeping the colour of the willow, differentiated them from later dolls, known simply as kimekomi dolls, which usually have gofun- or gesso-covered faces.

Another change from the past, some modern dolls are not hand-carved, but produced from a mold and a mixture of kiri, or paulownia, wood sawdust and funorin (a glue-like substance made of seaweed) Originally, kamo dolls were made in playful poses, often rolling dolls. (daruma)

However, in the Meiji era, more serious dolls with religious significance began to be made, often monks. Today, kimekomi dolls are made in almost every type, including dolls for Boy’s Day and Girl’s Day, dolls with religious significance and dolls which are playful.