Art Gallery – Fuji Musume Doll (and repairs)

You may have seen the little souvenir doll I fixed up recently, and maybe even the ceramic hakata-style dancer I refinished, but this pretty Fuji Musume has been waiting for her moment in the spotlight since February of 2016! She had a very brief cameo on my Instagram account but has been in hiding ever since, unless you’ve been in my bedroom.

I found her in an antique shop near my house before I found the other two dolls. The owner tried to tell me she was in “perfect condition”, but once I took her out and had a good look at her I could see that absolutely was not the case. The delicate painting on her face was faded and chipped, her wisteria branch was sun-damaged and brittle, the structure under her hair was almost bleached, and there was a not insignificant crack in the bisque on the back of her neck. I managed to talk him down to a more than reasonable price for her and her glass case. I knew I wanted to restore her beauty, but I had no idea where to start, aside from the obvious things like getting her a new wisteria branch. While that was in the works, I focused on the other dolls and the things I learnt doing those two helped prepare me for more on her.

Jess from Tiaras ‘n Teakettles came to the rescue for the wisteria! I sent her photos and measurements of the original branch and she crafted this beautiful tsumami branch by hand. It’s got a lovely weight to it, the dangles flow gracefully, and it fits perfectly between her hands. I didn’t even have to glue it, it balances so well.

Once that was sorted I knew it was time to tackle the more serious issues. Her lips were lacquered in an almost glassy red that had cracked and split and faded over time. I ended up having to use Tamiya paint thinner to strip the original off properly, and then used watercolours to repaint her lips and add a tiny hint of red to her eyes. I feel like it helps breathe new life into her facial features.

Next up was the most challenging bit; repairing the cracked bisque on the back of her neck. Thankfully it was just a surface defect, not a structural one, and with the way she stands in her display case it’s virtually unnoticeable, but I knew it was there and I wanted to fix it. I tried a few different things before stumbling upon crafting chalk paint. It’s easy to find in any large craft store such as Michaels. I bought a bottle of white and mixed in the tiniest amounts of peach and brown to make it warmer and less stark. I worked in incredibly thin coats, brushing it over the crack and wiping away the excess each time, essentially filling the crack in with the chalk paint and blending the edges out with a wet brush. If you’re right next to her or looking through a camera lens you can see it faintly, but it’s nearly gone.

Finally I used a black marker to fill in the bald spots on the sides of her hairstyle, repositioned her obiage and gave her a new obijime. I felt that the original one she came with was too big in scale and to starkly white, but I found this thinner gold cord that works perfectly.

I am so glad I waited to work on her, because I know I’ve done the best job possible instead of eagerly rushing through things as I am sometimes wont to do. I love her to bits, and she occupies place of pride on a table next to my sofa now.

Also, you may be thinking to yourself “Isn’t this primarily a kimono blog? Why aren’t you posting any actual kimono lately?” and I would like to address that briefly. I’ve been feeling under the weather, and combined with the heat and humidity this summer, I have no energy to even wrestle with the mannequin. However, I do have a big project in the works, and hopefully it will make up for the sparsity and somewhat disjointed nature of the posts lately! I just need the weather to calm down a little, and the last of the pieces I’ve ordered to arrive in the mail.

Tiny Doll, Tiny Makeover

Hello! Just a quick post today. A few weeks ago, I found this charming little doll at one of the thrift stores near me. I posted a photo of her (along with the rest of my haul) on my Instagram but now that she’s had a bit of a face-lift I felt like she needed her own post.

She’s nothing fancy – maybe 4″ tall and made primarily of plastic. I assume she was a cheap souvenir or something. But I was really charmed by her, and wanted to give her a new lease of life. I was inspired by my friend Naomi, who has been rescuing dolls from thrift stores for ages now, and my friend Vi who runs The Heirloom Smith, a small custom design and restoration business.

The biggest and most obvious problem was her head; her hair was a wreck and there was a flat circle of paper glued to the crown of her head, where a hat had likely fallen off. Thankfully, she had two other hats – one in each hand! I carefully pried the hats off and put them aside, and moistened her hair so I could brush it and try to tame it down somewhat. I then soaked her hands carefully in warm water to dissolve the leftover glue and paper. However, without her hats her pose definitely looked a bit funny, and the fact that her hands, feet, and face were made of cheap yellowed plastic was very apparent. I re-posed her slightly (thankfully, her body is a wire frame so she’s relatively flexible), covered over her yellowed bits with white chalk paint, gave her a cute little umbrella to dance with, and glued one of the salvaged hats onto her head. The last step was to give her slightly more subdued facial features with watercolours over the newly-painted surface of her face. She looks very at home in the cabinet with the ceramic doll I repainted a while back. I’m so happy Ito have given both these girls a new home. Their big sister is also in the works, I hope to be posting about her sometime soon.

I didn’t take too many photos during the process, and the ones I did take were done at my desk with my phone so they’re not fantastic, but it’s still nice to see how she progressed to the final result up at the top of the page.

DIY Doll Makeover

I found this precious little gal at the thrift store a few weeks ago. She’s not particularly old or valuable, but something about her spoke to me. Her previous owners had slathered her in acrylic craft paint, and it was doing her no justice. I knew I wanted to make her look a bit like a Hakata doll, I just wasn’t sure how I’d go about that. It took a bit of experimentation, but I’m really happy with the end result.

Here she is exactly as I brought her home. Thick, streaky acrylic craft paint hid most of the details of her sweet little face, and the colours on her just weren’t to my taste.

So I stripped her down to bare porcelain with some 100% acetone, and gave her two very thin coats of matte white primer. She could have looked absolutely gorgeous all in white, but parts of her were in rough shape, no matter how much sanding and spraying I did, so I went ahead with my initial plan of colouring her. I tried several different types of paint (fine acrylics, watercolours, etc) but nothing was setting properly. Then I gave my alcohol-based markers a shot, and knew I’d found my solution.

 

The markers did a lovely job of covering her without making her feel heavy. The black marker I used on her hair has a brush tip, and I love the texture it gave her. I also used metallic paint pens to add a bit of depth and texture to her obi and the little flowers that were sculpted in relief on the kimono. I left her eyes closed, I think it gives her a pensive, focused expression. A young lady caught up in her dance.

She may not be perfect, but she’s entirely mine and I’m completely in love with her!

Kimmidolls – A modern take on a Japanese classic

If you’re reading this blog, odds are high that you’ve got at least a passing familiarity with kokeshi dolls. They are one of the most easily recogniseable traditional Japanese art forms. The simple little dolls, with their smooth bodies and big round heads, are naive and charming, while maintaining that quintessential clean-lined aesthetic.

As you may already know, I work in a toy store and love hoarding collecting action figures and art vinyl toys. So imagine how thrilled to bits I was when I came across Kimmidolls. They are made in Australia, and remain true to the spirit and aesthetic of traditional kokeshi while also reflecting modern aesthetics and collecting. While they all have the same smooth body and blunt bob hairstyle, each doll has a unique facial expression and kimono. Rather than being carved of wood, they are made of a heavy and durable stone resin. They are all individually named, and each doll represents a positive emotion or personality trait. They are incredibly adorable and appeal to both my kimono fascination and my urge to collect things. There are four sizes, from the tiny key-chain models to the limited-edition extra-large ones, often decorated with Swarovski crystals.

My collection is small, but I only discovered these beauties late last year.

 

 

I’ve got a wishlist, and hope to keep my collection growing. They’re an affordable little indulgence, especially when I am too broke and too big to wear kimono as frequently as I’d like to. For a full list of current Kimmidolls I own and ones on my wishlist, please click here.

Kimmidolls can be found frequently in Australia, Asia, and Europe, but may also be available in smaller art/collectibles shops in North America, and are easily available from online retailers such as Tokyo Otaku Mode, Chesterton Manor, City Lights Collectibles, and eBay. There is also the Kimmidoll International fanpage on Facebook, where they engage with fans and post about upcoming collections. And if you are lucky enough to find yourself at Walt Disney World, the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Japanese Pavilion at Epcot has a huge selection. It’s where I got Airi and Chikako.

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it. I received this item as a gift.