Affordable and Accessible Display Rack

Yesterday evening, yours truly managed to get her finger caught in the exterior door while it was closing. Thankfully nothing is broken, and it was my most useless finger (left hand, pinky) but it’s taped up and quite painful at the moment so unfortunately the Princess Project will be on a short hiatus until likely sometime next week. Thanks for understanding!

Since I can’t dress the mannequin, I figured it would be a good time to share something a little simpler, how I display and photograph my collection. Naomi recently asked me what the rig I used to display my kimono was, so here’s a simple breakdown of what all went into it for those of us who may not have the funds or access to a traditional ikou.

I started with the Honey Can Do expandable garment rack. It has a maximum adjustable width of 60″, and the interior measurement not including the extendable rods was nowhere near wide enough to put a kimono on, so rather than using the included cross-bars, I picked up some 1 1/4″ diameter solid (not extendable) closet rods and cut them to 60″ length. You can do this using a hacksaw but it will take hours, so I recommend a power tool. Ask someone for help if you need to, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I also picked up a couple of narrow black tension rods to stabilise the base. I can’t find similar ones online, and these aren’t entirely necessary, they just help the unit look a little more balanced and keep the feet from rotating.

The last step was to make a pair of decorative clips to hold the kimono open during display/photography. I used a pair of inexpensive alligator clips and glued some cute rose cabochons to them to make them a little nicer to look at. You can really be creative here. Fans are a very traditional motif for these clips, but go wild and use anything you like! Once you’re happy with your clips, use some sturdy elastic or nylon thread to attach them to the uprights of the rack. Don’t tie them on too tightly so you can slide them up or down as needed. The top half of the rack can be slid down for storage, and if you make the clips too snug they can get in the way.

To take the photos I’m using in my new visual catalogue, I start by setting up my tripod. I actually use the exact same spot in the house as I use to take the mannequin photos. My backdrop is simply a plain white flat sheet with the top hem carefully sliced open at the ends so I can thread it onto the curtain rod. From there, I just put the rack in place, take my photos, and pack it all up until I need it again.

I hope you found this post helpful if you’re looking for an affordable and accessible solution for display or catalogue purposes! If you make a similar stand, I’d love to see it 🙂

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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.

Happy Hinamatsuri!

Just a quick post today, to wish you all a happy Hinamatsuri! One day I hope to own a full, proper set of hina dolls but until I have the space and the budget for it, I’ve started a little bit of a personal tradition. Last year I made an origami set and while I still love them I wanted to do something a little more complex for this year. When my friend Amanda posted her Perler bead hina doll set on Facebook, I knew I’d found my project. They were very fun and relaxing to make. I’d forgotten how fun Perler bead crafts are, and I’m happy to have been reminded. I can’t wait to make more stuff 🙂

If you’d like to try making a set of your own, here is the pattern for the Obina (男雛, Emperor) and here is the Mebina (女雛, Empress). I didn’t have the exact colours needed so I took a bit of creative liberty but I think they look absolutely adorable!

Miniature Washitsu Project

One thing you may not know about me is that I am completely fascinated with dollhouse miniatures. I find something incredibly awe-inspiring about tiny, realistic objects. My father and I built a dollhouse for some of my figurines and decorating it with miniature food and accessories was my favourite parts. Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll just browse through online retailers and on eBay, admiring the painstaking detail put into these things.

I’m honestly not sure what put the bee into my bonnet in the first place, but I recently decided I wanted to make a traditional miniature washitsu (Japanese room) diorama, and I wanted to make as much of it from scratch as I possibly could, using found objects or bits and bobs from the dollar store. The room started out as a cardboard mailing box. I covered it with brown craft paper. The roof is more cardboard, covered with pieces of a bamboo beach mat. The tatami mats inside were made out of more beach mat, adhered to foam-core and decorated with washi tape. The wood flooring is popsicle sticks, and the screens are sheer mylar with more popsicle sticks and match sticks. They slide open and closed, too, which I am very proud of! I made the zabuton out of leftover indigo fabric from my recent sashiko project. The table is a coaster and a napkin ring, and the console is the holder for the coasters.

Most of the food and accessories are Re-Ment miniatures I already owned. The tiny bonsai I made myself, using a beads, and a bottle cap and some washi tape for the containter. The kakemono was printed and adhered to origami paper and toothpicks. The only items I purchased were the tiny geta, the vase (the pussywillows in the vase were made with wire and pearl flower pips), and the adorable little bowl of goldfish. The lighting was a happy accident; I made the two small fixtures and went looking for a small set of LEDs to light them, and found some at the dollar store that came with the adorable red lantern! I had to incorporate it!

It may not be perfect, but overall I’m so happy with how this turned out, and I suspect I will be making more dioramas like this in the future. I’d love to do a dressing room with a tiny tansu at some point!