Tsukihana, Custom Geisha Monster High Doll

Hello everyone! I’d like you all to meet Tsukihana! Back at the beginning of the year I got a bee in my bonnet and decided I wanted to customise a doll. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely seen sneak peeks and progress shots, but she’s finally complete and I’m so excited to share her.

She started life as a Draculaura doll I bought on the cheap off eBay. I chose Draculaura because I liked the shape of her face, and her skin colour was close enough to a normal human skin tone that it wouldn’t be too difficult to tone down the few visible bits. I also wanted a doll with primarily black hair, but that ended up not mattering in the end.

I started out with her face. I stripped down the original paint, toned down the back of her head and neck with soft pastels, and used white chalk paint as oshiroi. The face details were a combination of pastels, watercolour pencils, and acrylic paint. The Draculaura doll’s face sculpt reminded me very much of a now-retired geiko named Mamehana, so I referenced the following photos of her quite heavily while painting. (1, 2, 3).

My next step was to change the colour of her hands from pink to a more natural tone. Somehow during this process, I lost her hands. I looked for them for literally months, but they’re just… gone. In the end I gave up and bought a replacement set on eBay. I toned them with brown and yellow chalk pastels that helped neutralise the bright pink tone.

When it came to repainting the face and body, I found Dollightful  and Poppen Atelier, two very helpful YouTube channels with lots of information on customising Monster High and similar dolls. Initially, I’d planned to style her original hair using these traditional katsura styling videos but in the end her hair proved too stubborn and poofy, and it looked pretty awful no matter what I did, so I chopped it all off and sculpted a hairstyle out of clay. It’s primarily based on the tsubushi shimada, but I had to take a few creative liberties. Her kanzashi are beads and charms I had lying around.

The outfit was a co-production. Makiko of JaponSakura (who also made this beautiful Pullip kimono) was kind enough to custom-make me a plain black hikizuri-style kimono and coordinating obi using the fabric I selected, since it reminded me of the moon. Once I received it, I painted the plum and bamboo design around the hem and the custom crests myself, I thought since it was such a small scale, using regular acrylic would be fine, but if I were to do another custom like this I’d definitely invest in fabric paints instead. The crests might seem a bit proportionally large by modern standards, but any smaller and they would have just looked like blobs. Her momi (the red fabric wrap geisha wear beneath the obi), juban sleeves, and underskirt are just scraps of red fabric I hand-sewed and tacked into place. The zori are a pair of MH shoes I repainted and modified slightly – they originally looked like this. I removed some of the strap bulk and painted some white to make it disappear a little. I did debate reforming her feet so they would be flat, but I was hesitant to experiment that much and risk ruining the doll. Makiko also included tabi with the kimono but they made her feet too bulky to fit in the shoes, so in the end I just sanded some detail off her toes and painted her legs with the same chalk paint I used on her face.

Her shamisen was improvised, made from foam board, stir sticks, and gorgeous washi tape from The Rare Orchid. I got a bunch of beautiful paper and tape from them, a full review is coming!

This beautiful lady has been a labour of love. For my first custom doll, I think she turned out spectacularly. I don’t think I’ll be doing this on a regular basis, as she was a significant investment in time, workmanship, and materials, but I might make her a friend or apprentice maiko in the future. I’m also seriously considering turning a Skelita Calaveras into a very stylised Jigoku Dayu but that will definitely be a much longer and more detailed project if it ever comes to pass.

Book Review: Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto


Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto
by Robert van Koesveld
Language: English
ISBN: 978-0-9944501-0-4
Buy Here

For this volume, van Koesveld was awarded the Photography Book of the Year (2015) by the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, and it’s easy to see why. While the text is certainly interesting and well-written, the photographs are the heart and soul of this book. They are beautiful, and there are many of them. The book is full of gorgeous, crisp full-colour plates of geiko, maiko, live performances, as well as garments and accessories, and the skilled people who make them. It’s a fantastic glimpse into a world most of us will never get to see.

The book features interviews with maiko and geiko who live and work in Kyoto, as well as interviews and information about the artisans and craftspeople who support the community. It offers an unprecedented look into the Flower and Willow World, the mysterious and ethereal environment where these women live and work that most of us will never be able to experience. It is filled with information that anyone interested in modern geisha traditions and culture would love to have in their collection.

(The tinting and distortion in these sample pages is a result of my scanning process; the photos in the book are absolutely beautiful and these pictures do them no justice)

I would recommend this book for:


-People interested in the tradition and culture of geiko and maiko
-People looking for information about the artisans and tradespersons who support this culture
-Anyone who appreciates beautiful photography

I would not recommend this book for:


-People who have incorrect assumptions about geiko and no interest in learning
-People looking for instructions on how to dress maiko or geiko-style I received this item as a backer perk for a project or product that was crowd-funded (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc)

Geisha Style Coordination

It seems like I’ve developed a pattern when it comes to dressing Tsukiko; alternating experimental or non-standard kitsuke with very traditional coordinations. I’d been wanting to do something with the gorgeous geisha hikizuri that Naomi and Erica gave me years ago. The obi is a Taisho-era chuuya from the big obi bundle several of us split a while back. It’s absolutely stunning, but it’s in very fragile shape – the black silk used to line these obi tends to rot much more rapidly than the silk on the front. I repaired one with similar damage a while ago, but I haven’t had the chance to do it to this one yet. Because of this, I wasn’t comfortable wearing it myself, but mannequin kitsuke tends to be a lot more forgiving. I absolutely love how they look together, so soft and desaturated and elegant. I don’t own a momi, so I used a red shigoki obi and obiage to replicate the pop of red under the obi, and pulled out a vintage red juban with a heavily textured collar already attached. I’d initially wanted to tie the obi in yanagi musubi, which is common for performing geisha, but because the obi is so delicate I figured it would be safer to stick with something I know how to tie quickly and easily, so I defaulted to a standard otaiko musubi instead. I think it still looks quite good.

I do wish I could leave this outfit up as a display, but between the fragility of the obi and the cats being fascinated by the trailing hem (and discovering that it makes a spectacular tent), it’s going to to have to be put away quite soon.

Araiso Geisha Hikizuri

If anyone needed further proof that I am spoiled far beyond anything I might possibly deserve, this is it. Friends and loved ones in the hobby are constantly sending me lavish gifts, but I think this one takes the cake. It’s a gorgeous lavender hikizuri that appears to have belonged to a geisha, with a motif of araiso, or carp and crashing waves, dyed in white and indigo. When I saw it on eBay, I fell hard in love with it. Unfortunately, I’d just splurged on a trip so my friend Keith and myself could go to California together and I could spend some time with Naomi. I did bid on it, but I knew once it hit a certain point, I couldn’t keep fighting, and had to bow out. I was upset, but I figured it was worth it – I was going to see some friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.

Fast forward to the trip itself. Keith has gone home and I’m settling in at Naomi’s place, and she’s (inevitably) dumping kimono in my lap. The two haori I posted about recently were some of the items I ended up with. At one point, she hands me a folded up purple-grey kimono, telling me it’s “some old thing [she] had lying around” and that I might like it. I do like lavender, and I thought it was an iromuji, so you can bet when I opened it up and figured out what the heck it was, I nearly had a heart attack. I have a history of cardiac issues and don’t take well to surprises XD I wasn’t sure whether to faint or cry. Thankfully I ended up crying, because fainting would have been a nuisance. Naomi confessed to me that she and Erica conspired together to get this for me, after seeing how sad I was that I wouldn’t be able to afford it. I really don’t deserve these friends! I’m not this good a person, I swear!

The kimono is just so incredibly breathtaking in person – photos do not do it justice. The gradient is so skillfully done, it is a perfect fade from a desaturated grey-lilac to a richer purple, and the yuzen work of the crashing waves and jumping carp on the hem is very thin and very detailed. The addition of the indigo really makes the carp pop out, and then some of them are lightly outlined in gold leaf. It’s a stunning piece, exactly the sort of thing I would expect on a slightly older, subdued geisha, someone who lets her art speak for itself but still makes sure her wardrobe will not be forgotten.

Araiso hikizuri

Araiso hikizuri Araiso hikizuri

Araiso hikizuri

I treasure this piece, and it’s really one of the gems of my collection. I will never part with it.

Geisha-inspired Meta-kimono outfit

I was so smitten with the kimono that arrived yesterday that I decided to put it on today, despite not having anywhere to go. Sometimes it’s nice to wear kimono just for the sake of wearing kimono – especially delicate vintage pieces.

There’s still a bit of ambiguity about what this piece actually is, but the general consensus on the Immortal Geisha forums is that it’s likely a vintage hikizuri. Because of that, I decided to go with a geisha-inspired outfit. Not a full on costume, but proper kimono with a bit of “flair”, if you will. I paired the kimono up with a red juban, a black and white hakata obi, and used a red shigoki obi in lieu of a momi (the red cloth geisha wear wrapped around their torso under the obi). I am really pleased with how this pulled together, and took far more photos than I usually do. Sorry about that!

Because of the formality, the styling choices, and the age of the kimono, this is not an outfit I’d feel particularly comfortable wearing out of the house, but I think it turned out well and I felt very pretty in it.