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.

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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!

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.