Undersea Adventure

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Today is Gofuku no Hi (着物着ます, Wear Kimono Day), and even though I finally have some kimono that fit me well, I just wasn’t up to getting dressed myself. I’m still under the weather from allergy season and a few days ago I stepped on a very large chunk of glass and my foot hurts enormously. But I couldn’t let the day pass by without at least dressing the mannequin!

I’d been feeling sort of uninspired lately, trying to come up with interesting new coordinations with pieces I own and love but nothing was coming to mind. Suddenly, yesterday, it hit me. My beloved geisha hikizuri and octopus obi from 3Magpies Studio would come together perfectly to form an elegant. monochrome undersea outfit.

Dressing the hikizuri like a regular kimono was more of a challenge than I’d anticipated. There’s a ton of fabric folded up under the obi but I think I did a very good job of keeping it neat and tidy. I really love how the theme and colours came together, and this gorgeous octopus obidome with pearls and red synthetic coral pieces from PintoPonyProductions was the perfect crowning touch.

Back when I did the Disney Princess Project a lot of folks suggested I do villains. While it wasn’t my intention, between the purple tones and aquatic motifs this outfit has a definite Ursula vibe to it. Maybe I will do the villains after all!

Items used in this coordination

Tsukihana, Custom Geisha Monster High Doll

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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.

Art Gallery – Maiko by Charlotte Royal

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Sometimes you find the most beautiful things in the most unexpected places. While browsing Kickstarter last year, I came across the Postcards from Japan project by Charlotte Royal. Her goal was simple and straightforward – travel across Japan while creating beautiful and unique works of art for people who helped back her financially.

The painting I received is an absolutely stunning watercolour painting of a maiko, done in Kyoto. I love the rich, warm colours and the thoughtful expression on her face. There’s so much personality and talent in this piece, and the fact that it’s an original, one-of-a-kind artwork makes it all the more special to me. It is large postcard-sized, more than enough room for lush detail but small enough to feel like a little jewel in my growing art collection

I have a bunch of new pieces I need to hang, and this one will definitely be front and centre once I figure out where everything is going.

I received this item as a backer perk for a project or product that was crowd-funded (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc)

Book Review: Geiko & Maiko of Kyoto

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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

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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.

Items used in this coordination