Monday, March 7, 2011

Kokeshi Dolls... so sweet and adorable!

Aren't these little Kokeshi style dolls adorable? Kokeshi dolls are originally from the northern region of Japan and were handmade from wood. They are instantly recognisable; their simplistic design includes a rounded trunk, enlarged head and a lack of arms and legs. They are also painted brightly with very simple detailing. Traditionally they were made by master craftsmen but these days they are mass produced as souvenirs for the tourist industry.

I got these from Beads Online. And whilst they are not strictly traditional, they are really cute. Cute is not a style I work in very often so it will be a challenge to see how I can incorporate their quirkiness with my style.

From time to time it's good to step out of your comfort zone and work with an unfamiliar product or style. That's exactly what I did this weekend with these Kokeshi pendants. I found them so very appealing, but I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with them.

And so there I was, confronted with the proverbial blank canvas and that very uncomfortable feeling of not knowing quite where to start. These pendants demand to be the centre of attention but how do you work with such a dominant feature and stay true to the minimalistic style associated with the Japanese culture? Sure, I could have just strung them on a length of cord or chain, but I was looking to incorporate some of my design skills here.

So, first thing I did was raid my stash to see what I have that might work with them. I was looking for items that were similar (or complimentary), beads and charms with a Japanese feel, striking chains, bold colours: anything which felt even remotely Asian. And here's what I found: black chain, some lovely five petal metal spacers, red coral flower beads, some great glass fan beads and crystals in both black and mirrored gunmetal for sparkle. I also found some metal charms in the shape of pagodas and fans but neither of these made it into the finished pieces.

I have several different black chains in my studio to choose from and for the first piece I settled on a polyester chain from Beadalon. I love the look of black chain but there are limited jewellery findings to go with it. You can substitute gunmetal if you're really stuck but I've now got a small collection of black findings and I add to that collection every time I find more. You can see here that I've used a black toggle to connect the bracelet. I stuck with the silver findings for the rest of the piece though because it worked with the other silver elements.I know that I have black headpins and eyepins in my stash but a recent cleanup has resulted in them becoming put away so safely that I can't find them - isn't that always the way? So I've used gunmetal for this next piece. It still works because only the loops of the eyepins show and it's not very visible. But for the rest of the chain and connectors I've used black. You could always make your own jump rings from black wire but I had some on hand so I've made use of them.

This piece is so sweet. I love the way the burnished gold flowers and black chain work together and the sprinkling of red coral makes it all pop.I think the five-petalled spacers even look a little bit Japanese!
In the end, the simple treatment was the best way to go; Kokeshi Dolls don't need a lot of ornamentation! They are bright and happy and that is what I wanted to capture. And I think I've succeeded.

This ended up being a really fun challenge for the weekend.

I hope you all had a great weekend too.

'Til next time.....

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