The history of dolls in Japan stretches back to prehistoric times, when figures known as dogu were made. The dogu are abstract clay figurines that date back to the Jomon period (about 10,500 to 300 BC). Later, during the Kofun period (300-538 AD), there was also a tradition of placing hollow baked clay figurines called haniwa on ancient Japanese burial mounds. Since then, a variety of doll-making customs have developed, with each reflecting the culture of their respective regions.
The process of making a doll consists of creating the basic form, dressing it in clothing, and painting a face. The body of the doll may be made from paulownia wood, a type of clay made of paulownia sawdust and paste, numerous sheets of traditional Japanese paper laid atop one another, or potter's clay. Once the body is complete, a chalky white pigment is applied. Then cloth or paper clothing and color is applied to complete the doll.
1 Selecting materials and making the form based on the type of doll
2-1 Carving and assembling wood
2-2 Shaping toso or a clay of paulownia woodchips mixed with paste around a core of paulownia wood
2-3 Layering sheets of traditional Japanese paper (washi)
2-4 Molding ceramic clay and firing the piece
3 Putting clothing on and applying makeup or other finishing touches
Wooden dolls, called mokucho ningyo in Japanese, are carved out of paulownia wood and the separate parts for the head, torso, and limbs are assembled using bamboo pegs. Paulownia is low in resin, making it less likely to attract insects. It is also lightweight, strong, and does not deform easily, therefore ideal for making dolls.
Toso dolls are made with toso, a modeling material made of paulownia sawdust mixed with paste, around a paulownia wood core. The material can be fashioned freely while still soft so all kinds of forms can be made. It is important to dry thoroughly so that the form does not get distorted later.
There are two methods of making harinuki or papier-mâché dolls. The first, uchi bari or outside pasting, is done by first fashioning the doll form out of clay and making a plaster mold around it. Traditional Japanese paper (washi) is then layered on the inside of this mold. Once dry, it is removed from the mold and touched up with toso, a clay-like substance made of paulownia sawdust mixed with paste. Then it is coated with crushed seashell powder, and further decorated with colored paint, cloth or Japanese paper. For the second method, soto bari or outside pasting, paper is layered on top of a wooden form.
For ceramic dolls or totai ningyo in Japanese, a doll form is made out of potter's clay, then cut in half and scooped out on the inside, leaving an exterior about a centimeter thick. Then, the two halves are put back together, smoothed, dried out thoroughly, and fired. In some cases the clay is bisque fired before the color is applied as a final touch. In other cases it is bisque fired, has further details applied, then fired again at a higher temperature. If a mold is made around the form with plaster, more dolls with the same shape can be made.
Cloth of different colors are applied to create designs.
For kimekomi, the edges of a doll's clothing are tightly wedged into narrow grooves. This is done by cutting grooves into the surface of the doll, according to where the clothing will intersect. Glue is then placed in the grooves, and the seams of the cloth are pushed in with a spatula, holding the clothing in place. The more precise clothing details are done with this technique as well.
Templates are made with washi (traditional Japanese paper), then cloth is wrapped to create parts which are stuck together.
Dyed washi (traditional Japanese paper) is applied to create designs.
Paint of many different colors is applied directly to the body of the doll.
Layers of gofun (crushed seashell powder) mixed with paint are applied. Designs are created by carving through the layers to expose the colors underneath.
- "What Are Traditional Crafts? -A Guidebook to Seeing, Learning, and Enjoying-" Edited by the Japan Kogei Association Eastern Branch. Published by Unsodo