How it's Made: Collectible Japanese Kokeshi Dolls

In the Jomo District of Japan, a town called Shinto lies at the foot of Mt. Haruna, surrounded by dense forest. These verdant environs combined with a deep appreciation for Mother Earth help inspire the artisans of Usaburo Kokeshi to pour their hearts into their handmade designs. Join us to learn about the process behind this centuries-old tradition.  

While kokeshi manufacture may look simple, there are more than 10 processes to the completion of a single doll. At Usaburo,  only the highest quality wood from area trees is harvested and dried for up to one year. Once dry, the wood is cut and shaped on a wheel. It can take as many 10 years for an individual artisan to become adept in using the shaping wheel to achieve the perfect form. 

After the sculpted wood is polished, a heated Nichrome wire or chisel are used to trace the outline of a pattern. This outline is then carefully painted and polished. Finally, the doll is ready for assembly. 

At present, the Usaburo Kokeshi shop has six woodworkers responsible for design, all of whom studied under the founder. Each is enthusiastic about handing down the techniques of kokeshi to the next generation of artisans.

Explore our charming representatives of this sculptural tradition: 

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