What are the types of Kokeshi?
There are only two families: * Dento kokeshi
This is the traditional version that respects shapes and colors defined for centuries and which is still produced in the same region. Their design is much simpler and they have far fewer colors. They are usually made entirely from dogwood. * Shingata kokeshi
This is a modern version that appeared in the early 50s. Artists have a great freedom regarding shapes and colors. These are today's most popular models because they are generally more elaborate, colorful and original.
They are also many cheap copies on the market (but sold at a high price) in plastic and made in China or Korea such as kimmidolls
. Sellers often over-use the term kokeshi although they have no direct relationship with them. A real kokeshi doll is always wood, hand-painted and made in Japan
Most models are composed by two parts, one representing the body and the other one the head. However, you can find some shingata
composed of only one piece.
Wood selection plays a vital role in the quality of these items. Dogwood, which is both hard and flexible is almost always used at least partly for the manufacture of shingata
. The artisans also sometimes use other quality woods such as chestnut wood and cherry wood.
Once the type of wood is selected, small logs are cut and the head and body are carved separately using a lathe.
Once carved into the desired shapes, parts are finely polished in order to get a surface as smooth as possible and a perfect finish.
The next step is the painting process. Again both parts are painted separately by hand. Once dry they are covered with a wax layer that enhances shine and durability.
The last step is the assembly process where the head and body are glued together.