15 March 2007

Japanese Mataro Dolls

Thank you all for your interest, comments, compliments and questions about my mother's artwork. Many asked for more information about the dolls so I asked my Mom to supply me with the info. because I just didn't know lol...I am posting here what she said and I hope it answers the questions :-)

"Thank you so much for adding my dolls to your blog. I enjoy making them -- no I love it. The Japanese community has been very accepting and appreciative of my work. These are the national culture dolls of Japan. The art is over 2,000 years old. I am the first (and I think the only) American that has been allowed the Artist Guild Book that goes back over 1,000 that is in the Imperial Castle. I have a license from the Japanese Government to make the dolls and I also received my Teaching Certificate. At the present time they have accepted my into the Masters Program. I have to make over 150 certain dolls to qualify. Because of the degree of difficulty of most of my dolls, they have reduced my quota to 120. If I keep making these difficult dolls I may be able to reduce the number to even less than 120. I previously sent you an explanation of the history of the dolls -- let me know if it is clear. I am now working on six dolls at the time -- trying to get them finished for my Brooklyn Museum "Cherry Blossom Festival.""

She also supplied me with some historical information:

"Mataro Dolls preserve the tradition of the sculpted wooden dolls born on the banks of the Kamo River in Kyoto About 260 years ago (during the Genbun Period – 1736-1741), a man named Tadashige Takahashi at the Kami-Kamo Shrine in Kyoto, carved dolls from wood left over from making willow boxes to be used for the annual festivals. He also used left over pieces of fabric that remained from the kimonos made for court members. Conservation at its best.

The wood was from:
- willow trees growing on the banks of Kamo River. This is believed to be the origin of the Kimekomi (means "put into grove") sculptured wooden dolls.
- The Mataro Doll is a type of Kimekomi Ningyou (wooden dolls dressed in kimono). Mataro Kanabayashi I founded the Mataro Doll Craft Academy and created a unique style of making the dolls based on traditional techniques.

Originally the body of the doll was made of a piece of grooved wood. Glue was put into the grooves (“Kimekomi”) of the body, and the edges of the cloth were inserted into the grooves. Nowadays, we do not carve the dolls out of wood
Mataro Kanabayashi I (1897-1984) developed a new method of molding the base form of a doll from paulownia sawdust mixed with glue, and named his produce the “Mataro Doll.” His method enables us to produce dolls in quantity, making them available to many people. The Kanabayashi family has inherited this Kimekomi technique. The dolls all represent a person from Japanese history, folk tales or for the various holidays celebrated in Japan. There are also dolls which have a mixture of Chinese history as well that is intertwined with Japanese history.

I try to learn all that I can about each doll. The dolls can take me from 3 months to a year and a half to make. Below is the doll that I am about to make.

I will pass on all the compliments to her...and once again thank you all for your interest. To answer the question about "Why Japanese dolls or art?" I can tell you that ever since I can remember my mother has had an INTENSE interest and feeling for Japanese culture. My home growing up was always decorated in some fashion or another with a Japanese influence. Japanes art and style were always around. We (my sisters and I...well anyone who knows her) have always said that in another life she MUST have been Japanese. Her connection to the culture is deep for her. I have to say that being a family from a Puerto Rican background and 4 generation U.S. citizens her interest in another culture has given us (my sisters and I) the ability to be people of diverse tastes and interests. I am grateful for having been brought up with this because I believe that my own interest, tolerance and acceptance of others is because of her. I LOVE to learn about people, cultures and history of other places. My sisters are the same. I believe it made a citizen of the world and not just of one country.

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