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“What is a doll?” Kimiko Koyanagi still ponders this question after creating dolls for more than 60 years. Born in Japan during the dark days of the Second World War, she is the third generation of the famous Muraoka family of Tokyo to make dolls. The tradition was taught within the family which makes her work unique but also delicately rare. In Japan, doll-making is quickly becoming a lost art. The skills and knowledge of technique are endangered. And once Koyanagi has lovingly crafted her last doll, that tradition will likely die with her. Dolls have evolved with time alongside societies and their purposes and meanings are vast. But in Koyanagi's case, her solitary dolls are reflections of her spirit. The particular painstaking process such as the Chinese White technique she creates to paint her pieces, and her evolved and unusual style are unique to her. The mass production of factory dolls made in China can be blamed for some of the decline of traditional Japanese doll-making. "Today is like that," says Koyanagi. She adds that the interest and appreciation in the tradition is dying. "People value other things – they like to travel for example. People live in small houses. They don’t collect." That said, there remain those who appreciate and prefer tradition. Those who collect the unique and admire the technique and sweat that goes into something not constructed by a machine but by the soul. Although most look at her skilled and elegant pieces and find them stunning, Koyanagi still challenges her own work. This keeps her vision vibrant and vital. Kimiko Koyanagi has produced a large and distinguished body of work which have been widely exhibited in Canada, Japan, the United States and Mexico, both in group and individual exhibitions.

Doll Making Technique

Kimiko’s technique is a lengthy painstaking procedure that is uniquely Japanese. She starts each piece by molding a rough unfinished form from a mixture of paste, rice paper, and finely ground Paulownia wood shavings. After the work has dried and hardened, Kimiko delicately carves and sands the doll to produce its final form. Several layers of white pigment made from seashells are then applied as a surface finish. This surface is again sanded to achieve a refined smoothness. At the end of the two month process the doll is finally painted with a blend of seashell powder and water colour. As a finishing touch, the artist is very selective in adding delicate details which make each work both unique and individual in expression.

How to care for the Doll

Do not touch doll with bare hands. Use a clean, dry cloth, handkerchief or tissue. Never touch doll with wet hands or a wet cloth. Do not leave doll in direct sunlight or near a radiator. Do not use any form of spray near the doll. Any dust on the doll should be removed with a clean brush or soft cloth.

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