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We are not passionate collectors of Kokeshi; we are collectors with some passion. We are not long-time collectors of these wooden dolls; we are collectors who hope to be collecting for some time and when finished, hope to pass on this love to our granddaughters. Actually, we started collecting Kokeshi only a short time ago with the expert guidance of Michael and Robert. Beginning with a goal of three or four dolls for each of our granddaughters, we almost immediately changed our goal after we purchased the first one and fell irresistibly in love with this Japanese folk art. We have amassed a small collection that we display proudly.
In spite of our limited background and only a little research to support our evaluation, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition is a magnificent work on the subject of these wooden dolls which make up a segment of the folk arts of Japan. The detailed background materials on the artists and the notes on the dolls can be an invaluable part of one’s collection. The marvelous photography is an excellent complement to the text, as we re-viewed the images many times, envying the owner of each doll.
In summary, collectors of Kokeshi who wish to expand their knowledge on this subject would do well to add Sosaku Kokeshi as well as its predecessor, Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan, both rare on this subject, to their collection of dolls.
In this grand scheme of things you’ll get an “A” with regard to your research and associated folk art. The Shiwan ware I recently purchased is one of the most beautiful pieces I have purchased in over 10 years. The information you provided was excellent, the piece is in mint condition as advertised, with a subject matter I did not have in my collection. In all the years I have been traveling to China this was a treasure to find. Should you ever find a book in English on the subject of Shiwan history, lore and legend please contact me for we would love to have a reference in Chaminade’s design library. There are only a few books in China, always in Chinese, and unaffordable.
WONDERFUL exposition. The Sosaku Kokeshi of artist-made wooden dolls and toys is exceptional. We found the pieces and the research associated with the various craftsmen extremely helpful. Josephine Bridges article on “Dignified dolls,” in the Asian Reporter was a great compliment to the exhibit and this extensive collection. We’ve only seen the traditional kokeshi and had no idea that Japanese Creative artisans made such individual artistic pieces. The artwork on each doll is literally like a unique painting historically recording the Japanese culture. Thank you for your fine work and this educational experience.
I came across this announcement on PBS/OPB and was quite curious about the subject and visited the exhibit:
“The art of Kokeshi doll making began in the Early 1800s, and flourished in the late 1950s, through the 60s as Creative (Sosaku) dolls. This period produced the greatest, most enduring and popular artists of the genre, with many craftsmen gaining international recognition, which has followed these prolific pioneers into the 21st Century. The late 1950s saw the movement go beyond the smaller, colorful bobble-head dolls so popular with westerners during the 1940s-early 50s, with the artists utilizing the various beautifully-grained woods available to wood workers, (kiji-shi), in many areas throughout Japan. While a number of these Sosaku Kokeshi makers trained under ‘Traditional’, (Dento), mentors/masters in the Tohoku region, (the birthplace of Kokeshi), their dolls show exciting imagination, as many of the artists came from a variety of artistic backgrounds including painting and photography. This allowed for immediate acceptance by the public, for the dolls were considered unique works of art. The dolls are larger and more elegant, and in many cases, the different woods comprised the clothing and hair treatments, with the incorporation of different methods of carving and painting techniques. Today, Sosaku Kokeshi dolls are more popular than ever, supporting the transnational and transmedia movement of Anime and toy design seen throughout the world”. What an exceptional and inspiring exhibition. You’ve made my day! Thx again!
The bronze Daruma we purchased is more stunning and beautiful than expected! We are so very pleased–actually, we are nothing short of thrilled. As this is an unexpected gift from us to our friend, we believe he will be as taken with the piece as we are. So very grateful and we thank you!
Whether you are a kokeshi doll collector like I am, or exploring Japanese folk art for the first time, Sosaku Kokeshi – A New Look at an Old Tradition is a wonderful, informative resource for collectors and a lovely visual introduction to Sosaku dolls.
I just purchased a copy of the book, and I could not be more pleased! With its beautiful colour photographs, signatures and profiles of the artists along with titles of the dolls, it is a well-researched, comprehensive resource. While some dolls featured in the book were familiar to me, I was also introduced to artists and dolls that I have never seen or heard of before. I was especially thrilled to discover the extensive Sosaku artist directory included at the back of the book.
As a collector, Sosaku Kokeshi – A New Look at an Old Tradition and Kokeshi – Wooden Treasures of Japan have helped me to appreciate and understand my current doll collection on a whole new level. I first began collecting kokeshi in the mid 1980’s, when I bought three dolls from neighbours and long-time friends who were moving back to Japan. For a long time, I simply admired and enjoyed the dolls for their beauty without thinking any further. Years passed, and my collection grew a little more when I spent two years teaching and living in Japan. There was a turning point when I started to wonder, what is the story of each doll? Suddenly it wasn’t enough to just enjoy them; I wanted to understand them.
These two books have helped me to learn so much more about kokeshi dolls, and influence my thoughts on the process of doll selection. My kokeshi collection has become more focused and personal now that I am able to recognize which dolls I am truly drawn to. Although there are many kokeshi that I may never personally own, each time I open the books, I get to experience them. In that way, these two books have become an extension of and just as much a part of my collection as the dolls that sit on my shelves.
Another great Kokeshi book edition. I was thrilled to see many of the Kokeshi in my collection in your book. I even found a few that I still had not been able to identify, it was nice to finally know the artisans behind my wonderful collection.
The two new ladies for our Kokeshi collection arrived today–safely as we have come to expect from everything that we purchase from you. Beautiful. We love them. They are true to the beautiful photographs that announce their availability. Your new layout with the enlargement of the kimono pattern helped greatly in selecting the ones we wanted. And not to forget, the descriptive enclosure for each doll will be a tremendous help as we build our family of ladies especially when we pass the Kokeshi to our granddaughters. Thank you so much.
We just received your new book, Sosaku Kokeshi: A New Look at an Old Tradition. Let us be the first to congratulate you on this superb follow-up to Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan. Your comprehensive text with its notes on the artists and the beautiful photography create a work that any collector of Kokeshi should have if they wish to develop an understanding of and knowledge about this Japanese folk art. We don’t know which is better (Does either have to be better?), the detailed textual information or the beautiful photographs. Both insist upon and rightfully demand spending time to enjoy and appreciate them. Thank you so much for adding to our appreciation of Kokeshi.
I recently purchased your book on Kokeshi and what a find after collecting for over 10 years with no information to base my purchases on. Now I have YOUR ILLUSTRATIVE BOOK and it has truly opened my eyes. All the associated stories and folk tales give such light to my collection. A curator at the Japanese American National Museum in LA told me about this great resource. Your book happens to be astonishingly precise although I can understand why someone else has not written a book on the subject, because all the artists producing Kokeshi remain obscure and little information available has not been translated. Your book truly did switch the light on for me personally as related to Japanese folk art.
Vintage Kokeshi and its history is absolutely a topic thats close to my heart, so Im pleased that you wrote about it. Im also happy that you did the subject justice bringing the history of these creative artifacts to light. Not only do you know a great deal about it, you know the way to present the subject in a way that individuals will wish to read far more. Im so happy to know a person/site like you exists on the internet. I understand you are writing a book on Sosaku Kokeshi artists. That will be high on my list for there is nothing in English on the subject, and I am worried that the craftsmen and their creations will be lost as Japan becomes more western in attitude. Doomo arigato gozaimasu from Japan.
Thank you for the BEAUTIFUL kokeshi. We have been wanting a creative (sosaku) kokeshi made by Yukio Horigome, but until now have not been able to find one in good condition. His artwork and poems are wonderful and truly enhance his dolls. I really like what you have acquired here, and would love to see your entire collection after viewing your exhibition. Interesting that you specialized in “one-of-a-kind” sosaku dolls as opposed to the traditional dolls which are not as unique because of family restrictions. My staff and I really like the information you are sharing and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and truly educate the general public on the craft. I can’t wait to read more from you for we find so much incorrect information on other sites (particularly ebay). Most readers would not know this because they have not studied the subject or even visited Northern Japan. This is actually a wonderful web site and thank you again for the expedited service.
I am extremely impressed with your site. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs and sections, as well as related info, and ended up with an experience helping me to relate the facts and data. I recently found what I hoped for with accuracy in your research and writings. Most professional. Is likely to be appreciated by those who enjoy both educational information and great examples of Japanese folk art. My specialization is Japanese textiles. A wonderful way for your clients to communicate and continue learning. Nice job.
In Japan, it seems, a topic’s popularity is commensurate with the number of books available at the bookstore about said topic. For instance, bookstores in this country are full of volumes on poetry, railroads, architecture, cooking, plants, bugs, hiking, mountains, and so forth. The fact that there are almost no books available on Kokeshi sadly reveals a general lack of interest in this wonderful craft. However, there are some available if one knows where to look. For books in English, there is only one that I am aware of: A relatively new book from the United States that’s still available entitled Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan by Michael Evans and Robert Wolf. I got mine new a few years ago and it’s been well worth it. For English-speaking enthusiasts this beautiful work is a must have, as it covers both traditional (dento) and creative (sosaku) kokeshi. I think it’s fair to say that this is “THE” foundational work on kokeshi in English, although there is definitely room for more detailed works in the future.
The Rice Merchant ivory okimono arrived in perfect condition as usual, Michael and Robert. It immediately becomes the centerpiece of our antique Japanese ivory collection. Visually and tactilely, it is a superb piece of art. We marveled at the detail in the grains of rice, the rice baskets, and his heavy coat. The carving of the hands and feet, the little bird hoping for a grain of rice to drop to the feet of the merchant, and the merchant’s happy face all contribute to the total effect. Then when we picked it up, we could feel the texture of the baskets, coat, and rice. Many thanks to you, Robert and Michael, for finding such beauty and art in a piece less than six inches tall. Thank you also for the history lesson on rice merchants, valuable background of the type you include with all purchases.
Collecting items of this type has long been a goal of my wife and me. We wanted something from the Japanese culture to pass on to our children and grandchildren because they are quickly getting away from their background. We did not dare take a chance on acquiring these beautiful and valuable art pieces from just anyone. But one day we happened into Vermillion, your shop in Carmel. Both of us felt something good about you–trust. When we discovered a box with some beautiful netsuke, we, without hesitation, bought two of them, thus beginning our antique ivory collection. Through your assistance we have created a very good collection. We have every confidence in your judgment, expertise, and evaluation of Japanese folk art. We have never been disappointed.
I just received your kokeshi book and beautiful Akita Ittobori carving – very special surprise when I came home from work – and especially that it is my birthday today, so very appropriate. Thank you for the prompt service from the USA to Australia. I look forward to browsing your site for more treasures.
Amazing service! I orderd a copy of your book Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan on Thursday and received it in Friday’s mail. I also received a personal email Thursday afternoon with shipping confirmation and a thank you for my purchase. I rather feel as if I was in Japan. I am very happy with the book as it has been difficult to find clear information on kokeshi. I have a rather small collection, but I plan to keep adding to it, and knowing more about what I buy will help immensely. Thank you again.
I am sitting at my Apple on a dreary melbourne Sunday morning and my spirits have been lifted immensely.
My well read copy of your beautiful book is placed beside me, and I am delighted to have added your sumptuous web site to my favorites. I have been collecting kokeshi for over 5 years and your book along with the tiny tome by Takeuchi and Stephens have been my constant companions. My collection of many hundreds surrounds me as I write; and now try to buy only the very best of the dento and sosaku with the developing knowledge I have.
Each year at sakura time my husband and i visit Japan and wander the antique shops, print galleries and flee markets; this morning I have felt like I have been back amongst it all. We travelled to Japan straight after the Tsunami and were touched by our Japanese friend’s steely determination to assist their northern counterparts in whatever way possible…most inspiring. Thank you Michael and Robert for helping me further grow in my understanding of the land I love so dearly.
Robert and Michael have been a pleasure to work with since I first met them online in 2005. Since then they have been an invaluable source of information regarding kokeshi, and I am indebted to them for the publication of their book (the only one in English I could find when I was doing research for our kokeshi exhibition at the JANM).
I love the koi pond and feeding the koi with a click of the mouse. I discovered that the koi follow the mouse as it moves across the pond until they are fed. Yesterday I was waiting for my dental appointment, and feeding the koi really helped to reduce the stress of my dental procedure. Fun activity while shopping. I just love your book! My sisters all want copies for their birthday presents.
I must write about this find–you found it; we get it. The bold, detailed carving on the kiseru zutsu is extraordinarily beautiful. The wooden horse netsuke is unlike the delicate ivory netsuke that we have collected, yet it is most appropriate, so powerful. The lacquered pipe and ojime complement the set.
As usual, the set arrived in perfect condition. Thank you so much for having this on-line site where we can confidently make purchases.
I am so glad I bought your book and visited your website! The Kokeshi Snow Coat that I purchased from you is wonderful!! She is my favorite!! I feel so lucky to have found you!!
I am so glad I found your website! The kokeshi couple arrived today and they are exceptional. I will definitely check back often. Your dolls are beautifully photographed and well described. I can buy with confidence. Thank you very much for bringing these beautiful dolls to us!
Thank you for the very prompt mailing of the netsuke book we recently ordered. It was perfectly packed and protected to ensure its safe delivery in two days. The book is an excellent reference material and welcome addition to our home library that covers a breadth of Japanese antiques. We look forward to visiting the Mingei Arts website frequently. It is extremely well designed, easily navigated and provides high quality photos of all items. We especially enjoyed the Photos of Japan section and how the images were cropped to accentuate their best qualities. Thank you once again for an excellent transaction and first-time buying experience.
The two ivory netsuke–the sage and the snow monkey–arrived in perfect condition as can be expected from the care with which they were packaged. Again we are overwhelmed by the quality of these netsuke. We were not surprised but extremely pleased that the actual items are even better than the photos suggest. They complement perfectly our collection–in age, workmanship and beauty.
Michael and Robert, you have a wonderful web site for lovers and seekers of Japanese folk art like us, a site well worth browsing frequently to find treasures.
Jacqueline and I have been visiting with and purchasing from Robert and Michael for a number of years now. One of our favorite destinations in Carmel-by-the-Sea was their shop around the corner from a fabulous coffee establishment; early down the highway (fog); coffee (sunshine); enticing Japanese art (Robert and Michael). They are both professional, personable, welcoming, and non-judgemental regarding your background. Their original shop included pieces in a wide variety of price ranges, but the quality was always excellent. We miss them in Carmel, but now they are on-line, and we give them our highest recommendation. Our most recent purchase (days ago) turned out to be even better than we had expected. All the best to them AND TO YOU!
A wonderful and friendly website to explore. These two know their subjects inside and out. I have never found a more comprehensive book on a beloved collection of Japanese Kokeshi dolls. I am a beginning collector at 64 years old and they graciously helped me not only with their book but with their knowledge of the value and identification of my first pieces. It is worth your while to peruse the entire site, Top to bottom. Live vicariously through Japan through their eyes and experiences. The book “Kokeshi, Wooden Treasures of Japan” by Michael Evans and Robert Wolf is well worth having in your collection. Thanks you two!
I have recently purchased as signed copy of Kokeshi Wooden Treasures of Japan.
This is by far one of the most comprehensive and beautifully presented books on Kokehsi Treasures I have seen.It has been written and presented beyond all expectations. I live in Australia and thank Michael and Robert not only for the quick response to my enquiries also for their care in packaging the book so it arrived in perfect condition in only 8 days! It is always a pleasure to deal with a small business with a high level of care and customer service. Thank you for first class service, and top class product.
The beautiful ivory lotus pod arrived in excellent condition, its exquisite detail and superb craftsmanship fulfilling the promise of the photographs on your web site. Difficult as it is to purchase items of this type on=-line, your photographs with the multiple views of the lotus made the decision to buy so much easier. This netsuke is as good as some of the best ones I have purchased in person. As I visit and revisit your site, I find it very difficult to resist buying more, especially now, knowing the quality of your antiques. Fortunately, early on, I disciplined myself to focus on certain types of Japanese antiques.
Thank you so much for this new source for enhancing my collection.
What a wonderful site!
Thank you for providing the background and history of these beautiful art forms. The details, the design and the knowledge you share is refreshingly welcome in todays e-commerce. I look forward to an expanded collection of lacquerware, ceramics and prints on your store. Thank you again for such a beautiful, informative and user friendly website. It is a delight for those of us that appreciate the simple exquisite beauty of Japanese folk art and craft.
Authors Evans and Wolf are long-time devotees of Japanese culture and their twice yearly trips to secure wares for their shop have paid off in their hands-on experience of Kokeshi. Inspired by their love of the form, the book illustrates the wide variety of dolls, roughly categorized as either dento (representing traditional style) and sosaku (encompassing the creative), along with their multiple sub-categories. Details such as the woods used (mizuki, birch, cedar, cherry, maple, elm, camellia), fabrication methodologies, and decorative schemes are highlighted. Threaded throughout the text are oversized photographic images of individual Kokeshi, often with the marks of the makers incorporated into the design. This links visual information to content while honing the connoisseur’s eye.
The overall format of the book is elegantly elongated, as the dolls are, with nuances of design that turn, for example, the recording of marks (of interest to any scholar) into a design feature on each page. Lavishly illustrated with over 300 images of Kokeshi, each element honors the work and captures the inherent winsomeness of Kokeshi dolls.
Kokeshi: Wooden Treasures of Japan, a Visual Exploration offers both a beautiful object in its own right and a clarifying history of the dolls, leavened with nuances of cultural history and custom. For the general reader the book offers many delights, and for the specialist collector of Kokeshi, the images and marks will aid them for years to come.
Your website is attractive and informative, however, I would like to mention a fact that I simply love about your site. When I shop, I like to do so in a fast, efficient manner. Since I live in a very remote area in the country, broadband internet and cell service isn’t available to me, only dial-up internet is offered. Sometimes I just give up when I try to shop on-line because I get tired of waiting for various pages on shopping sites to come up. I find myself going to the sites, like yours, that are well designed, even for people like me on dial-up. I can navigate your site fast and efficiently and do the shopping I desire within record time. Thank you for remembering to include dial-up concerns in your website design. Not everyone has fast internet access available, but we still like to purchase beautiful Japanese antiques.
The site is very beautifully designed and simply accessible as that fits the quality of the items you have. Of course I expected a well designed site, yet it is the combine of image, simple calligraphy and clear, concise text, that permits all users to enter your aesthetic with ease and confidence in your knowledge and vision. Great job!
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