The original kokeshi collection

The original kokeshi collection

The Project

I grew up with a love for kokeshi, the wooden folk dolls from Japan, although at the time I didn’t know what they were called. My family had a collection of them, brought back by my great aunt from her missionary travels which began in 1931. As a child I was drawn to the colors, the shapes and sizes, and the beauty of the small figures. The fact that they came from far away (and that I didn’t know anyone else who had one) made them very special indeed.

What intrigues me most about the kokeshi is their painted expressions - the calm, acceptance, charm and, at times, the humor they exude. In this project, I am attempting to sense and portray these characteristics and to use the natural world to draw out the individual personalities of the kokeshi. How do they encounter and react with nature up close? How do they fit into a microenvironment as well as the larger landscape?  What season, location, shape, texture, or color suits and complements them best? How do they interact with each other among the plants or in the woods? These are some of the things I think about when taking the photographs, although a lot of it is quite intuitive. 

At the same time, I've become more familiar with the nearly two acre plot of garden, woods, and stream where I live, all its nooks and crannies, the idiosyncrasies of its trees, the mushrooms that sprout into a colony overnight. The most rewarding aspect of this project has been the time spent outdoors, truly experiencing the seasons and changing weather.

Imbued by the spirit of the kokeshi, my connection to this place and to nature deepens.