Kokeshi production process

Production process of Usaburo Kokeshi

The wood materials we use in kokeshi production are mainly table dogwoods, cherry trees, chestnuts, and keyaki. The trees are cut in the fall when they have shed their leaves and no longer absorb moisture. We secure a stock of lumber for the whole of the following year during winter. The producing areas are Tone and Azuma, which are mountainous districts in Gunma. Table dogwoods and cherry trees have the bark removed and are dried for at least six months to one year. Chestnut is processed while raw and then dried after processing using a drying machine. Keyaki is dried naturally in a warehouse because the bark is thick.

1, Removing bark 2. Lumbering 3. Pressing

After removing the bark, table dogwoods and cherry trees are dried well for six months to one year.

Trees are cut to a given length after knots and other defects have been removed.

Lumber is cut into round pieces of a given thickness to minimize the need for carving with a wheel or other machine.

4. Machine processing (1) 5. Machine processing (2) 6. Wheel work

Mass-produced products are processed by machine.

Kokeshi manufacture looks simple, but there are more than ten processes before completion.

The wood is shaped using intuition and the skills the artisan has learned and mastered over many years. It takes at least ten years to become skilled in using the wheel.

7. Polishing 8. Hot iron processing 9. Painting

The material is polished in three processes—rough, basic, and finish polishing—using two types of sandpaper. The finish totally differs according to how the material is polished.

A heated Nichrome wire is used to trace an outline of the pattern on the material by the artisan.

Each kokeshi is painted carefully. General kokeshi products are painted without making rough sketch, so the intuition and skills of the artisan are essential for painting these kokeshi products.

10. Carving 11. Coating 12. Assembling

The body of a kokeshi is either painted with a brush or after carving a design on the body with a chisel.

Two undercoats are applied and then one finish coating is applied after finish polishing.

The bobbed hair and face are pasted onto the head, and the head is put into a hole bored in the body. Now, the kokeshi has been completed.

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