Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DIY Kokeshi Dolls

Our Kokeshi Family

When we lived in Japan, my daughters and I collected Japanese Kokeshi (traditional wooded dolls) from used shops. We loved seeing the different sizes and odd shaped heads. We have a shelf just for them in our new basement bookshelves:

 I looked and looked for blank Kokeshi dolls and could never find any.  So, I decided to make my own!  I scoured the woodworking suppliers online and found so many different shapes.  I decided to make our family as Kokeshi dolls! 

After ordering the pieces, I had to connect the heads to the bodies.  I used wooden dowel pins.

  All you have to do is drill a hole slightly bigger than the pins in the head and the body, fill the holes with wood glue, and use the pin to join the two.  It was really easy and they are nice and sturdy.

The hardest part was painting the dolls to look like us.  This is where I totally cheated- I had my amazing sister-in-law do it!  I have no painting skills beyond painting a wall or furniture.  Remember these gorgeous Nesting dolls she helped me do for a Christmas gift:

I printed out some photos of our family for her, along with some pictures of Japanese Kimono designs for her to use as inspiration.  Aren't they amazing?

That's me!  I had a hard time finding large enough wood spheres for our heads so that's an apple for my head (on a small wood bowling pin shape) and my husband's head is an orange wood shape and his body was a wood lighthouse, with the top sawn off!  See, I had to get creative to get the different sizes for everyone.

For our twin's bodies I used wood jump rope handles!  Just look at the cute designs on their Obi (the sash/belts.)  How cute are those?!

If I remember right, I used some really weird wood pieces to make these kids.  One is a candle stick holder, another an egg cup and even a train smoke stack!  Told you I had to get creative.

I found a half-moon window at a gentleman's farm and loved it for it's shape.  I had been wondering how to use it and wouldn't you know it, the dolls fit perfectly!  I had to take out all the old glass, make a flat surface on the inside for the dolls to sit on and had to cut down the depth of the whole frame (it had been really deep.)  I worried about the dolls tipping over and breaking, so I made little "stands" for them by hammering in some long finishing nails (with no heads) and drilled a hole in the bottoms of the dolls to slip over the nails. 

I chose to hang it in our oft-traveled hallway. I love how it turned out!!  A million Thanks, Ellen.  I think this is my first family heirloom!!


  1. wow she's good! she could be a portrait tatooist if she wanted.
    ive never seen kokeshi dolls. my son in law would love them...anything japanese.

    thanks for sharing your cute idea and your sis in laws mad skillz.

  2. You Kokeshi doll family looks awesome! That is such a nice way to display them.

  3. SO clever! Love this.

  4. Oh I love it! They are beautiful :)

  5. love this! they are so quirky, I've never seen those dolls before.

  6. Original, awesome, & just plain adorable!!! What an amazing idea! Just stumbled across your blog whilst researching different obi styles, not sure why it brought your blog up, but I saw the pic of your very cute kokeshi family & just had to investigate. Well done! I love that there are 6 kids, I love that Wooden family sign above it (as for me & my house, we will serve the Lord) ~ we have one of those in our kitchen, & I love love love the originality of your idea! (yah, I'm geekin' out ~ ;-D )
    I love crafty things as well~


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