Kimiko-san was born into the Muraoka doll making family of Itabashi-ku, Tokyo. This is a craft that her artistic parents, Hatsutaro and Kane, carried on from her grandparents, Ginzo and Yoshi Komiya (on her mother’s side) and what has been passed on to her nephews, Kazuhiko and Fumihiko, the fourth generation. From a young girl, she remembers working in her parent’s workshop. For the first 15 years, she only watched her parents and older siblings work. Her father carried on the glass blowing tradition for his father, Tatsugoro. After her long apprenticeship, she practiced the traditional methods, but soon became restless to find her own artistic way: she broke with tradition.
KIMIKO KOYANAGI'S DOLLMAKING TECHNIQUE
“Kimiko Koyanagi is a third generation doll-maker from the Muraoka doll making family in Tokyo. Involved in doll making since her childhood, the artist utilizes the traditional Japanese technique in creating her own original sculptural art forms. Having mastered the ancient craft over many years, the artist’s expertise and creativity have helped to develop a contemporary artistic interpretation of the traditional doll. Kimiko’s works are beautiful sculptured forms and labeling them as “dolls” is improper. The abstract doll-like sculptures are tall, slender female figures characterized by thin gentle curved shape. Elements of line, space, colour, and texture all add to the refined beauty of the finished form.
Kimiko’s technique is a lengthy painstaking procedure that is uniquely Japanese. She started 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 powdered 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 watercolour. As a finishing tough, the artist is very selective in adding delicate details which make each work both unique and individual in expression.
The first impression of the sculptured dolls is that they appear as forms of Japanese simplicity and beauty. However, beneath the angelic beauty and serenity of the sculptured dolls, Kimiko expresses her deepest emotions and philosophies. Through gentle features and subtle lines the artist conveys poetic expressions of sadness and hope. The sculptured dolls are a unique modernization of an ancient Japanese tradition that Kimiko uses in expressing her innermost thoughts and spiritual feelings.