I have a niece who is on her way to becoming a professional illustrator when she grows up. She’s only 12 but she’s been obsessed with drawing since she was much younger and her parents are very supportive. When she went to stay a week with my mom last summer and she met one of my favorite artists and family friend, Janis Loverin, my niece asked how she could get to be as good. Janis told her, “draw 300 pictures.”
I absolutely love that answer and understand the meaning behind it when I look at my Cuddle Kokeshi. When I work on new concepts, I actually repeat that phrase to myself.
You might interested to know that the Cuddle Kokeshi was actually a second version of my original kokeshi concept. Also, the kokeshi weren’t even my very first doll. I should probably do an article on said first design, especially since it was the doll on which my passion was sparked. An article for another Throwback Thursday, though. Cuddle Kokeshi quickly became my signature doll and I’ve spent the last two years naturally evolving their design. So, I thought it would be fitting and interesting, for myself at least, to write a brief post about my very first Cuddle Kokeshi.
As the saying suggests, the more you work at your craft – drawing, sewing, cooking, whatever it is – the better you get at it. The more you will master it and make it your own. It doesn’t mean rush through and do it a million times the exact same way. It’s a process and you have to be open to learning and actually wanting to improve. I haven’t made 300 Cuddle Kokeshi yet, but I’ve already learned new ways of being more efficient, improved on techniques, and developed my own sense of style that runs consistent through each one.
My first Cuddle is pretty minimal in detailing and she holds a special place in my heart. She’s been washed about 20 times or more, as I wanted to test her durability. This was back when I simply thought about making a “toy” for my daughter rather than an heirloom doll that would be gently loved on. My daughter didn’t even really care about interacting with the doll until she was about a year old. I still put her in with the carrier when we would go places, but my baby mainly just liked to look at it. The Cuddle’s wool blossoms have slowly deteriorated with all the washing and machine drying. I was pretty rough on testing her. Poor thing. On the upside, however, she’s taken on an extra “worn in” softness that is very pleasant. Now she’s mainly for decoration and an heirloom to keep close as my darling daughter grows up. I hope she loves it as much as I loved making it for her.
Slowly, the design started acquiring more intricate details. I’d make several dolls over the months and then one day wonder “What would she look like if I did this or changed that?” If I liked the look, I’d keep it for all new kokeshi I was making. The dimension of the blossom branch was quite by accident. One day I was making a batch and my stitching went over to one side. At first I thought “oh no!” but I started at it again and noticed that I could make it look like an actual embroidery machine had done it. Why hadn’t I though to try this before? It was a “Eureka!” moment, to say the least. It’s all been a natural progression and I can honestly say that I’ve loved every version of these little cuties. It adds to their story of my progression as an artist and makes each one even more unique than they already are. And through all her stages, the intention behind her design has remained the same. That she inspires a cultural connection with her cherry blossoms and kokeshi style body. That will never change!
I would have to say that her face is my favorite feature about her. I originally used a muslin with a lesser thread count and it had a bit more of a yellow tint to it. If you look at the picture with both dolls, you can definitely tell the difference. Her eye shape reminds me of two whales surfacing on the water. I love the curve of them. And her mouth is more tight shaped than now. I didn’t really draw it out first and just winged it. She turned out so cute!
Anyway, this post is a bit longer than I intended for it to be. But I’ve been meaning to write about my original Cuddle for some time. They’ve gone from simple cuddle toy to a detailed heirloom doll, gently loved by every age. I hope that when you bring one into your home, she will become a part of the story of your life and that, in a sense, she brings the world a little closer. A doll that can be passed down for decades to come.
Thank you so much for your support and interest in my art.