Wednesday, August 5, 2015

East Coast Kokeshi 3 東アメリカのこけし3

Continuing the review of my mother's kokeshi collection located on the American east coast, today's example is beautiful piece that I have very warm feelings about. It's a Tsugaru kokeshi 津軽系こけし by Ms. Honma Naoko 本間直子さん of Kamikita Town 上北町 in Aomori Prefecture 青森県 that is a delight to look at. We have gotten to know Ms. Honma over the years and she is such a nice person, so I am reminded of that when I see one of her kokeshis. The craftsman's spirit is indeed embedded into their work, an ephemeral quality that in my opinion fundamentally separates traditional and modern kokeshis.
As kokeshi enthusiasts are aware Tsugaru kokeshis have one or more of all three major Tsugaru design elements: An Ainu pattern around the collar and center, a defined waist, and a picture of the Buddhist saint Bodhidharma (Daruma) near or at the base. Tsugarus also tend to be quite smiley, especially in comparison to their kokeshi counterparts from Naruko and Togatta. The piece we're looking at today is Ms. Honma's own personal design (honningata 本人型) that includes some elements as described above along with her own additions.
This is definitely a smiley kokeshi, it has a strongly defined waist, and it has a picture of Bodhidharma painted on the base. Ms. Honma's kokeshi line seems to do stripes instead of Ainu patterns (as you can see in various examples by clicking here to view in the page about her on the Japanese-language Kokeshi Dictionary), so what makes this distinctly her own design is the way the face is painted and the maple leaf on the chest.
Take a good look at this maple leaf and keep in mind that is has been hand-drawn and painted with a thin brush on a curved bare-wood surface. This is incredible.
All Tsugaru kokeshi makers have their own way of painting Bodhidharma, and this is how Ms. Honma does hers.
A view from the top down shows Ms. Honma's steady brushwork for creating bangs, as well as the red circle that is also a Tsugaru design element.
Finally on the bottom left is Ms. Honma's signature which she wrote with her full name. The two characters on the right say "Nuruyu" 温湯, which of course is short for Nuruyu Onsen 温湯温泉 in Kuroishi City 黒石市, the main homeland of Tsugaru kokeshis. 

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