Last weekend I saw an exhibition of folk artist Taka Ishikawa at the Japan Tableware Festvial in Suidobashi, central Tokyo. We call her folk artist but I am sure she is much more humble than that. She started doing these animal figures out of straw over 40 years ago but after becoming a widow a few years ago she has picked up the pace and now at 85 years of age she keeps on creating more and more. I can’t even remember when I last felt so annoyed at being so poor I couldn’t afford to buy things. They are smaller than they look in these pictures, and incredibly delicately bound, straw for straw to make these fantastic and vivid crafted animals. My favorite, naturally is the rabbit. If I have one tenth of her skill and energy at her age I will be a happy and creative old man indeed! Here’s a photo of Ms. Ishikawa herself, and a small glimpse of here studio, and here’s another article with a nice photo. An article in the Japanese magazine Brutus has more photos and contact details for her studio in Yamagata prefecture. With old women like this there is no way I will ever fear for the future of Japan!
A few months ago I visited a crafts fair in Odaiba and found these dolls by extremely talented sometime house wife, sometime doll maker Harumi Oshima (大島はるみ). The self introduction is her own, in reality she is successful and quite widely known artist with several medals in doll making to her name. Here’s a video in Japanese where she talks about herself and her art. I was attracted to her dolls because they sort of look like the kind of photos I like to take at festival, snapshots of people in doll form, not at all like regular dolls which are more open and unfocused. I also like that the artist herself is so wonderfully modest about her talent. She has made a book with photos of these dolls from the series called Matsuri (Festival), available at Amazon here. I have met quite a few doll makers in Japan and I am always amazed at their talent. I wish it would rub off on me! I’m sorry about the poor pictures, her exhibition area was really dark so I had to do with what little light I had.
You might remember the wooden toy sculptures from the master craftsman at Koubou Atara (工房 Atara) that I posted a few months ago? Here is his latest line of figures from myth and religion. I really love the Jesus and the Iron maiden! There’s also an Oden from norse mythology and a few figures that I imagine might be Krishna and Shiva.
As I promised yesterday, here are some harder photos! Hand made toys made entirely out of wood blocks! I saw these a couple of years ago at the biannual Design Festa. Unfortunately, I lost all my notes from that event and so I have no idea of the identity behind the maker of these fantastic toys. The figures are blocky representations, fully posable, of figures from Japanese mythology and buddhistic heroes and demons. The animal figures on the other hand, strike me as either panda bears or ground sloths! Either way, they are fabulous and I just love to see the work of people as skilled as this. Any information on the maker is gladly received, in the comments section please!