The Making of a Usaburo Kokeshi

Watch the Usaburo Kokeshi story here!

Step 1: Wood Procurement
Wood is procured from the local region. 4 types of wood are used in the making of a kokeshi namely 水木 mizuki (dogwood), 栗 kuri (chestnut), 欅 keyaki (zelkora) and 桜 sakura. The mizuki is most common choice of wood due to it white color and is easy to work and sculpt. The bark is removed and the wood is left to dry naturally for 6 months to 2 years depending on the type of wood. 


Step 2: Cutting
The wood is then cut into the required lengths for easy processing. 

Step 3: Pressing
Wood is then pressed into the required round pieces. This helps to reduce the need for craving thus saving time. 

Step 4: Sculpting by Machine
Machines are used to sculpt the wood so as to speed up the production process. 
Each piece of wood is sculpted and then cut.

Step 5: Sculpting by Hand
The wood is also sculpted by hand using the spin-wheel. A craftsman need more than 10 years of experience to become skilled. At Usaburo Kokeshi, there are only 3 craftsmen who are qualified to do this job. This process is also known as the ロクロ rokuro. 

Step 6: Polishing
Polishing is done in 3 stages using 2 types of sandpaper. Once polishing is completed, the wood is fine smooth, ready to be painted!

Polishing is done in 3 stages


Step 7: Hot Iron Painting
A hot iron wire is used to carefully trace the outline of the pattern on the kokeshi by hand.  



Step 8: Painting by Hand
Each kokeshi is carefully hand painted without making any rough sketches. The skills of the artisan is vital to a how the kokeshi will look like in the end. 


Step 9: Carving
The body of a kokeshi is painted with a brush or after carving has been completed. 

Step 10: Coating and Lacquering
The kokeshi goes through at least 2 layers of coating. After which, it is coated with 2 - 3 layers of lacquer to protect its paint.


Step 11: Assembling - Putting Everything Together!
The head and body is connected with a small wooden rod. No nails or metals are used. Only wood. And everything is done by the artisan's hands. 


The masterpiece!