ÉVA MANDULA - kraft artist, designer
I graduated from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in 2001, with a degree in animation. My diploma film was based on the story of Urasima Taro, which prompted me to delve into Japanese culture and Eastern painting. Since then, I have become a great admirer of the sophisticated style of Japanese art that bravely discards superfluous details.
I started experimented with this painting style when making my film.
Kokeshi dolls came into the picture in 2012, not long after the birth of my daughter. A couple of friends asked me to make such a doll for them. Although I never heard of the kokeshi before, I immediately fell in love with them and have been creating them ever since.
The wooden basis of the dolls is made to order by a woodworker, following the original Japanese design and proportions.
Once in my hands, the simple and compact body of the dolls becomes a canvas on which I can let my imagination loose. While the kokeshi can be painted in richly decorated garments, I prefer to adorn them with intricate patterns designed by nature – flowers and birds drawn with thin brushstrokes. My aim is to create kokeshi dolls that have a personality, radiating warmth and harmony.
One of my specialities is creating made-to-order personalized dolls. Such dolls are a great joy to give – and to receive.
Kokeshi dolls – in a nutshell
These slightly odd and compact Japanese dolls have enchanted people with their elegant simplicity for more than 200 years. The very first kokeshi dolls were made by woodworkers in Northern Japan, who carved them for their children. Later on, visitors travelling to the hot springs of the region started taking them home as souvenirs.
Yet, the kokeshi did not function merely as ornaments or toys; they served as lucky charms and were believed to protect the family – especially children – and the whole household. They helped ward off fires and ensured bountiful harvests and plenty of offspring. Over time, kokeshi dolls have become an integral part of Japanese (folk) art.
Kokeshi dolls come in all shapes and sizes – while some are based on more traditional designs, others display a broad spectrum of contemporary patterns, thus making the world of kokeshi dolls vibrantly colourful and exciting.
Nevertheless, there are some features that haven’t changed: their round and compact body, and the few, thin lines that define their face. It is exactly these characteristics that make kokeshi dolls so unique, easily identifiable and unmistakable – even if the designs and patterns show remarkable diversity.
Thanks to their ever-increasing popularity, kokeshi are now created not only in Japan, but throughout the world.