History of the Hakata dolls
Hakata dolls have a very old history. Their origin dates back to the 17th century. When Lord Nagamasa Kuroda settles in Hakata (nowadays a part of the city of Fukuoka) in 1600, he is accompanied by many artisans. These are the craftsmen who create the first traditional Japanese dolls known as Hakata dolls and the foundations of this new form of art.
It is in the second half of the Edo period, between 1735 and 1868, that great artisans such as Sohichi Masaki, Kichibe Nakanoko and Buhei Shirouzu flourish and their art spreads all over Japan.
It was then during the Meiji era (1868-1912) that the Hakata dolls received a worldwide recognition while they were exhibited at the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition and in other international exhibitions.
Fabrication process of the Hakata dolls
Hakata dolls are made according to the following process:
1) Creation of the original doll
The artist starts with very fine grain clay and prepares it by the following steps: drying, grinding, elutriation and drainage. He then uses the clay thus prepared to carve the original doll.
2) Creation of the mold
The artist uses plaster to make a mold from the original doll. Most of the time a mold for the front and another for the back are enough but for the Hakata dolls with complex expressions and shapes, the Japanese dolls can be separated into multiple parts for each of which a mold will be made. The number of parts can go up to 20.
3) Creation of the molded doll
The artist then applies clay to the surface of the molds and creates a reproduction of the original Hakata doll by assembling the different molded parts. The whole is then baked between 800 and 900 Celsius degrees for 8 hours.
4) Application of the painting
At this early stage, the artist paints clothes, accessories and hair.
5) Face painting
The artist finishes by painting the face of the Japanese Hakata doll to create the desired expression. This step is said to be as important as the creation of the original doll.