Category Archives: Asia

Kokeshi Nativity

Traditional Kokeshi dolls began to be made about two hundred years ago in the north east region of Japan known as the Tohoku region. It is commonly believed that the 18th C.  Kijiya or woodworkers who originally specialized in household utensils began to make small dolls which they sold to the tourists who came to bathe in the many onsens or hot springs near their villages.

Kokeshi dolls traditionally consist of a basic cylindrical limbless body and a round head. Though the first dolls might have been unpainted, today most Kokeshi are painted in bright colors. The traditional colors used were red, yellow and purple. The woods used for Kokeshi vary though dogwood most popular.

Kokeshi is recognized as one of the traditional folk arts of Japan.

This nativity was made in the Usaburo Kokeshi workshop in Shibukawa in the Gunma prefecture. This workshop was started by Usaburo Okamoto in 1950. Mr. Usaburo was born in Shinto in 1917 and died in 2009.

What sets this Kokeshi Studio apart from others is that Mr. Usaburo introduced new styles and developed new techniques for the creation of his Kokeshi.

This Nativity exemplifies Mr. Usaburo’s innovations and is characteristic of the Kokeshi created in the Usaburo workshop. Each doll is egg shaped rather than having the traditional limbless body with a round head. Also, they are decorated using a method of carving and burning with Nichrome wire in addition to the traditional brushes and paint.

Usaburo Okamoto won numerous prizes for his work, including the Prize of the Minister of International Trade and Industry.

Kashmiri Nativity

This six-piece Kashmiri nativity is intricately hand painted in traditional Rajastani style on soapstone resin figures. Characteristic are the accents with metallic gold paint details. This nativity is created by members of Asha Handicrafts.

Asha Handicrafts is committed to preserving India’s diverse craft traditions. They ensure a fair wage for those who craft their remarkable handiwork. Any profits are directly channeled into tailor-made projects that meet the needs of artisans and their community.

A leading fair trade organization since 1975, Asha Handicrafts was begun with the mandate to “trade, train, and transform.” Even its name (asha means “hope” in Sanskrit) inspires a new, hopeful model for doing business. In addition to providing needed income through the sales, marketing, and export of handcrafted products, Asha is committed to the overall well-being of artisans.

Thai Celadon Nativity

This exquisite nativity was crafted in the Celadon Ceramic Studios run by Duangkamol Srisukri whose father started the studios. Setting this nativity apart is the Celadon technique as well as the traditional Thai setting featuring Thai garb, the Thai angel known as a deva and the water buffalo.

Celadon is the name given by Europeans to a very specific type of ceramic that was originally developed some 2000 years ago in the Zhejiang province of China. Celadon ceramic is characterized by a specific type of glaze as well as by its jade green color.  Today, Celadon is produced in many different Asian countries, including Thailand.