Lots of Gets

When Batsu goes to a doll event, it’s not usually for purpose of making purchases.  I don’t line up early, or try to arrive by a certain time; nor do I travel with a suitcase as many attendees do.  I bring a camera, do a lot of looking, and usually walk away with a piece or two.

On the contrary, this time (Doll Show 28)I went with the specific purpose of buying everything.  Why?  Well, for one, I haven’t indulged Miyu in a while.  And for two, I’ve been feeling rather lackadaisical and haven’t started any craft projects lately.  The idea was to gain inspiration from the awe of others’ work.  (Let’s see how well that works out.)

Upon arriving home, I was so excited to show Alice and Miya all of the cool things I got for them that I pulled out the camera and photographed the whole ordeal.

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They look real enough to eat – the large berry in particular makes it more doll-like and otherworldly.  And delicious.

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Alice used to hold her little rabbit (purchased at another Doll Show) by the head.  The basket adds about 200% more cute, though the other look was nice, too.

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I guess I was in a cute mood?  The top dress was crocheted by hand and only 800 yen.  They threw in an extra prop since I bought it off of the modelling doll – this was their last one.  The bottom dress I wish I had found first; beautifully sewn by hand, and featuring elastic buttons and loops in the back as opposed to Velcro to both lay flat and avoid snagging her hair.

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I think she likes it.

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I got many things for Miyu… but first…  the packaging for this one was adorable!  I let her open the boxes herself.

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Miyu:  So, you went to the Doll Show.  Did you bring me anything?

Batsu:  Maybe…  Let’s take a look.

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Miyu:  Oh!  It’s wrapped and everything!  I have to be sure to open it carefully.

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Miyu: Whaa~!

Batsu: What’s inside?

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Miyu: A tiara!  You finally realize I’m a princess.

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Miyu:  Do I wear it like this?

Batsu: Let me help you…

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Batsu:  It looks great!  And even matches your ensemble!  Do you like it?

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Miyu: I love it.

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Miyu:  Wow – another one!?  It’s so pretty.

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Batsu:  It looks great on you, too.  But perhaps you need a new dress or something to match.

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Miyu: What’s this?

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Batsu:  It’s candy – a tasty treat for good little princesses after meals.

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Miyu: Heh heh heh.  Don’t worry, I’ll put this somewhere safe.

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Miyu:  Oh, a new purse!

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Miyu: And a tea set!

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Miyu:  It’s too late – Hina Matsuri was weeks and weeks ago.

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Batsu: I know…  but isn’t it cute?  Look how small it is!  You can bring it out from next year.

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Batsu:  And lastly…  I thought you might like to read this book.

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Batsu:  It’s a real book, and it’s called Alice in Wonderland.  Have you heard of it?

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Miyu: Wow!  Alice…

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Batsu: Do you like it?

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Miyu: Wow…  Alice…

Doll Show 28

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Even though I was busy with this and that at the time, I still made it to Doll Show 28 back in May.

In case you don’t know what Doll Show is, let me just introduce it by saying it’s one of my favorite doll events. It ties with i-doll in that regard, but they both suit my fancy much more than the Volks Dolls Parties, even though I’m a Volks owner and more or less swear by the Volks brand.  The amount of craftsmanship and creativity is generally of a higher calibre, and the price of admission is much lower.  All of these events focus on dolls and doll related goods, including a few factory dealers (Yamato, AZONE, Volks, etc.) but primarily featuring unique handmade items.  Clothing, furniture, accessories, toys, food, custom parts – you name it; this is the place to find everything for your doll.

The lesser-known Doll Show and i-doll events also provide most of the fodder for features in the doll magazines Dolly Dolly and Dollybird.  It’s exciting to see a really well crafted dress or display and then learn how to make it in the next issue.  Better yet, you can sometimes catch the article in the making, whether it be the photographer taking shots or staff approaching for an interview.

Aside from shopping, there are of course social aspects.  Some people bring their dolls and rent tables in a separate area to pose and parade them.  Recently, special photo areas have also made an appearance.  But on a personal note, the one time Miyu accompanied me, we were brazenly targeted with a lot of unwanted solicitation.  Most people seem to either enjoy or ignore the attention, but it puts me off enough to let her relax at home while I run the errands.

But enough of all this – it’s much better explained in photos.  I’ll talk more about the merits of a Volks event sometime soon.  To be fair, of course.  The most recent Tokyo Dolls Party was only two days after Doll Show 28.

Koiwa Iris Garden

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Last week, Alice and I paid a visit to the Koiwa Iris Garden not far from my tiny rabbit hutch in Shitamachi.  Alice was eager to show off her new spring dress, which I found at Doll Show 28 a few months back.  However, gusty winds prevented her tiny props from accompanying her and the layout in general was not so photo-friendly towards Mini Pullip sized companions.  Nonetheless, the gardens were beautiful.

It was a gorgeous early  summer’s day, and quite warm.  I decided to leave the apartment during the hottest part of the afternoon instead of resorting to the AC, riding my bike to the bank of the Edo River.  Koiwa Iris Garden isn’t the most famous place for iris, but apparently boasts the most.  Indeed, it’s not a seasonal section of a larger park, but rather a huge moat of iris framed in hydrangea, appearing out of nowhere amidst that vast baseball and soccer fields that stretch along either side of the river banks.  The garden is a strange, shimmering seasonal jewel amidst the plain of dirt and dust.

On this particular day, the ornate walkways and covered pavilions were filled with elderly patients and their care staff.  At least one nursing home was giving a tour to residents.  There were a few professional (or amateur?) photographers with lots of fancy cameras and equipment taking pictures as well.

It was nothing short of luck that I was able to visit on such a pristine day, both in terms of the weather and the condition of the flowers.  All of the iris were in full bloom, a few insects showed their faces and mosquitoes were nowhere in sight.  The moats were filled with the movements of tadpoles in various stages of development.

The garden is free and open to the public year round, but the official “festival” with small local vendors is held only June when the flowers are in bloom.  It can be accessed from Keisei Edogawa Station or via bus from the JR Koiwa or Ichikawa Station.

Official Edogawa Ward page (Japanese): Koiwa Iris Garden

The Baby’s Doll

Looking for fairy tales by Finnish scholar Zachris Topelius, I just so happened to stumble upon a free library of children’s books.  Most of them modern, but many digital scans of antique works as well – some accompanied by beautiful illustrations.  Abandoning hope of finding Topelius in a language I could read (at least for today), there is still one treasure I came across.

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With no real understanding of French, I was immediately taken by the illustrations of G. Ripart.  They provide my only window into the story, “The Baby’s Doll.”  That is, until someday when perhaps I’m able to read it.

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the baby's doll

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the baby's doll 2

the baby's doll 3

Majolica Majorca

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Around 7 years ago, Shiseido came out with a unique style of make-up brand targeting more eccentric girls.  Covered in luscious Victorian-style frills and alluding at many quaintrelle pleasures, most of the products and images used in Majolica Majora campaigns have a distinct loli flavor; the current Ch. 26 – “She was a doll,” no exception.  I’m particularly captivated by the doll sculpt and stop animation, woven into an interactive story-book like presentation.

It’s fun to look at and play around even if you can’t read Japanese: http://www.shiseido.co.jp/mj/index.html

Nurse Audrey

A while back, batsu made a promise to babyart – that his beloved Audrey Hepburn Pullip might be better outfitted.  It took a while to make good on that promise (a couple months?  though, only a week of actual work^^;) but here you have it, in an indulgent yet still poorly shot session.  My place was prepped for a Malaysian move, and not really the best photo space…  Excuses, excuses!

Her outfit is based on late Victorian and early Eduardian style nurses’ uniforms, like the last image in the gallery.  Otherwise, I made an original pattern using a Blythe doll dress from Dolly Dolly vol. 20 as reference.  The reference piece is was half-sleeved, scoop-necked, tiered skirt number – essentially a totally different dress.  In addition, Audrey was much more willowy, so the entire pattern had to be redrawn in the end.

This was my first time working with a doll so small.  On the one hand, the newness and excitement was inspiring.  Mistakes and remakes, such as the time my thumb was unwittingly pierced and her dress spoiled with blood, wasted little fabric.  On the other hand, some portions required very delicate stitch-work, manoeuvring extremely tight spaces.  It was a difficult balance, but Audrey-chan was a paradigm of patience.  Perhaps it will improve her bedside manner.

Most of the fabric was puchased at discount fabric outlet Tomato, which I’ll rant about in another piece.

Walking Down Up-Town – Span/Maruzen

In Haruki Murakami’s novel South of the Border, West of the Sun, we find the protagonist caught in a space of liminal reality, entertaining notions of an alternative present – or future – dictated by idealized memories of the past.  A random sighting of a possible childhood friend on the streets of Ginza triggers a maelstrom of introspection, a contemplation of the fabric of reality.

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Though on most days, Ginza seems only a juxtaposition of princes and paupers, at certain glances the abundance of modern excess framed with stylized antique trappings would seem to mark the portal to a different world.  Whether it be a simulacrum of capitalist spectacle, or somewhere else betwixt and between, all depends on your perspective (and your wallet).

There are of course, excellent doll shops in Ginza, excellent sweet shops in Ginza, and occasional excellent art exhibits in Ginza. On those rare occasions, batsu carefully maps out where to step as to avoid losing her way, to navigate through the void and into that other world.  As of late, however, there have been many great gallery showings in Ginza, and perhaps it is these more than anything have me feel both lost and found in a new reality…  Or, perhaps just vertigo from the autumnal equinox.

Span Art Gallery – Declaration of the New Japanese Aesthetic

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The concept of this gallery showcasing finds itself buried in a 2-page hand-written declaration/manifesto of the same name, penciled on grid-like Japanese school paper, framed right beside the art in modest Plexiglas, mounted to the wall. Outlined briefly, the essay seems to rant about the loss of Japanese cultural identity and the burden of the artist to recreate a semblance of unifying aesthetic sense to redefine a Japanese world pillaged by globalization and the subsequent invasion of other cultural influence – something like that.  As most modern institutions of “traditional Japanese culture” are rather exclusive and prohibitively expensive (kimono, ikebana, tea ceremony, etc.) and incidentally abundant in Ginza, it’s difficult to bow in sympathy to this “plight.”  However, I still liked about half of the art on display, whether it seemed to coherently adhere to the agenda or otherwise.

Span Art Gallery is a relatively small, well-lit space with white walls and glass front, giving the impression that it is actually the patrons that are on display – particularly after dusk.  The first exhibit was from Oct. 5-17, and the latter from Oct. 18-31.  However, even if you are far from Tokyo’s clutches, you can still view the art from both showings at the exhibit page, randomly clicking on links to the right (artists’ names) even if you can’t read Japanese.

I particularly liked the pieces by Keita Tatsuguchi (龍口経太), Trevor Brown (トレヴァー・ブラウン), Yuji Moriguchi (森口裕二), and Takato Yamamoto (山本タカト).  There were many others, and indeed many beautiful works.

It’s difficult to choose an absolute favorite, though I will say that Mr. Brown’s first painting seemed to garner the most attention from other patrons.  Quite large and visually striking, with a stark palette of predominant reds and whites, it incorporates a beautiful arrangement of the difinitive “Japan-esque,” making it patriotic in an almost parodic way – perhaps even a caustic embodiment of the exhibit’s mission statement.

Maruzen – 4th Annual Hitogata Doll Exhibit

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Maruzen is about one station away from Ginza, so instead of paying to ride the train during rush-hour, I decided to hoof the 15 minute walk.  It’s a fancy-pants bookshop in the fancy-pants Oazo building in Marunouchi, near the Imperial Palace; the exhibit space is on the 4th floor.

I like it, as it’s connected to Tokyo Station via underground tunnel in the event of incliment weather, and literally across the street from the north exit, just in case you decide not to brave the underground labyrinth.  Aside from that, it’s in a bookshop, with decent magazine, manga, and even English book selections, complete with reading tables in case you want to sit around and kill some time.  There are also a variety of interesting toys and knickknacks lying about if the exhibit turns out to be a dud.

Though the photography for most doll events at Maruzen is often dissuading, I’m just as often thankful I made the trip – in this sense, Hitogata was no different.  It featured a diverse representation, showcasing a few international submissions, though Japanese artists were the most prominent.

My favorites were Ryo Arai (荒井良), Seihachi Nakajima (中嶋清八), Rika Imma (因間りか), Akemi Kai (伽井丹彌), and 西織銀.  I don’t know how to read the last name, but the dolls were absolutely beautiful, tiny perfection.

Photos can be seen from the Maruzen blog.

are you a good witch, or a bad witch?

Lady apples (アルプス乙女) are very fortuantely an adorable dolls’ size, and batsu was also very fortunate to purchase some at the market the other day.  This was Miyu and I’s first time making caramel, as well as caramel apples, so all things considered they turned out quite well.  Pfinn was visiting for the day, but decided she was too sophisticated for such plebian passtimes as… eating.

The recipe for these little treats can be found here:

http://dessertfirst.typepad.com/dessert_first/2006/10/petit_fours.html

Yamato Dolls, Dolls, Dolls

About a year ago, batsu wrote this article/review for Otaku2.com. The subject of the review was a doll made by Yamato; specifically, a limited edition Obitsu 50cm body Minmei character doll. I don’t think it’s one of my better pieces, but the photos turned out alright. I got to dress her up in a few different outfits, and we took a walk to Kanda Myojin Shrine in Akihabara.  And apparently it was published in some Hungarian magazine, too?  The details on that are fuzzy, but I hear it’s true.

Apparently, someone in the product development department was kind to take notice. Kanda Myojin is actually right down the street from their offices.  And, surprisingly, that same someone still remembered those photos a year later! So in short, today I was invited to their showroom for a peek at new dolls, figures, and accessories.

The new bodies look sharp, and it seems like they’re going to steer away from licensed characters and go more towards original dolls, making them both more affordable and more customizable. The B-type body is admittedly a bit voluptuous and muscular for my taste, but is nonetheless perfect for the Ikitousen character it was created for. Not only ripped, but well shaded to show muscle tone. They’re going to start offering it, along with a bit less beefy (but still quite busty) D-type body in both raw kits and as well as concept characters.  The dolls were deco’ed out today in jeweled nail stickers by the company president, who also took the liberty of adding some up-skirt bling for the precarious passerby.

That said, speaking for myself the best part about Yamato is their costumes and accessories. Factory produced, yet still meticulously detailed. Ms. Yasuge is assuringly – refreshingly – fastidious in regard to particulars, and was quite generous to expound upon the making of various parts, such as wigs, gloves, clothes and shoes.  Just taking one look at those shoes more or less speaks for itself.  Sourced out to a “regular” shoe factory and made of the same materials as “people” shoes, they have a presence all their own – of which the same can be said for their pleather outfits.  The new glasses are also top notch, made with a special thin plastic as to not distort the overall look and shape of the eye, and delicately hinged just like “real” glasses.

There were figures and other dolls as well, but I only snapped picutres of Mercedes from Odin Sphere and the intimidating Macross collection, now with street-legal bike helmet.

You can go see it all for yourself tomorrow, when it’s open to the public:

Doll Holic

10/24/2009 11am-4pm

Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku Sotokanda 2-4-4

Dai-Ichi Denpa Building 8F

In addition to the showroom, there will also be a photospace if you care to bring your dolls.

Becoming a Real Little Girl

For Miyu-chan’s birthday (10/31), I decided to give her a bit of surgery.

Miyu was made before UV coating was standard, so even though she lives a rather sheltered life, her skin had become a bit “tanned.” It had to be ex-foliated (ie sanded down) before showing its former radiance.  And since we were at the shop anyways, why not smooth down her seams as well?  I got all of the tools, and then had to wait for a sunny day, which finally arrived late last week.

After covering the operating table with a protective cloth, and arranging all of the tools, I looked at Miyu.  We were both terrified.  There were so many things that could go wrong.  Why was I doing this?

“Why?  Why are you doing this?”

“I’m not sure…  I don’t know exactly, but I think the procedure will help you become more of real little girl.”

“A real little girl?”

“Well, of course we know that you’re already real; but perhaps you can become even more real.”

“A real little girl…”  She paused in contemplation for quite some time.  “OK.  OK;  I want to do it.”

I began slowly and worked as carefully as possible.  She was asleep for nearly 36 hours.  There were some harrowing moments, but in the end everything fell into place.  Her face is still a bit pale; which is to say I haven’t done her make-up yet.  For the moment, she’s still getting used to her new body.  I’m quite pleased with how it’s turned out – Miyu is indeed becoming even more real.

Going to the Kenji Murata exhibit in Ginza yesterday, I found a very cute little pumpkin for her near the station.

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