Pressing Buttons

After purchasing a superb amount of buttons from dealers Cotton Tail and Pb’-factory, Batsu was finally able to start and finish a few projects.  The first one I completed was from Dressmaking for Super Dollfie Vol.2, the pattern called Parallel for MSD.  Once the butler’s costume for her faithful servant is complete, no one should be mistaking this for a maid’s outfit – though rest assured, that still provides no excuse for doing so now.

Her face is admittedly a little off.  As I’ve been experimenting with various blushing and painting techniques and haven’t been using a sealer, her make-up smears/disappears on occasion.  After her most recent blushing, I erased her eye shading and haven’t yet reapplied it.  However, looking at the progress thus far, her next face may be a keeper.

After Miyu tried on her new dress, she decided to have a tea party with Teddy.

i-dollatry 26

My goodness, was it three weeks ago already?  For those who may not know, Batsu is a freelance translator.  I like it, really; but on occasion I get sucked into the void for days (weeks?) at a time, a mere shadow of my former self, soiled and sullen before the luminescent screen.  Then the project is complete, the deadline is met, and I have a couple weeks off.  Hooray!

Ah, yes, so the weeks have passed since I visited i-doll 26. I-doll is one of the few recurring doll events in Japan – along with Doll Show (Tokyo only), Dolls Party (Volks sponsored/only), and the recent Dolls in Wonderland (held by second hand shop Mandarake).  At at most of these events you can find many dolls and doll related items – apparel, accessories, foods, furnishings, hand-made articles, and so on from the many independent and professional dealers.  They are packed tightly into rows upon rows and sometimes spread across many floors of the convention hall.

On this particular day, I was on a mission to find buttons.  As I usually go in trying to pitch a story, negotiate an interview, or traipse the boundaries of trust just to snap a photo, the scene was quite refreshing.  I didn’t many get many good photos, but walked away with a world of buttons.  Good friend Shikaku was also in attendance and all googly-eyed over pretty much everything; it seems I even missed dealers I was looking for.  But never matter – did I mention I purchased a world of buttons?

There were of course many cute dolls in various cute dresses.  The majority of these being sold by girls decked in lolita-style fashions.  However, the newest accessory for these eternally young maidens would seem to be their own children.  I think this was the first time I’ve ever seen such a frilly dress paired with a baby harness; not one, indeed the vast majority seemed to sport this new look.  One table had a living doll dressed like the models for sale – though she was a bit older, maybe 2.

My purchases, aside from the buttons, included a summer SD dress, a doll-sized whiskey rocks, a tiny rabbit for a tiny Alice, and some hangers for my daughter’s increasing wardrobe.  I also managed to meet an artist who had an exhibition at Angel Dolls last year – but she somewhat incomprehensibly (?) refused to acknowledge that I was familiar with her work until Shikaku intervened and therefore receives no further mention.

We finished the day at Pinafore, which was great despite, or perhaps due to, the presence of numerous customers from my former maiden days.  I took great relish in drinking beer in front of them (a big no-no!), but felt a bit awkward at first, admittedly.  Even after such a short stint, going to a maid cafe will never be the same.

The photos:

Shooing the Fit

Batsu went to a couple of gothic and lolita fashion exhibits at Parabolica-bis.

The first was billed as “Sawada Tomoko & Baby, the Stars Shine Bright.”

vic5babysawada_main

The upper gallery was covered by photos of Sawada Tomoko, taken by Sawada Tomoko.  For those unfamiliar with her artistic vision, Sawada makes digital collages of herself, altering her make-up, hair, and clothing styles to give the impression of multiple individuals.  Quite a few of the goth and loli types that I met as a maid at @home cafe seemed to fit into a snide, self-important mold, so seeing this sort of drama reenacted just struck a note of irony.  Though I respect both Sawada and Baby, it’s like the Louis Vuitton of lolita fashion.

Having visited the lower gallery many times and growing accustomed to the dark and somewhat somber air of the space, it was quite shocking to open the door only to be bombarded by an explosion of pinks and pastels.  It had been made-over to resemble a Baby shop, complete with wide full-length mirrors and mock dressing areas.  Every wall was lined with clothes racks, upon which every Baby design dress, skirt, shirt, bloomers, and pannier hung snugly together.  A show case displayed all accessories ever made.  Intermittently stood mannequins modeling various fashions, paired with matching shoes.  Every inch of the wall space was taken, draped with fabrics, spotted with hats, or strung with night wear.

My personal favorite areas were the dolls and stuffed animals.  I can’t list them all, but they included Super Dollfie, Blythe, Dal, Koitsuki Hime, and even a Living Dead Doll in Baby, the Stars Shine Bright fashions.  There was also a table laid out for pretend tea (all Baby cups, etc.), stacked with books.  Some of the books were just general fashion history, but others included fashion sketches and ad shoots.

Let me just say that in my experience, it’s best not to touch anything at an exhibit, ever.  There are signs everywhere, even if there are no people.  Being foreign layers on an additional paranoia for me, as I’m often targeted for doing things everyone around me is doing, even things that seem legit.  So, walking into this “shop-like” showroom I was too paranoid to touch anything.  On the way out, after a visit to the gallery shop, other visitors had assembled in the gallery.  I watched as girls hanger-modeled dresses in front of the mirrors and thumbed through the literature on the table.  Only then did I find the confidence to examine some of the pieces more closely, but I felt a bit cheated, really.

v6_flyer_mote

However, that was soon rectified at the next exhibit, “Victorian Lolita: Takemoto Novala and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright.”  Again, I visited at an unusual hour, having the gallery to myself, only this time all of my favorite dresses from the Baby collection were displayed together.  Indeed, a fortunate coincidence.  This also provided ample opportunity to flip through the various scetch books and fabric samples.

Trevor Brown, an idol of mine who mentioned he sometimes takes the time to read my rantings, will be pleased to know that his “My Alphabet” book lie in the middle of all the frilly lolita goods available for purchase in the gallery shop.  On the other hand, the “component tarot” cards produced for the second exhibit were absolute rubbish.  I purchased Miura Etsuko’s “Bride Doll of Frankenstien” and a couple TB Alice series postcards as a gift for a friend.  Seeing the other related goods for sale at seemingly ridiculous prices just fueld the fire to make my own stuff, though the exhibits alone were inspiration enough.

Life is Sweet – Toshi Yoroizuka

After coming back from a seven year tour of Europe and opening a self-titled sweets shop in 2004, Toshi Yoroizuka has become one of the most famous patissier in Japan.  In the past year, he’s done collaboration chocolate products with food giant Lotte, provided dessert models for the bakery backdrop in anime Antique, and received the honor of having his creations immortalized in miniature plastic form.

Produced by Yujin, there are 2 sets of 6 each, debuting in December 2007 and April 2008, for a total of 12 different little desserts.  They come in a display-like packaging that resembles the signature store boxes, along with a clear logo-embossed display pouch if you care to hang it from a bag or cell phone.  On the contrary, batsu prefers to give them to good little dolls as a special treat.  The models are bigger than the standard 1/8 size, making them perfect for MSD and SD friends.

I’ll admit that I purchased the figures prior to visiting the Roppongi store location, and thought they looked a little too good to be true.  However, after encountering a two hour wait for the cafe on a weekday afternoon, only to decline it for a 20 minute wait just to see the take-away showcase, I realized the myth that was Yoroizuka.  The myth that was manning the register with a humble smile, cordially waiting on patrons, asking if he could validate our parking as we shuddered in disbelief.

Everything glistened in an ethereal glow of perfection, and seemed only to become more fantastic as we snaked closer and closer along the winding course of the line. We selected the Cassis and Jean Pierre, for figure comparison, along with the Olympiad and Almond Shioux Cream for good measure.  Believe it or not, the staff actually refused to sell us their signature shioux cream unless we promised to eat it within 60 minutes – though there was no way for them to provide us with seating on the bitter winter’s evening.  Unchafed, we purchased them anyways and stopped at a nearby generic coffee shop, considering the not-so-generic designer shopping tower (Roppongi Hills) we entered.

The other purchases were taken home to stand side by side with their plastic counterparts.  Though the pictures speak for themselves, aside from size, they’re nearly identical.  Dolls and humans alike rejoiced in a dinner that needed no supplementary course, aside for a cup of tea.

The figures are currently quite difficult to find, assumably due in part to their exquisite craftsmanship, but perhaps also because of limited production and the notoriety of Yoroizuka.

Victorian Exhibition 4 – Koitsuki Hime

victorian4_2 victorian4_1

The Koitsuki Hime exhibit at Parabolica-bis ended yesterday, though batsu was very fortunate to squeeze in. Doll Show 25, which I was unable to attend, no doubt contributed to the crowd that packed into the small but ornate exhibit space. It was my first time to witness a Koitsuki Hime exhibit in person – something that I’d been anticipating for nearly four years. Despite all of this, it still managed to live up to my very high expectations, based on the various photo albums I’ve encountered over the years.

Entering into the exhibit space was akin to breaking a séance, light from the twilight outside scattering over a tightly coiled snake of people, crouched in the darkness, in awe before the objects of worship. Each piece was individually lit with eerie ambiance, highlighting the delicate curls of fingers and toes and smooth subtleties of facial shading and expression. Every doll was housed in its own open canopy of dark gauzes, giving the impression of a series of portals – mirrors into another world. As they lie very close to the floor, the proper way to pay respect to such objects of reverence was to kneel before them, and revel in both their beauty and mystery.

Not surprisingly, it looked as if only 3 of the 15 or so dolls had not sold, indicated by a delicate pink ribbon adorning their wrists. In addition to the superiority of her sculpts, and almost uncanny expert blushing, Koitsuki Hime’s clothing really stands out. Many dolls were clad in corsets and other Victorian inspired undergarments, while others wore elegant dresses of regal brocade rippled with gold. Another allure of her craftsmanship are the more creative interpretational pieces found within the sea of classic solemn beauties. On this occasion, a two-headed baby and conjoined twins made appearances. Though, as the exhibit title “Victorian Twins” suggested, these were the predominant themes uniting all of the pieces.

One of my personal favorites was a pair of twins clad in ethereal white dressing gowns. As one of the twins lay in a coffin lined with white satin, the other stood, looking on in attendance. The two dolls featured on the flier were near life-sized, and laid out on a sofa, with their shoes daintily arranged beside them -  a very nice subtle accent. Also amazing were the aforementioned conjoined twins, especially the elegant gown they shared.

As a bonus, I ran into the pair who run “Mother Goose” – a favorite art “circle” who specialize in gothic and Victorian style doll clothing. They had apparently just finished cleaning up from a day of business at Doll Show 25, though no one would have known given the exquisite air of refinement and style in which they carry themselves. I look forward to meeting them again at the next doll bazaar event. As well as seeing their new creations.

Parabolica-bis / Victorian 3

yaso_shimizu

Sometimes described as an “incestuous artist collective,” due to a tendancy to publish the same small group of artists time and time again, Yaso magazine nonetheless features some of the more prominent names in decidedly dark “gothic” style art. Though it would be disingenuous to claim they adhere strictly within national borders, the artists are predominantly Japanese – with the notable recurring exception of Trevor Brown – and feature everything from illustrators, photographers, painters, fashion designers, doll makers, and beyond. Following any publication of Yaso, which abides by something of an irregular annual cycle, a subsequent series of exhibits will follow at Parabolica-Bis, the magazine’s gallery and performance space.

Just a few blocks away from one of the nation’s most famous temples and tourist destinations, nestled in a back alley just beyond an avenue laced with shops specializing in traditional Japanese dolls, one can walk into something of a parallel universe. Historically speaking, Asakusa was once famous for both temples and brothels, though the same sort of notoriety still hangs over the area today. Following this precedent, one can see how the physical layout of the area’s geography subtly mirrors the subconscious. The facade of tradition and order thinly veiling a deeper, perhaps darker, product of modernity.

The Parabolica-bis building is difficult to find, but impossible to miss. The lower floor features a glass display room exhibiting a cacophony of intriguing thematic pieces to anyone walking the alley. It consists of two floors, housing two exhibit spaces and a shop / cafe space. Occasionally the table or two is removed in favor of more exhibit space. However, the shop itself stands alone as a shrine. Filled with books, magazines, prints, postcards, and other mementos among works of art, it’s one of the better choices to shop or browse for darker art and doll images.

Most recently, batsu had the fortune of attending the Victorian 3 exhibit at Parabolica-bis. It was her second visit. The lower gallery featured an extensive collection of Mari Shimizu’s dolls, and the upper gallery featured something of an eclectic fashion installation exhibit.

While I was grateful that the fashion exhibit was free, it seemed to clash with the overall ambiance of the museum. Various bodices were suspended from the ceiling among a colorful sea of fish sculptures, wearing concoctions that varied from jewel encrusted ballerina busts to Harajuku rainbow-bag-lady street wear. An obnoxious sea of aqua-blue balloons littered the room, alluding to an underwater fantasy. The fashion designer herself was in the adjoining cafe space, entertaining friends, generally talking loud and annoying other guests.

Not to give a bad impression of the museum on this first review, the Mari Shimizu exhibit was also somewhat lackluster. I’ll attribute this primarily to a group of Shimizu’s followers (friends?) trotting around the area, playing with their hair and squeeling, “Look! Isn’t that cute! OMG – so cute!” like a broken record. Not to sound fussy, but I’m of the opinion that Mari Shimizu crafts a delicate portrait of broken childhood dream, albeit with crude brush strokes and sticky tears of glitter. The performance was also annoying.

Let’s assume that not everyone shares my (non)sensibilities, and that some things defy words. Perhaps “cute” was the only way they could express the broken images of themselves that they saw resonating throughout the pieces. Perhaps also, their interaction with the outside world is restricted to shopping in Harajuku, where they drown their worldly sorrows in the material blisses – and where such conversation skill is tantamount. Ah, yes. This is the portrait.

The spectacle reminded me of the time I showed a group of Chinese peasants Marc Ryden’s Anima Mundi. It is definitely wrong to feel a sense of cultural superiority in such a situation, which I do not endorse. Put simply, these happenings underline the chasms of cultural gap that exist in the world around us, regardless of whether or not we live in the same city, engage in similar societies, or wish to entertain them with a ride their water buffalo.

However, I would indeed patronize the museum again, and intend to do so in a few weeks at the opening of the Victorian 4 exhibit, featuring dolls by Koitsuke Hime.

yaso_victorian4

Dolls in Tokyo

Over on the left there, you will see a new title under the Maps of Japan heading called “Dolls in Tokyo.”

Dolls in Tokyo is just that; a map of doll shops, exhibit spaces, and other venues in Tokyo and the surrounding area. I’m only adding venues that I can vouch for, which is to say venues that I’ve been to at least once, believe to be of general quality in both material and presentation, and also somehow conform to my repertoire of disturbing infatuations (ahem!). In short, only the ones I like will be included.

Direct link to the Google Map: here.

Maria Cuore – Rosen Mary

Buried in the posh shopping district of Shibuya is something of an underground lair, the unique doll museum Maria Cuore. Exhibits change about biweekly, featuring artists of all flavors (photographers, painters, illustrators, and doll makers) strewn about the owner’s permanent collection. Modern porcelain ball joint dolls, antique German dolls, classical wax dolls, broken dolls, tendrils of candle, and panels of stained glass decorate a webbed network of ambient lighting, coffin like display cases, and other unique furnishings. Navigating the museum is like carefully tip-toeing through a grandma’s attic. It’s literally full to the brim of priceless collectibles, all precariously placed within reach, some even lining the narrow and winding ribbon-like walkway. The darkness as well as the eerie nostalgia of the pieces, accented through minimalistic ambient Coil-like music laced with brief chant, gives the impression of entering a shrine, still yet awaiting the knowledge of your role in ritual.

Despite the somewhat steep (1,000 yen) price of entrance, visitors are encouraged to wander about and lose themselves in the parallel world for as long as they please. Tea, coffee, beer, and other beverage service is available, though seating, much like the well used space of the museum itself, is extremely limited.

Currently on display, the Rosen Mary (バラの聖母) doll exhibit at Maria Cuore will provide the background for two different visual artists this month, first photographer Sakai Atsushi’s Snake Lips exhibit (Jan. 24 – Feb. 2) and now painter Inagakari Seiji’s Golden Darkness (Feb. 6 – 16). Dolls by artists including Koitsuke Hime, Amano Katan, and Kimura Ryo loosely themed on Mary, mother of Jesus, provide an intense compliment to the images, exemplifying the delicacy and destruction of female form.

Batsu was able to visit Rozen Mary on January 31. At the entrance to the exhibit was a small table, surrounded by 8 or so child-sized coffins made of wax, all filled with broken doll parts. On the periphery lie a few works by Koitsuki Hime and Amano, which divided the gallery space into an entrance and an altar. Beyond the entrance was the seating, arranged much like church pews, finally coming to an elaborate and ornate arrangement of antique hinged glass cases. Strewn with fabric and dried flowers and framed with candles, this was where some of the larger Mary pieces were contained, particularly two beautiful pieces by Koitsuki Hime. I was particularly taken by Mr. Kimura’s work, but as it was my first time to see any of these artists’ pieces firsthand, the entire experience was quite inspiring.

Maria Cuore is open from 1pm to 7pm, closed Tuesdays. It’s bit daunting to find using their pretty map, but can be found on the Dolls in Tokyo map in the Maps of Japan section. Entrance is 1,000 yen, and drinks start from 300 yen. Maria Cuore also hosts a variety of unique performances, which are listed on their homepage.

Doll Show 24

The event known simply as “Doll Show” has been held sporadically at the Tokyo Trade Center for over 10 years.  Since the spring of 1998, independent vendors have gathered to offer dolls and doll related goods  ranging from Takara’s Licca and Jenny to Mattel’s Barbie to GI Joe’s and other action figures (also read “dolls”) geared towards boys.  More recently, the categories have expanded to include popular ball-jointed dolls, such as Volks, antique dolls, and even original dolls and doll art.  Though the event staff estimates that a whopping 80% of the floor caters to “girl’s toys,” gender is a non-issue when it comes to play, and many men can be seen carrying their prized possessions right alongside their female counterparts.

Doll Show 24 marked the first Doll Show of 2009, and was held on January 18.  Despite the dismal weather, the convention hall bustled with patrons, dealers, and doll lovers of all types.  There were some especially beautiful displays set up this time around, we’d like to thank the artists for allowing us the opportunity to show your their work.

Artists include:

Petit Time

Altelier Tsukinu

Water Mirror

cherryblossom

Ayaka Doll

Cranky Gel

Strawberryshine Doll

momo rose

A-F

zozone

Kasane

Crazy Rabbit Garret

Mother Goose

The next Doll Show will be held April 26, 2009 at the Tokyo Trade Center.  For more information, please visit the official website.

Volks Shop Finder

volks

The following link leads to a Google Map detailing all of the Volks Showroom and Tenshi no Sumika locations in Japan. In addition to offering a variety of figures, kits, and dolls, including the Dollfie line, Volks shops provide the craftsman and other artists with a plethora of resources for creating and modifying figures, as well as the materials and inspiration to embark on other original projects. Volks shops are also stocked with information about local events, exhibits, and classroom workshops, many of which are organized by Volks itself, and staff are usually friendly craft enthusiasts, more than willing to assist and offer advice.

No two Volks shops are the same, and those living in or visiting Tokyo might find it helpful to visit a few shop locations when collecting materials, or looking for that special SD dress. The main problem with this is actually finding the locations, as they can be hidden in buildings, basements, or dark alleyways in the sprawling urban jungle. With the aid of Google Maps, most of this guesswork has been taken away, as every nook and cranny is carefully documented from an aerial view, and you can often look at surrounding landmarks using the Street View function.

To those visiting for the first time, Volks Showroom locations feature toys, figures, resin kits, and other hobby related materials such as paint, glue, clay, molding tools, and various printed materials. Volks Tenshi no Sumika locations are specialized Dollfie outlets, carrying dolls, clothes, accessories, parts, and special care items among many other things for Dollfie of various sizes. Many Volks locations feature a Tenshi no Sumika area inside a larger Showroom store, though there are some specialized locations, all of which have been detailed on the map.

I hope you find this useful for all of your wants and needs, and look forward to hearing your feedback. And, please, don’t be afraid to mention any mistakes.

Without further adieu:

The Volks Shop Finder

The creation of the Volks Shop Finder has also inspired a number of other maps detailing some of the finer doll, art, hobby, anime, and otaku points of Japan. As such, a permanent page containing links to these maps has been created, and can be accessed under “Pages.”

The maps, however, are still a work in progress.

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