KURASHIKI

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OMIZU KANŐICHI, HARIKO DOLL MAKER (PAPIER-MĺCHƒ)

The western form of papier-m‰chŽ, also known as paper-m‰chŽ, generally involves tearing paper into tiny pieces, soaking them in water and creating a kind of pulp, which is then shaped onto a mold with the help of glue.
Hariko, the Japanese version of that art, utilizes whole sheets of washi, which are not torn and therefore create a smoother surface.

Omizu KanŐichi is the fourth generation in a family of Hariko artisans, but the first one to be occupied by it full-time. The first three generations made Hariko dolls more as a hobby, and relied on their farm for a living.



In the old days, used washi - already written on - was their raw material, but today, with such paper harder to come by, Omizu has to purchase new sheets of washi for making his dolls.

Six to seven layers of wet washi are pasted one on top of the other over molds which Omizu designs and carves himself. After drying for a few days, the doll is cut into two halves and the mold is removed.
The two halves are pasted back together, painted and then lacquered. The tradition in the Kurashiki area is to present a Hariko tiger to a newborn baby boy, so itŐs not surprising that tigers are the most common design, found in various sizes.
In his garden, Omizu has one almost life-size tiger (used in various festivals), while miniature ones are made to decorate peopleŐs desks and shelves.



Tigers, however, are not all that Omizu makes: a few dozens of charming tiny dolls of people, animals, figures from fairy tales and folkloric masks are on display in his workshop. And in spite of their small sizes, the dolls are very expressive, with detailed faces and animated postures.
Anybody seeing them would want to buy a few - but unless youŐre lucky enough to run across them in a shop, get in line: OmizuŐs output for the next twelve months is already sold out in advance.

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