Sunday, 28 April 2013

Medecine Doll

I have recently joined Barb Kobe's Medecine Doll group.

As I can never stick to something simple and within my reach, I decided to make a doll with movement and light. My basic idea was to make a doll that would be a little bit like the roly poly clown I had as as child. I remember being fascinated by this toy which would always come back up however strong you pushed it, with a pleasing bell sound too. To me this is a symbol of life ; we all have ups and downs, but the aim is to come back gently into balance. Actually when I feel very sad or troubled I always think "wait a little bit before you act". With a little time, a little perspective, the most terrible pain and confusion seem to fade away, just like the roly poly toys come back up in a standig position with time.

Of course roly poly toys are still popular with children and are given to babies.

Modern versions include weebles and unazukin, as wel as bobble-heads.



I then found out that moving dolls are very very old and can be found everywhere in the world. For instance in Japan they had a similar toy from the 17th century called Okiagari Koboshi, representing a little self-righting monk. They also make dolls called Darumas, representing Boddhidharma, the Indian monk who gave Kung-Fu to China. It is a good luck doll and the message it conveys is "never give up". See wikipedia article here.

As you can see Darumas have a big moustache and this one wears a red robe, two of my obsessions.

In Japan they also have Kokeshi wooden dolls, with a nodding head.

Lucky Girl Kokeshi Doll
Kokeshi nodding doll

In India too, there are moving dolls. The Thanjavur dancing doll are very famous and go back to the 19th Century. See here an article from the Deccan Herald. They are sold near the Mariamman temple and the ones that I like most are made in 3 or 4 separate pieces (skirt, blouse, head) that gently dance with the wind, making them seem like Bharata Natyam dancers. The bottom is heavier. They are exposed during the Navaratri festival.

Here is a video showing the assembly of the doll : there are in fact hidden metallic threads that enhance the rocking.

I started thinking about metallic thread and researching automatas. Right now I am maddly in love with the work of Keith Newstead, a British artist, and especially his delightful cat-copter :

See his website here :

Well, enough research, I need to try to do one myself !

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