What are matryoshka? They are Ukrainian (or Russian) nesting dolls. You know, the super cute ones that keep decreasing in size as you open doll upon doll? You might remember them better from a really beautifully retro Sesame Street bit:

Watching that makes my heart happy.

Anyhow, I don’t remember how or when I found out the boy (aka Mr M) liked these stacking dolls, I only remember he did. I thought they might make a good gift for him, but initially could only find the traditional style dolls, pre-decorated such as the ones seen in the video. While beautiful, and a nod to my heritage as a Ukrainian girl, they weren’t quite what I was looking for. I wanted something beautiful, personal and made by me.

Cute kokeshi!

Kawaii kokeshi!

While doing research on matryoshka, I found out about kokeshi dolls. Kokeshi are Japanese wooden dolls, and are said to be the precursor to the Russian matryoshka. They are quite a bit simpler than nesting dolls, but are similar in that they are amputees! With no arms or legs, either style of doll seemed quite simple for me to paint, or even make if I had to. I’m not the most proficient artist, after all, as you’ll come to see.

Plus, after having been to Japan on a recent trip with my beau, it seemed a beautiful nod to the sweet memories we had of the country, which we adored. Kokeshi are beautifully styled and decorated, in the Japanese kawaii (cute!) style. I was only left to wonder how I could combine these two wonderful doll styles into something meaningful to us, and still somewhat proposal related.

Luckily, I found a fantastic vendor in Hawaii on Etsy (Whittle World.) She handmakes wooden dolls of all sorts, including the matryoshka style. She had an incredibly affordable set for sale, which I scooped.

blank matryoshka dolls from etsy

my blank matryoshka from WhittleWorld on etsy.
aren’t the little ones darling?

But how to decorate them..?

More to come…