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Crafting a Proposal (part 1): Acquiring the matryoshka
Crafting a Proposal (part 2): Sketching out a plan

After I had decided on my theme (Japan) and had briefly sketched out my concepts (remember this was my first time doing ANYTHING like this) I decided to flesh out the ideas a bit more. Things like deciding what colours to use and what order to lay them down in for it to look more polished. Things like embellishment, which I thought could play a cute role in the geisha doll, in particular.

So, in order of size I decided to do:

Geisha, Mount Fuji, sumo wrestler, Hello Kitty and two text-based dolls (...but more on that later)

Because it was the largest and the exterior stacking doll, I was able to put the most embellishment on the geisha themed doll. I visited a few stationers here at home; Notables and Evergreen Stationers as I had seen origami and washi paper there before. (Note, there is also a large selection, some direct from Japanese suppliers, on Etsy)

Washi paper is a bit more pulpy and sturdier than other papers, and it comes in amazing designs and colours. I thought it might make the most convincing kimono for my geisha kokeshi/matryoshka.

The sheets were huge! And expensive, considering how little I was going to be using. But the paper was lovely and I know I’ll find a use for it later. I got two designs, but ended up using a cherry blossom paper design.

This is a small section of a piece 12" x 36"

After a stop at Michaels, I picked out my coordinating colours; blue, pink, black, buttercream, white and grey. I also got three brushes, and some sealant.

Before I painted, though, I had to sketch things out on the dolls.

My bonsai tree sketch

My bonsai tree sketch

And the Hello Kitty sketch

Hello Kitty sketch

Up next…the painting, and some last minute design changes.

The couples oak wood rings

The couple's oak wood rings

Perhaps you’ve heard of the 100 mile movement. Driven by a desire to decrease carbon footprints and gain understanding of where food and other everyday items are sourced, some people have begun to only consume items that come from a 100 mile radius of their home (aka being “locavore.”)

See the 100 Mile Diet, for example, a book created by British Columbians Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon.

The reasons on following the 100 Mile Diet? It boosts local economy, you know what you’re eating, you interact with your neighbours and community more, and you decrease the transport needed to bring in food from afar.

A couple in Calgary (arbourist Gerda Vester & James Edwards, a sustainability expert, coolest jobs ever) recently had a 100 mile wedding, using the same ideas behind the locavore movement. Their rings both came from an oak tree on their property, the food from farms around Calgary. They hosted 165 people at the homegrown affair, which featured local vendors, artisans and relied on neighbours and friends. It was ecological, environmentally friendly and probably pretty decent budget wise.

Some of the yummy dishes: potato-dill soup, rhubarb and berry crisps, lamb, chicken and beef roasts, as well as raw veggie trays and cheese platters, garnished with herbs and vegetables the couple grew themselves. Beverages included Alberta beer and vodka, and locally made fruit wines. As a fellow Albertan, I’m so proud to hear this. We’re a landlocked province and pretty far north, so we really rely on veggies and fruits shipped in for most of the year. I can’t even begin to comprehend how far in advance they had to plan what they wanted to serve and what crops were necessary.

Just such a wonderful wedding, with amazing sentiment and thought behind it. I’m sure it was a great party. Seems like something right up Sara of 2000 dollar wedding‘s alley.

Calgary Herald: The 100 Mile Wedding

Also: see the photo gallery of the event (hello red dress!!)

Crafting a Proposal (part 1): Acquiring the matryoshka

After I received the dolls in the mail, I remained unsure of what to do. I knew I wanted to make them into something meaningful to us and not too proposal or marriage related. Something I could put on the shelf and remember our Asia trip as well as the proposal and the crafting experience. (Remember; I’ve never painted anything other than paint by numbers in my life!)

My Moleskine Van Gough special edition notebook

My Moleskine Van Gough special edition notebook

With this new born need to craft, I began sketching some ideas in my beautiful silk Moleskine book. I had a vague idea of the concepts I wanted to capture from Japanese culture including, but not limited to: bonsai, geisha, harajuku girls, octopus, robots, sumo, Mount Fuji and Hello Kitty.

The sketches were simple, and I had a hard time limiting them to specific ideas. There were four larger dolls and two super tiny ones to decorate. I thought I would save the most detail for the larger dolls so I focused my energy on those.

The sketches took shape as follows:

These were the ideas for the larger dolls.

Various details and smaller concepts I wanted to include

Looking back, I was pretty true to my original sketches, especially on the geisha and Mount Fuji dolls

Some details and ideas for the Mount Fuji doll.

In the end, I decided to do dolls with a geisha, sumo, Mount Fuji and Hello Kitty theme, with a special idea for the two tiny dolls. Not everything would go according to plan though…

more to come

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…

In March 2008, I got this idea. A small idea, but one that nagged at me for months.

I had just finished traveling with my boyfriend of three years through Asia for the first few months of 2008. We spent some time with my family, sometime alone (together and apart), when I realized life was just better when I was with Mr M. It had never occurred to me to sit around and wait for him to realize it; I just had to tell him how much I loved him and how much I loved being with him.

But how?

That’s when something magical happened; I discovered Etsy. Suddenly, a world of possibility! Slowly, piece by piece my plan came into fruition. I purchased a set of unfinished nesting (matroyshka) dolls from WhittleWorld. I began to sketch and plan out what I was going to paint on the beautiful wooden canvas. Turns out coming up with how to ask it was a bit harder, though.