It is not often I am able to catch Mike off guard. He’s an alert one, that boy. But, I finally did it.
Years ago, I told him if I was ever ready to get married, I would be sure to ask him. Last year, about this time, I thought I might be ready. I bought a blank set of dolls and started making a matryoshka nesting doll to give to him. The ideas of small things nestled in larger things really appeals to me, and I liked the idea of adding a Ukrainian twist to things. It was nice to be nostalgic about our fabulous trip to Japan as well.
It just took me another year to be sure and to finish the dolls. It was difficult to work on this and keep it hidden. I did some when he was in California and sometimes I had to retreat to Starbucks and work on it there.
So, I sketched and painted and finally came up with this:
As I mentioned in another post, these guys are, from left to right:
- A geisha doll. Her base/kimono is chiyogami paper, and her obi is ribbon.
- Mount Fuji with cherry blossom trees (continuing the theme from the geisha)
- A sumo wrestler, complete with man boobs and bum.
- A mini Totoro. He’s a character from the 1988 film My Neighbor Totoro. Originally he was going to be a Hello Kitty doll. So kawaii!
- Finally, the smallest dolls are meant to be tickboxes, as a nod to an inside joke Mike and I have. They say yes and no in English and Japanese.
Here is a (somewhat) detailed look at my idea from start to finish. It took me FOREVER to do, because I am no artist at all.
I started with blank wooden dolls from Etsy seller WhittleWorld. She has relocated to Singapore from Hawaii and will be starting to resell soon, which is awesome. She was very kind and provided me with an extra of the tiniest doll so I could do the yes/no thing.
My original idea was to do all kokeshi-style dolls in different sizes, but I ended up doing different themes on each. You can see my preliminary sketches below. I had to scrap many a cool idea, which was hard to do.
There were some changes, but I think it turned out well over all. My initial Hello Kitty doll that did not happen. She morphed into Totoro instead, who I think is much more adorable, even if his ears are kind of weird and flat. The bonsai trees became cherry blossom trees.
I found it difficult to get the colours to look professional. That is to say, to be cohesive and to layer properly. It must have worked, because Mike assumed I had purchased it as is. I had to do a sort of “paint by numbers” map so that I knew which colours should go down first (lighter shades instead of dark, and so on.)
I used cut out pieces from the chiyogami paper to put in the geisha’s hair as hairpieces and was going to add them to other dolls, but they just did not look right.
I had to redo the tickbox dolls twice. These were so hard to paint! I had to mount them on pins on an eraser and use a TINY brush to get the strokes right. I am hoping they say the right thing in Japanese, to be honest; I had to pull them from some rudimentary tutorials online.
After all the painting, I finished them with a varnish and waited for the right time. Men have it so hard, I do not envy them. The waiting and thinking and worrying about different outcomes was SO nerve wracking.
At some point I decided I needed a ring to show I was serious, even if it was just a toy one. I looked at many different types and almost got a vending machine ring, but ended up on Etsy again.
I got the record ring from AnalogPark, and then made my own label and shrunk it down in Adobe Illustrator. This idea was rooted in Mike’s love of (hardcore) records and DJing so I kind of did it in that style.
Okay, I’ll shut up. Here are the many, many photos:
When I turned the dolls over to show Mike the secret message (which I’m glad I did, because I could not speak or make eye contact with him I was so nervous) I took out the ring.
A few days later, he presented me with a ring he inherited from his great aunt, Pat, and returned the question. What a surprise THAT was! (seriously, he totally shocked me, I wasn’t expecting it at all)
Best of both worlds, if you ask me.