Monkey Babies

To celebrate the imminent birth of our friend’s first child, I thought I’d try and learn some sewing skills and make some little Sarubobo.

I should have known I would struggle – we had to do sewing at secondary school and not once was I ever able even to thread a sewing machine. I thought I was on safer ground with hand sewing but I was wrong.

These are simple Japanese dolls, usually made by grandmothers or mothers for a new or expectant mother, to bring good luck. They are little faceless monkeys, the blankness allowing the doll to take on the feelings of the owner. They are very distinctive, and it’s true I think that their sweetness derives partly from their lack of features.

I used to practice kendo, a Japanese martial art, which was a really interesting exploration into Japanese culture, and I confess to barely scratching the surface but also being utterly fascinated.

There is a great podcast exploring some of the stranger sides of Japanese culture, called Uncanny Japan, and is well worth checking out. This is where I first heard of sarubobo.

Sadly, my attempts to explore and appreciate this beautiful and strange culture somewhat lack the craftsmanship and discipline that I would hope. In kendo we endlessly repeated the same moves, the same footwork for example, until you hope it becomes muscle memory. The purpose of kendo is to improve the self through learning the art of the sword over the course of a lifetime.

I like to think of my creative practice as the same thing, but what I don’t have is the rigorous discipline to truly focus on one area. If you run after two hares, you’ll catch neither, as the saying goes. Fortunately for me I’m quite happy just running around learning and having fun.


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