Sally Crowe of Bend OR with her huge Japanese kokeshi

sally & her kokeshi family

Above: Sally Crowe with her 24.25" kokeshi.

By Patricia Belyea

I met Sally Crowe through teaching online. Sally took one workshop, then another, and another. 

When Sally, who lives in Bend OR, learned that I was teaching at Stitchin’ Post in nearby Sisters, she signed up for that 5-day workshop too! 

Although Stitchin’ Post offered me a hotel room in town, I accepted Sally’s invitation to stay with her for the week.

When I stepped through Sally’s front door and saw her kokeshi collection, I knew I’d made the right decision! Huge kokeshi, large kokeshi, medium-sized kokeshi, and small kokeshi were standing tall on the hallway shelves.

Sally Crowe’s Kokeshi Collection

In my guest bedroom were more kokeshi to keep me company. One was a sweet ejiko kokeshi—a representation of a Japanese baby wrapped up in blankets and placed in a basket near where her mother worked.

Sally Crowe’s Kokeshi CollectionSally Crowe’s Kokeshi Collection

It didn’t stop there. In the dining room were lots more kokeshi—some with hats!

Sally Crowe’s Kokeshi Collection

I asked Sally how this happened. How did she come to have such an expansive collection of kokeshi?

“I just love them. I love their little faces. 

Sally Crowe’s Kokeshi Collection

“I love the signatures. They make me wonder about the artists who made them.

“I bought my first kokeshi at a local thrift shop. It was about 5" tall. A while later, I bought another kokeshi from another thrift shop. It was about 11" tall. 

Sally Crowe’s Kokeshi Collection
“I wanted to learn more, so I bought a special book about kokeshi. And I Googled. Online I saw a photo of an older Japanese man with a room full of kokeshi. He had identical ones lined up, sized in descending order. I was fascinated and inspired.

Sally Crowe’s Kokeshi Collection
“I’m no expert. But I enjoy looking at them. They’re all so different; each one evokes a feeling.”
Sally Crowe’s Kokeshi Collection

I’d never met Sally in-person before I pulled into her driveway last September. And she’d never mentioned her kokeshi collection.

(The hostess gift that I’d brought for Sally was a traditional Tsugaru daruma kokeshi crafted by Muchihide Abo. I thought I’d introduce Sally to kokeshi. Ha!) 

I was thrilled to meet a quilter who loves these unique Japanese wooden dolls as much as I do!

Below: Sally at the Stitchin’ Post workshop. Look at the quilt composition she made for the Straights & Curves exercise—kokeshi! 

Sally Crowe and her Kokeshi Quilt

To learn more about Japan’s iconic wooden dolls +click here

To shop for traditional kokeshi in the Okan Arts Shop +click here

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ABOUT US: Okan Arts, a petite family business, is co-owned by mother-daughter duo Patricia Belyea and Victoria Stone. Patricia and Victoria sell Japanese textiles online, host creative quilting experiences, and lead quilting & textile tours to Japan.