Daruma dolls are crafted from papier-mâché-like materials to form a hollow egg-like shape. Though they come in many colors, they are traditionally red and adorned with basic facial features and symbols. Daruma embody perseverance, resilience, and goal achievement in Japan, especially around the New Year. Wikipedia notes that many dolls are “weighted at the bottom so that they will always return to an upright position when tilted over.”
“In Japanese, a roly-poly toy is called okiagari, meaning to get up (oki) and arise (agari). This characteristic has come to symbolize the ability to have success, overcome adversity, and recover from misfortune.”
When purchased or received as a gift, the new owner sets a specific goal, painting in one eye of the Daruma to mark the beginning of their journey. The doll is displayed prominently to serve as a constant reminder of the aspiration. Once the goal is realized, the other eye is painted, celebrating the accomplishment.
Daruma are also believed to bring good luck—”since ancient times, the color red has been said to have the effect of preventing bad things from happening,”—and the craftspeople are meticulous in their brushwork.
This Process X video captures each step at the 1873-founded Gunma Daruma factory in Takasaki, Japan. From pulping egg cases and cardboard to vacuum forming the fibrous mixture, to dipping each “egg” and painting intricate facial details, each step showcases the unique skills of the Daruma artisans.