Every so often I enjoy making a “shake-’em-out” nesting doll set. I am able to utilize all the loose dolls rolling around in my drawers and I am allowed a certain amount of freedom not dictated by dimensional restrictions.

My mother had introduced me to the spectacular Studio Ghibli animation when it was still only popular in Asia. My favorite had been “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” followed by “My Neighbor Totoro.” It wasn’t until I sat down and bawled my eyes out watching “Graveyard of the Fireflies” that I realized even with Kiki and Totoro, these animated movies are not meant to be lighthearted fares. “Castle in the Sky,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” so on and so fourth are all deeply significant in their own rights. I found a lot of it be rather upsetting as it talked a lot about the impact humans have on the environment with an air of hopelessness about it…that is, until I saw “Spirited Away.” To me that is the only Studio Ghibli movie which did not leave me feeling sad in the end.

Since my life has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride at the moment and I’m sitting on the cusp of yet another great change, I felt compelled to do another shake ’em up set and the subject naturally fell upon one movie that always gave me so much hope and comfort. In this version of Spirited Away I got to revisit some of the old favorite characters I’d painted previously and I included some new ones.

Among the new characters are Kamaji the spider man who works in the boiler room and Yubird who nests inside Yubaba doll. The Kashira heads are all loose and ready for some interesting configurating.

In addition to Boh, I made Boh as a mouse. I couldn’t decide whether or not to paint Haku as a dragon and ended up doing both on the same doll.

Lin is a new addition because I liked her character so much. She reminds me of some of the teachers I used to work with, hard bitten on the outside but quite kind on the inside and I always managed to win them over by challenging myself to make them laugh at least once a day.

I really enjoyed making the soot sprites and their “food” and was happy this set allows me to make more.