For my CIP I took pottery classes in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto. This area is known for it’s having a wide variety of pottery shops among its curving back alleys. I attend weekly classes in a studio there. The student body is mostly older, mainly past retirement age. There are two teachers who wander around and help students as they pursue independent projects. Luckily, I had some experience in ceramics, so it was less of a shock to be asked to self-direct my own study.
The people that regularly come to the open studio are local artisans in their own right. This creates a very interesting dynamic within the studio, encouraging collaboration and learning between not only the teachers and the students but amongst the students as well. Despite the incredible quality of the work done in the studio, there is no judgment placed on those who are less skilled. The congenial atmosphere serves to make visitors feel comfortable, but it does not take long to realize that the uchi/soto dichotomy is still heavily present in the space. Many things are not labeled and procedures, and locations are often not explicitly disclosed. Between the distinctive vocabulary, significant use of kansai-ben and importance of implicit instruction, communication was definitely difficult at points.
The experience was overall, quite rewarding. The environment provided a unique viewpoint in the small artisan community in Kyoto, traditional industries and teacher/student relationships. While I may not have learned very much about pottery, I certainly gained valuable exposure to language usage and culture.
This is a photograph of the first piece I worked on this semester.