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.
Wow, Rachael, and open, no-pressure environment, where you can be creative in a self-motivated ways seems lovely! What will happen to the pottery you created while you’ve been here?
I’m sorry to hear about the cultural uchi vs. soto air present in the studio. What were some unspoken studio procedures you noticed during your time there?
Thanks for the comment Ife! It was a pretty amazing find, all things considered. Coming from a pretty extensive art background I was worried I would feel trapped by my lack of language knowledge rather than artistic ability, but the open nature of the studio allowed for so much expression. For me, when I am hand building, I tend to take it slow. (I am going to edit the post to include a photograph shortly). In all honesty, it takes around four weeks to see a piece from start to finish, so there is isn’t that much to transport! What was made either come home with me or find a good home with some friends.
There were many, many unspoken procedures. Everything from where tools were kept, to where in-progress pieces were stored was governed by rules which were never explicitly stated. Nor were these locations labeled in any way. In fact, there was little to no signage throughout the entire studio. If you needed to know where something was, you had to ask. Beyond that, people worked on all sorts of projects, for example, making molds, using molds, porcelain-wear, the wheel, and some things I had never encountered before. However, the only explicitly stated options were hand building or throwing standard clay on the wheel. The studio seemed to exist within it’s own coded world that I only just caught a glimpse of over the three months.
Glad to hear that you had a good time ! It was very nice to have you as a company for the pottery class.
I would say that I feel the same way about the class, but as a question I have asked myself too, do you think you should’ve done something else to make this an even better experience?
It was nice to have you there! 🙂 I think the bottom line is that the time period is too short to really invest in a class of this nature. When creating art or long term projects, three months just is not enough time to develop a skill. I am not sure if there is anything I feel like I could have done to make this a more productive experience.
I think a different CIP might have added more to my experience, but I really did enjoy the pottery classes.
Sounds fun! I love your picture. Were you able to form a senpai\kohai relationship at the pottery class? Also, I was wondering if you learned any new pottery techniques during your CIP?