Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nagasaki Ceramic Research Center Part 1

Arai Sensei first mentioned the Nagasaki Ceramics Research Center (長崎県窯業技術センター or Nagasakiken yougyou gijutsu senta)awhile back when I asked him about further places to study pottery at a more advanced level. He gave me a brief explanation of it basically being a place where potters come to learn more techniques, how to improve their current techniques or if they have a problem and need a professional to help find a solution.

I was intruigued, and showed interest in going. After a month of schedule conflicts we finally went last week and I was able to see what this place is all about.

When I initally thought of ceramic research center I imagined veteran teachers in a studio showing potters wheel techniques, kiln usage or better ways for drying pieces. But once I laid eyes upon the Nagasaki Ceramics Research Center all my preconceived notions were thrown out the window. It was totally different than anything I imagined. Driving up the hill to their parking lot we were greeted with several large buildings resembling an office complex, the only clue it had anything to do with ceramics was the plate and tile strewn walkway to the main door. Upon entering there were several men in the typical Japanese factory uniform (light green dickeys, matching shirt and workboots) talking in hushed voices around tables with tiny tea cups most likely made at the center. They gave me a few long stares and went back to their conversations. We made our way to the front desk, apparently Arai Sensei had made a reservation, and two men in the green uniforms came out to greet us. One, (Abe-san or Mr. Abe) was a quiet gentle looking man with glasses and appeared soft spoken while the other (Kajiwara-san or Mr. Kajiwara) was a small stout older man with a look of doubt in his eyes. We gave eachother the traditional Japanese aisatsu, or greeting, a bow, an exchange of business cards, and a humble isogashi toki ni sumimasen. (thank you for gving us time even though you are busy)

At this point I was still taking it all in, I was slightly confused since my pre-imagined ceramics center was nothing like what I had just walked into, and since we were slightly late due to traffic we were rushing through the initial chit chat and moving straight to business. Immediately all focus turned to me and my pottery. I had known the Nagasaki Ceramics Research Center (Let's call it NCRC for short) held classes and taught people about pottery and such, and I secretly hoped there was a place for me to further my studies in pottery, but the initial shock and realization that this place was way more complicated than I thought threw me off. Instantly walking in the door and seeing the various flaw free lamps, plates, photo frames etc in the displays gave me a sense that this place wasn't exactly what I was looking for or hoping for, it was way over my head, and frankly intimidating.
Kajiwara-san who was constantly shifting in his chair wasn't helping me relax or feel confident about anything, but the spotlight was on me...I managed to answer their questions in understandable, yet respectable Japanese not nearly giving myself enough credit and the mood lightened. They were impressed! Probably more so with my Japanese than my pottery skills but either way, I felt slightly relieved at the change of mood. Arai Sensei then chimmed in about my work, artistic skills and how dedicated I am. (He even mentioned this blog hehe) His reassurance made me feel much better, maybe this place wasn't so scary after all? From then things turned for the better, the two started to talk about ways I COULD study at the NCRC...

It was a breakthrough. Coming into a traditional craft like pottery and wanting to advance in a country weary of foreigners is like pulling teeth. Either you get lucky, know the right people or are so amazing they can't say no, I had a feeling I was more the first two, but either way it didn't matter. The idea of a foreign woman, or any foreigner at all, studying at NCRC was starting to cross their minds...My attitude turned from skeptical to hopeful in seconds...

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