Before going to sleep that night, I wrote in my journal:
“Cant’ wait! To try out new ideas.”
There were so many things I wanted to try. So many shapes, so many styles, so many glaze combinations I wanted to try out. (Of course in the end, not everything was possible or it would give Sensei a real headache but at the start it was always fun to brainstorm ideas.;p)
In the end I had to calm myself down by writing:
“Work on one idea per day. Probably more than enough.”
I love that feeling though. The feeling of possibilities. Open to us to experience if we so decide to try.
Learnt so much about trimming today. It was the first day when I had to trim many of my straight cups. Trimming in Japan is often done with the use of a chuck – typically an unfired structure of clay that you can use to balance the object you want to trim. It’s all about efficiency and productivity, really. Because if you have many identical shapes like 20 straight cups that you need to trim, instead of using bits of clay to center each piece individually to trim like I would have done based on what I’d learnt before, all you need to do is center the chuck, then you can use the same chuck to trim all 20 cups with miminal effort after.
The problem is CENTERING that bloody chuck, was probably for me the hardest thing ever. M-san was teaching us a little about how to trim the piece. First, really examining the shape of the inside and the outside of the piece so that you could trim off as much excess clay as possible to match the inside and outside shape. It was something I’d never really thought of before. But that made perfect sense. I had always been trimming off the base of my small plates or bowls back in Berlin and then I knew why, because I was never sure where the base was in relation to the thicker sides. Having the awareness of the internal structure is always so important.
It really dawned upon me that simply by being present in the studio with Sensei and M-san there the whole time was in fact the best learning opportunity ever. There is so much that can be learnt just by watching and observing them. While watching M-san throw her items, I realized that she used her 4th finger to create the line demarcating the base of her item. Simple things like that which make all the difference. Available to use to learn if we are able to open our eyes.
Observing while learning is definitely something I will be working on for life. The other student V was asking Sensei many questions about which fingers to use while throwing and trimming and how much pressure to put at which part of the clay. I suppose in excess those questions were difficult for him to answer as well. He gave a great piece of advice though, which was to watch. Watch him, watch M-san, while they were throwing and trimming various shapes, and then put to practice whatever we had observed.
Learning a craft is such a long journey. After official studio hours I wanted to continue practising and around 6pm or so, M-san came back in and started making more cups that she had been instructed to make by Sensei. Apparently they were for his upcoming exhibition. He had asked her to make 200 of them which, she said, if he wanted to he could easily make by himself. But by tasking her to do it, it was really an opportunity for her to learn and practise. In order for her to make 200 good quality ones to sell, she would probably end up having to make 250… or maybe 300, and out of all of them, only the ones that made the mark would be sold. Does Sensei check on them though? Not at all, she said, with a laugh. All the more because he doesn’t check, does she have to be extra careful about the items she makes. If it’s to sell and for someone else to use, it needs to be of a certain quality. And if it’s not up to standard, it will show in customer sales.
I think when I left for dinner she was still chugging on. So much respect for her, staying back to practise because she said she needed to improve her skill in throwing that particularly shape of cup.
Being on this path is not going to be easy at all… but I remember thinking, it’s something I want to continue doing for as long as I can.