Every summer, University of The Arts professor James Makins attends a ceramics workshop in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture.
This year, with the help of the staff of the International Workshop of Ceramic Art in Tokoname, he brought 13 of his students from the Philadelphia school to the city and gave lessons there.
The students learned not only about the art of pottery, but also about the city hosting them as they interacted with local residents every day.
Makins, 65, resides in New York. His first visit to Japan was in summer 1990, when IWCAT invited foreign ceramics artists to come to Tokoname. After falling in love with the city’s rich history of pottery and ceramics, he started borrowing studio space from the Kyouei-gama Ceramics Art School in 1994 and visits every year to use the facility during his summer breaks.
Makins has taken students with him to participate in IWCAT since then, but the program ended last year. This year, he received permission from the University of The Arts to bring students and conduct lessons in Tokoname.
“I want more students to learn about Japanese culture and pottery making,” he said.
Makins and 13 students aged between 19 and 30 arrived in Japan on May 19.
Living out of a hotel, they went to the ceramics school for their pottery-making lessons, where local artists showed them their techniques. The students also took part in cultural activities, such as ikebana and the tea ceremony, some of the activities IWCAT would have planned for them.
These helped spark the students’ creativity. In a little over two weeks, they had almost finished molding their art objects. They then started the firing process, using gas- and wood-fired kilns, to prepare for their exhibition in the Kyoei-gama gallery to be held from Thursday to June 30.
Catherine Kent, 25, one of the students who graduated in the spring, said the experience was part of her journey to becoming a professional ceramicist.
“I was looking forward to using the wood-fired kilns to complete my work,” she said. “The people of Tokoname are friendly and I would like to tour the city before returning home.”
Makins believes the students aiming to become artists can learn a lot from their experiences in Tokoname.
“It is indeed a great pity that IWCAT has ended, but I hope to continue the cultural interactions with the city through other ways like this,” he said.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by local daily Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published June 14.