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Artisans adding color to the modern age

Kyoto school’s TASK is fostering next-generation craft creators

Searching for one’s true path

Some students have enrolled at TASK after working in the corporate world, pursuing “their true path.”

Second-year student Tomoyoshi Ota, 44, majoring in Lacquer Work, worked in design-related fields for about 20 years. He is pursuing his current studies because of lacquer’s bright but not overly ornate properties, and also because of the elegant techniques used in its creation.

Makito Shinmura has recently returned from an exchange program in France. The 35-year-old also enrolled at TASK after a professional career, including employment as a cram school teacher. He is now pursuing his true path to become a potter.

Professor Yoshitake Kudo, Shinmura’s instructor, had this to say on the possibility of career in pottery: “Pottery as a whole is divided into two techniques; the first is forming shapes using a potter’s wheel and the other is applying color to the pottery. It used to be common for there to be a division of labor,” Kudo said. “But people proficient in both tasks will have more possibilities.”

In fact, students at TASK can acquire an overall practice of such pottery techniques because each student is equipped with an electric wheel and a stand to apply color in class. Students also have access to six electric kilns.

Many students at the school see themselves as people “who liked creating things from a very young age.”

Minaho Tanaka’s major is Bamboo Craft. Tanaka, 20, studied in France as an exchange student with Shinmura. The second-year student noted, “I like working diligently on intricate tasks.” Flying to France and back, where Tanaka said she spent the journey weaving bamboo, was one such example.

TASK students (from left) Chisato Suto, Tsukasa Mochizuki, Makito Shinmura and Minaho Tanaka recently returned from exchange programs at French school Ecole Camondo.

These students learn systematically from basic to advanced applications in each field at this school. The first step for most of them is to land a job at workshops and potteries in manufacturing hubs across the country or at companies. After polishing their skills, some become independent, paving the way to work as creators, artists and designers. This enables them to play more active roles in society.

At the same time, students are deeply concerned that there are “fewer jobs available” at craft manufacturers across the country. Industry-specific reasons behind this include an influx of cheap products made abroad and difficulties in securing primary materials.

A rejuvenation of Japan’s traditional craft industries may be possible. Talented individuals with the potential to become future leaders could demonstrate ways where their abilities are fully realized, without being confined to current conventions. This could eventually lead to a positive cycle and result in an increased number of talented people pursuing work in this industry.


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