Today marks the start of my second week here at Home of Clay Arts in Tajimi. With all the steps involved from building, to trimming, to first firing to glazing and final firing, I only have 3 days to make all the pieces I can eventually take home at the end of these 3 weeks. It’s really such a short time!
Resolving to make the best of these 3 days, I sit down on my tatami mat to write a laundry list of what I wish to make and all the techniques I wish to learn. I hope I don’t scare sensei with such a long list!
The morning is still early, so I head to Eihoji temple again to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere amidst the trees. Wrapped in silence, with nature all around me, I find myself quietly talking and listening to God in my mind. After some time, it dawns on me that I am sitting in the middle of a Japanese temple, talking to God in the tranquil sanctuary it offers. How ironic, my rational mind starts to think, and then I realize there is nothing ironic at all. God made this world and His presence is everywhere. Why would any object, or building, or institution built by Man be able to repel the presence and love of God?
And so I sit here, watching the beautiful shadows cast by the rising sun, speaking softly to God in a temple that was unwittingly and helplessly built to worship Him.
Feeling refreshed, I leave Eihoji to head back to the studio. Naoko san has not arrived but sensei is already in. Without my tireless interpreter at my side, I have no choice but to communicate on my own. I pass the list to him, hoping that my kanji and juvenile pictograms make sense. He pores through the paper with squinting eyes, then looks up and says, “okok, dozo“. Um, what? Am I supposed to just start doing it on my own? He turns around and heads back to his work, and I realize that…yes.
Naoko finally arrives to confirm my suspicions, but I am comforted by the fact that at the appropriate times, sensei will teach me what I desire to learn. I am excited!
I start to make my bowls and each one looks successively better. By the end of the day, I make one which has the asymmetry that I like.
The more I build, the more I realize that when it comes to pottery, the possibilities are really endless. My little list is really nothing compared to the vast expanse of knowledge and experience in the world of pottery. Yet at the same time, despite their advanced skills, the grand masters are still making all these humble bowls.
I look at sensei, bent over his own wheel, deep in concentration, and I begin to understand. Maybe what’s really important isn’t skills, or knowledge. Maybe what’s important is actually wanting to do something with our lives, and really just going for it, with passion, and with heart. Even if it is a humble cup. Because even a humble cup can be beautiful.