Monday, March 19, 2012

Dedicated to

The end of March has rolled around. The first traces of Spring's warmth  touch our days only to be blown out to sea by the chilled winds that come down the mountains to the coast. The weather isn't the only thing experiencing the winds of change. This time of year marks the end of the Japanese school year, and (to my mind) the strangest of Japan's different practices. If you are a teacher or administrator in the public school system there is a chance that you will receive a command from on high that you must change schools. Every year a certain percentage of teachers are shuffled. I asked around my office today and the general consensus seemed to be that no one (no matter age or ranking in the education system) stays at one school for more than 10 years. Five was the most frequently guessed number. The accepted reasons for this jumbling is that it keeps teachers from becoming too settled. By having to adjust to new environments and different coworkers everyone stays excited (hopefully) and avoids stagnation. 

For the younger teachers this systems seems to be an accepted frustration, but for me it means that my life at work could be changing in huge terrifying ways. There is a chance that my English department will change (I love my fellow English teachers, and, while I am sure others are nice, I don't care to exchange any of them for new faces), but even scarier - there is a chance that Tabe Sensei, the pottery and craft teacher, will be taken away from me. This leads me to (FINALLY) the point of today's post. 

It is my great pleasure to introduce Yuka Tabe. Mother of two, graduate of Kochi Gaidai, metal worker, ceramics enthusiast, Susaki high school teacher, and one of the BEST people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Tabe-sensei studies in college focused on education and craft. In college she loved working with metal, but has had to teach everything from painting to making glass beads. She conducts her classes in a way that allows the students to learn through doing and experimentation. The art classes are the most familiar feeling for these american eyes. The courses she runs seem much more like a dialog between students and teacher, instead of the teacher lecturing a class (which is how many of the other classes appear to go). I have had the pleasure of spending the past year and two thirds enjoying every day of work a little bit more because of the friendship she has given me.

We've shared many wonderful discussions on the different uses and forms that international clay artists have chosen to grow into. This dialog, often sparked by a shared gander at a fresh copy of Ceramics Monthly, frequently drifts toward the concept of function and tradition. Through gesture, dictionaries, and Japenglish I can gather that for some Japanese potters (or, dare I hazard to say artists in general) have the notion that there are forms and styles that are such a part of their history that there are methods that must be followed. That is not to say that Tabe-sensei says that there is no room for creativity in Japan, but that by following the more traditional shapes, glazes, and aesthetics the artist might become, in a way, more connected to their past. The designs and aesthetics she mentions manifest in our conversations, and in her pieces.

I could devote a whole new blog to writing out every kindness she has shown me over my time in Susaki. She's helped me meet local potters, spent days with me driving from gallery to gallery in the hopes of getting my work on display, and she's granted me access to the studio and tools that let me feed my ever growing pottery obsession. Without her kindness this blog simply wouldn't be possible, and I am so very thankful for her friendship. She is often so busy being a teacher, mother, and friend that I fear her creativity gets overshadowed. Like so many, she isn't creating works of art to seek money or recognition. She creates to teach others how to express themselves, and I find that very inspiring indeed.

Even if she has to change schools I know we'll stay in touch, but I figured it was important to share her huge contribution.

We'll see you on Thursday with some new work photos.

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