Saturday, June 1, 2013

Workshops in Japan

Well, I'm about to take you into Japanese overload over the next few days I fear!  I have spent some time reflecting on our whirlwind visit and have a series of blog posts to share.

I wasn't sure how well the internet would work whilst we were away; and therefore I set my blog up to post whilst we were gone. I'm glad in a way, as the wi-fi was intermittent and a bit ad-hoc, so it was more reliable to post before we went. Now I am back, I can do the whole Japan thing in glorious technicolour!

Our main purpose in travelling to Japan was to participate in the arts cultural exchange with the Sunshine Coast's sister city Tatebayashi, in Gunma prefecture.

This post focuses on the two workshops we did with people whilst away.  The first was with the Elementary School at Ichikai, a two hour drive away. It's a long story but here goes... Ichikai was affected by the 2012 earthquake, and the school buildings were damaged.

Noela had a contact, an Australian potter/ceramicist Euan Craig, who has lived in Japan for twenty plus years. He used to live in Ichikai, but his home and studio and pottery were destroyed.  He had to move his family and pottery to another town and re-build their lives,  but nonetheless supported and encouraged us to visit Ichikai.

Last year several artists here donated works to an auction to raise funds for earthquake and tsunami victims. Many of us also bid for items to increase the funds.  A concert was held with our sister-city's concert pianist Yayoi, and the Sunshine Coast Council also donated funds. So we had money to share with earthquake and tsunami victims for art supplies and activities which is where Ichikai comes in - people there were affected, and we had a contact. So off we went...

We worked with the school (via Euan) to arrange a full day of art workshops for the children - every child in the school participated.  We had several activities to do based on the Australian Aboriginal  Dreamtime creation story of the rainbow serpent.  Children helped decorate the serpent's head, made mobiles and puppets, and book marks as well as painted the 11m long fabric body of the serpent (which was supported by 9 hula hoops!). The day culminated in a serpent slither, after several moving speeches by the principal and student representative.

What a day. It was special to share some good time and fun with these children, special to be able to donate some funds to them and other schools for ongoing art activities. Special to share friendship and care across the miles.

A koala bookmark...looks like it is winking cheekily to me!

Two of the finger puppets we used to tell the story - rainbow lorikeet and emu.

Hand painting on the serpent's body.

The serpent all laid out.

Getting ready to go - me in my nice slippers with the littlest one reaching high on her hula hoop!

And off they go!

And now to the second workshop - making this the longest blog post ever written by me.

Sunday was the Tatebaysashi Citizen's Festival. Along with dozens of other artists we set up shop for demonstrations and workshops. Hundreds of people passed thru the hall and many sat with us as we made models (Merv), did painting and book-making (Noela), sketched portraits (Christine), made metal leaves (Barry) and did Western calligraphy (me). We had a ball and met lots of people. Another great day of friendships and exchange.

Noela's experimental brush marks.

Christine sketching a portrait.

Barry with some customers.

Me with one of my youngest students who sat for two hours...

Some more intent students...

 And another young student working hard!

It was great fun and a joy to share.

Thanks for hanging in there till the end. More soon...


  1. Oh what a treat, this is just amazing! The amount of people you have inspired, encountered and met - they'll remember this for years to come (as will you) - looking forward to the rest! :)

  2. Thanks Louise, it was a remarkable week and these two workshops were real highlights. The days have left marks on us and we hope with others...

  3. wow.... that must be fabulous to be involved with!

    1. It is indeed Suzi - our local councils here often have sister-cities across the region and we get the opportunity to participate in the arts and cultural exchanges. We pay for ourselves, but the opportunities are priceless.

  4. Wow Fiona, what a great experience for everyone.
    I'm sure your calligraphy would have been a great draw card since it is a revered artform in Japan.
    And how exciting and challenging for the people of Ichikai to try a little English calligraphy.

    1. Thanks Robyn - I am also thrilled with how much people seek out and enjoy the western calligraphy when we visit. Their reverence for the art form and interest in Western culture is a perfect mix!

  5. What an inspiration, and how beautiful to see everyone coming together like that, with such enthusiasm & good energy. I love the serpent!

    1. Lisa it was truly wonderful - and the serpent was inspired! It looked so bright and beautiful.

  6. What a wonderful experience Fiona. It looked as though you really enjoyed it.

    1. Truly wonderful Gina - I think the fullness of time is revealing even more wonder and beauty in the day for me.

  7. It was a wonderful day for the children and us. Thank you very much for giving a great opportunity and a great time to us.
    All the best, Mika and the Family

  8. Mika thank YOU all so much! We couldn't have done it without you and if felt as if you both had always been part of the team! We had the most wonderful day, with lots of help from you. Best wishes and hugs to you all.


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