All the way at the back of the 3rd floor, Nagasu-san was sitting cross-legged. Her Samue jacket looked comfortable. On the right side of her laps were several wood carving knives with different shapes of tips. On her left side laid photos of wooden statues. She was working on something, but when I approached her, she stopped her hands and greeted me with a warm smile.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m carving a small buddha statue.”
“Is it your occupation?”
“Yes, I learned Buddhist sculpture in college, and now I usually teach there. Today I’m here demonstrating how these statues are made.”
This statue that she made for her graduation exhibition won the first prize in 2016. The body of Buddha is made of a single piece of wood (except for what he holds in his hands), the aureole of another piece, and the platform of another.
Carving Buddhist statues requires not only skills but also wealth of knowledge of the history. Nagasu-san says one of the fun parts during her college was to study about Japan’s Buddhist art history in details. Her work is not merely a copy of old statues. Based upon her knowledge, her understanding and her interpretation, a new Buddhist sculpture is born.
“Thank you so much for your explanation. How do you like working like this?”
“It’s a pleasure to meet new people and answer any question they may have.”
“Are there many visitors?”
“Yes, especially those from abroad. They are much more interested in what I do than Japanese people.”
“Thank you for your time.”
I walked toward the other side of the same floor. There and one floor down below, many different items are in display. I really liked this lamp shade. It is made of bamboo. Even the stand, neatly U-shaped on the top, is made of bamboo. I wished I could take this lamp back home in Seattle. And many more things which were in display. But my suitcase is too full. Maybe next time.
Located in the center of Kyoto City, facing Karasuma-Dori, the name of the building is Gallery of Kyoto Traditional Arts & Crafts. It’s open to public from 10am – 5pm except for Tuesday and Wednesday. This gallery is operated by Nagasu-san’s alma mater, Traditional Arts Super College of Kyoto (TASK), which I was to visit on the following day.