Natsumi Noda talks about the process of creating her artwork: "Communication with people at the dining place is the starting point of my work."

We are pleased to present an interview with Natsumi Noda, an artist who creates ceramic works.
People and food are deeply involved in the origin of Ms. Noda's production.
How were her works born, and how are they changing?
We would like to talk to you in three parts, one for each theme.
In the first part, we will ask how she started making ceramic works and how the two lines "Natsumi Noda" and "Imustan" were born.


〝  The dining experience was a lot of fun,
This is common with the shitamachi (traditional downtown) culture in which I was born and raised,
I think that the communication with people that comes out of this environment is the starting point of my work.


How did you start making ceramics?

- First of all, we would like to know when you started working with ceramics.

I chose a high school where I could major in ceramics. It was a selective comprehensive high school, so some students majored in painting, others in industrial production, and I chose ceramics.
For my graduation project, I had to create a piece of artwork. I created a piece of pottery by exemple. I think this was the beginning of my attempt to create my own artwork.

- Have you been interested in ceramics since childhood?
The my home town had a ralatively large number of people who had graduated from art school for some reason. For example, the house in the back of my house is a sword sharpener, and there is a great Japanese embroidery artist. My parents used to be photographers, and some of my relatives were in architecture and web design. 
I myself have been learning painting and modeling since I was in elementary school at a painting class run by a neighbor in the same town, so I was very familiar with the idea of making things with my hands from childhood. 
Later, I wanted to go to Geidai(Tokyo University of the Arts) and prepared for the entrance examination, but I became interested in Geikodai (Tohoku University of Art & Design) after hearing that it looked like a good place to study from someone who was also a graduate of Geidai in the same town. It happened to be the time when he knew someone at Geikodai, and he said that many of the teachers were Geidai graduates and that it was a new school, so the school culture was free.
- So you entered the Tohoku University of Art & Design, where you studied ceramics for four years.

Yes, I did. In the first three years, I learned everything in one way or another; in three years, I learned specialized and wide-ranging things like glaze preparation, clay pot preparation, and plaster mold preparation, and then suddenly in the fourth year, "What do you want to do?" so I had to find my own style in between the three years of basic classes, and I was so busy that I couldn't even get a part-time job. 
But even though I couldn't get a part-time job, food was very abundant.
There was a university in the middle of the mountain, but when I walked around, there were many rice fields and farms. An old man in a light truck suddenly asked me to give him my hand, and when I pointed out my hand, he suddenly put cherries in my hand and went away.
The university also has a farm, where we harvest vegetables, and in the spring we get bamboo shoots from the bamboo thickets on the property. 
Perhaps it is because of the local characteristics, but some of the staff at the university's facilities are hunters, and they share the meat of pheasants with us, and we have pheasant stew in a pot we have made ourselves.
One class were impressive. The first week, the whole craft course was put on a bus to a farm to sketch sheep. The next week, we sheared sheep wool and twisted it with a thread winder. Next, we made tools for cooking meat with a forge, next, tools for cooking rice with ceramics, tools for eating, spoons and chopsticks made of wood, which were processed with Japanese lacquer and decorated with gold and silver lacquer, and finally, we cooked and ate mutton.
The intention was to think about the usability of using things we made ourselves, and the mutton and vegetable dish  was very tasty.

- It is truly like a cycle, the workings of nature and man.
Yes, I did. Many of the teachers were also food lovers, so they were greedy for food. lol
In my college life, I was not in a situation where I could afford to spend money. However, I enjoyed eating at dining places very much, and this has something in common with the Shitamachi (traditional downtown) culture where I was born and raised. I think that the communication with people that emerged from these places became the starting point for my production.
- How did you start working as an artist after that?

When I was a senior, I entered a Japan Craft Exhibition and won an Encouragement Award.
One of my university professors said to me, "Once you win an award, that's when you become an artist." I was aware that I was an artist with those words.

- You returned to Tokyo after that, didn't you?
Yes, I did. I had a lot of work in Tokyo, and my parents live in Tokyo, but I had a garage next to my parents' house where I could set up a kiln. It was really just the right size for one kiln.
My professor at the university introduced me to a kiln shop, and I happened to find a used kiln that had only been fired for a few hours. I was lucky. 
Since then, I have been based in Tokyo.




” Since childhood, I have been very familiar with the idea of making things with my hands. ”


How did the two lines "Natsumi Noda" and "Imustan" come about?

- I believe you are active under two lines, "Natsumi Noda" (your real name) and "Imustan".
 The work that became the basis for the brand under the name Natsumi Noda was created in a class I took in my third year of university, in which we had a tea party with a local Japanese confectionery shop. The class was to create confectionery and tea utensils to be used at the tea party.
The professor told us that we would not be able to create freely at first, so he suggested that we try to do a mokoku (a three-dimensional version of a reproduction).
We would choose a work we were interested in and just look at the pictures, and we would approach the work itself without researching the technique.
Each of us would create our own original technique, or rather, we would reproduce it in our own way. 
I selected a piece of Mexican folk art pottery from the 1930s called Tonala Pottery, which is made in the Tonala region of Mexico. I really liked a plate I saw in a book that had a collection of pieces that were more artist-oriented. 
As I was recreating it, it turned out surprisingly well and was a lot of fun to make. My teacher told me that this method of production was suited to me.
- So that's how your style was established.

Yes, I think the technique is totally different from the actual tonala pottery, but I think it is based on the background color, the ground, and the painting. 

- How did Imustan's style develop?
The pieces I was making secretly in between basic classes when I was a student were similar to the designs for the current "Imustan" brand. So I feel that both were parallel.
The Noda Natsumi line was inspired by the Mexican pottery I mentioned earlier, and the Imustan line was inspired by a suggestion from a gallery in Miyagi Prefecture that I was first involved with to create a separate line of mugs. 
Around that time, I had a chance to talk with Ms. Nemoto of SANZOKU, and she advised me to try two lines to make it easier for customers to understand, since they would be confused.


- So that's how the two lines came to be developed. Next, please tell us about the concepts and motifs of the two brands.