Got an itch to create?
5 minutes on foot from Monzen-nakacho Station in Koto City stands Culture School Please Zero-One. Though unremarkable on the outside, the inside features bright teal walls and colourful displays of various handcrafted goods.
It’s named a culture “school”, but Please Zero-One functions more like a small, intimate salon.
And despite its unassuming scale, the curriculum hosts to a wide range of interests. Within this cozy space, visitors and students can sit down for a few hours to learn how to create leather goods, artisanal soaps, unique accessories, and even shoes!
Imagine being able to make your own genuine leather moccasins, tailored to a perfect fit. And at its speediest, it requires only one day to make!
The workshops are hosted by the owner, Ms. Imori, and a staff of other professional artists and crafters. Some lessons are held regularly, some seasonally and some only occasionally, so interested readers should definitely take a look at their website (link in the description below) to get a sense for the impressive variety of choices.
Once you find something that catches your eye, you can email the school to see when would be the best time to schedule a lesson. Many workshops can take place with even just one student, and scheduling is flexible based on when the teachers are free. There are also group lessons with set dates. Most workshops accommodate both beginners and veterans too, so there’s no need to hold back trying out a one-day workshop in something you’ve never done before!
So, here I am, about to embark on my introductory class to “Art Clay Silver”.
“Art Clay Silver” (ACS) is the brand name of a substance more commonly known as metal clay or silver metal clay. It’s a fascinating substance; silver particles are mixed with a binder and water to create the clay, which can be manipulated just as easily as regular soft clay. But once fired, the water evaporates, and the substance will become 99.9% pure silver, making it an ideal medium with which to make jewellery.
“There are two recommended pieces for beginner crafters,” Ms. Imori, who is a veteran metal clay jeweller herself, told me. “You can make a simple ring or a pendant.”
I decided to opt for the ring. After taking out my bit of clay, flattening it and cutting it into an appropriate rectangular strip, I wrapped it around a special rod used to measure ring sizes.
The clay, once shaped, can be decorated in multiple ways; the simplest method is making impressions using special stamps.
Since I was making a pinky ring, I used a very small stamp to lay out a starry pattern on the surface.
The clay was then laid to dry. Once dry, any cracks, rough edges and/or other minor imperfections can be fixed up with a special paste. Then, the surface was sanded using a rough sponge, as well as sandpaper for the edges.
So far, so good. Next was the firing process.
The particular kind of “Art Clay Silver” I was using can be fired from 650 degrees Celsius and up. This relatively low temperature makes it possible for the clay to be fired in a regular home, and to be fired without melting other materials that may be embedded in the piece of jewellery, such as certain glass.
Since there was no other material in my piece, it could be fired quite quickly, for just 5 minutes at 800 degrees Celsius.
Once out of the kiln, the ring was then polished using a stainless steel brush, and here was the biggest transformation: in clay form, the ring had been a dull, muddy grey colour; after firing, it had turned nearly pure white; but now, after being thoroughly brushed with stainless steel bristles, it turned a luminescent silver!
And so, after roughly two hours of work, my ring was done. One-of-a-kind, tailored to fit perfectly, and handmade by myself! It’s not often I get the opportunity to do something like this!
What’s more, there was nothing strenuous or too difficult about the process, and even a beginner like me was able to get through everything fairly smoothly. The classroom, being a small, comfortable space, allows plenty of interaction between students and instructors. Ms. Imori was a great teacher, checking in on me after each step and helping to fix up any problems she foresaw using her expertise and skills.
If I’m to be honest, I spent the rest of the day proudly showing my new jewelry to everyone I met, and reveled in their amazement that such silver craft could be produced in such a short time and by an amateur, no less!
If you’ve a creative spark, or the idea of something you’ve always wanted to bring to reality, it could be well worth your time to make an appointment at Culture School Please Zero-One. And who knows? The experience might just start you off on the path of a newfound hobby or talent! (In the case of Art Clay Silver, you can even enroll in a series of courses formulated to help you attain certification as an ACS specialist.)
As for me, well, I’m eyeing my schedule for when I can take another lesson!
Story by Xianru Shen （Koto City Office Coordinator for International Relations）