Polymer Clay in Japan
The Japan Polymer Clay Association (JPCA) was established as a non-profit organization on October 20, 2016 to promote polymer clay as a craft/hobby and to hopefully, someday, bring together the various different groups working in this medium.
When Polymer Clay started to appear in Japan many years ago, it seemed like “paper clay” or “bread clay” to many Japanese and it was rejected as “I have been there and I have done that.” Also, it seemed hard to try it easily because an oven was needed to cure it, something that not all Japanese housewives have. As a craft, it seemed like it was in a disorganized state here in Japan. There were other organizations and teachers scattered around trying to promote polymer clay but nothing seemed really clear. Compared to many western countries, recognition of Polymer Clay as an art medium is low here.
In 2015, our beloved teacher and world famous artist, Eriko Page, came to Japan and held several workshops. We both realized that we had a mutual desire to expand the world of Polymer Clay in Japan. And that led to the formation of JPCA. We started this organization because we wanted to deepen the awareness of polymer clay for everyone from children to adults.
Information for Beginners
On JPCA’s home page we publish a detailed Beginners Knowledge Guide which covers basic polymer clay know-how and lists basic tools - what they are and how to use them.
We plan to expand our Beginners Knowledge Guide further by adding more How-to videos on such topics as how to condition clay and how to make a skinner blend among others.
On a side note, It is important to remember that most of our members are older and do not use the web frequently, if at all. Many have never used a computer at home. Also, most have no English ability so they DO NOT/CAN NOT get any useful information from English home pages or videos. Also, even though they might have a smartphone (many still have just a clamshell phone) unfortunately they can not use them to the phone’s highest potential. Mostly they are just “phones”.
Teacher Certification Program
Also, we have a Teachers Certification Program in place which was created by three of our teachers. This program is made up of 12 polymer clay intermediate level lessons/art works. The applicant must complete all 12 art works and each of the 12 art works must be sent to our board for grading. All 12 art works must receive a passing grade in order for the applicant to receive the JCI Teachers Certificate. They can add JCI to their name cards and promotions for their lessons/workshops to show that they are Board Certified.
We had our first large scale JCI program May 3rd 2018 where many JCI applicants got their credentials. We now have a total of 23 board certified JCI teachers who can now teach the 12 step program to their students and increase the number of JCI teachers.
More than 10 years ago, the most popularly taught technique was the millefiori cane. So much so that the millefiori cane became synonymous with Polymer Clay. A few artists were making three-dimensional art work but they were in the minority. In the last few years, such auxiliary materials as silicone molds, texture sheets, silkscreens, alcohol inks, mica powders, etc. have become available in Japan and many have taken these techniques up as well.
Recently, easier techniques are available and how to do them can be viewed on YouTube videos. So now, the more advanced techniques like millefiori cane work are enjoyed by many but also, those who enjoy doing design work with the easier techniques are also increasing.
IPCA: Can you tell us more about your board, members, and meetings?
We have about 100 members in our association. Many of our members give demonstrations, hold lesson classes and workshops on a regular basis. Some make polymer jewelry for sale as well.
Our Board is made up of 9 members working at our headquarters in Tokyo on a volunteer basis. Before the Covid pandemic, all of our board members were from the Tokyo area and its suburbs. We got together once a month in person, had meetings, discussed various issues and planned upcoming events and workshops.
However, due to the Corona virus disaster, all meetings and general workshops etc began to be held via Skype and Zoom. And because of that, we have been able to expand our board members to include members who live far from Tokyo - one of our board members is in Hokkaido, for example. In addition, we use Messenger and LINE for on the spot daily communication.
Here is a link to the board members, while it is in Japanese, several board members have photos of their work posted. As well as links to their website/social media accounts.
We publish a 4 to 6 page newsletter twice a year, and we also communicate with our members on our website. In addition, we ask our members to register on the JPCA official members only LINE account and we contact them more frequently that way.
Also, we have official Facebook and Instagram pages … where we share information about upcoming events with our members, followers and the general public. We also use the LINE account for just our members.
IPCA: Where can we find you online?
IPCA: What brand of clay is used in Japan?
Here in Japan, the market place has the following brands: FIMO, Premo, Kato clay, Cernit, Pardo. The most popular brands are FIMO and PREMO.
IPCA: Is polymer clay taught in school?
Sadly, polymer clay is NOT used in elementary schools or other public schools or art schools as far as I know.
IPCA: What other art forms are well known in Japan?
Japan has a long history of hundreds of years of a “teacher-student” lesson culture in the world of flower arranging, tea ceremony and many other traditional Japanese arts. In these traditional arts, once you sign on with your teacher you are her student for life. Very few students will change their teacher. They will continue to study for years and years and years with the same teacher. In the world of tea ceremony or flower arranging for example there are innumerable different “schools of thought” that approach these two activities in completely different ways. Once you decide what school of thought you were going to follow, you stick with that and the teacher forever. Basically until the teacher dies. Or until you just give up.
How can there be schools of thought for flower arrangement you might ask? Well, flower arranging is part of Zen philosophy just as the Japanese Tea ceremony is part of Zen philosophy as well.
Here is a wiki article on Ikebana, Japanese Flower Arranging:
One of the illustrations shows a drawing of an arrangement done by “the 40th head” of one of the “schools” in 1820. So in 1820, there was a school that had already been in operation so long that there was a 40th head master in 1820! And these different schools fight bitterly over their small nuanced differences. How the flowers are cut, how they are held in place in the vessel, how the flowers face in different directions… what it all means, on and on.
I have never studied any of these traditional crafts myself so I don’t know all the ins and outs. But I do know that when women go to flower arranging lessons, they either buy the flowers from their teacher or they buy some flowers at the flower shop and go to the lesson. The teacher then oversees how the student is going to arrange the flowers according to the strict rules of their particular school and the student makes the arrangement. It is then graded and most likely re-arranged by the teacher. Then the student breaks down the arrangement and carries it home and tries to recreate it EXACTLY again at her own house.
JPCA Members' Work Gallery
IPCA recently learned about the Japan Polymer Clay Association...we are international, of course! Read all about them in Amy's article and learn about everything from their preferred clay to the history of polymer clay in Japan.