Anyone who knows me long enough knows I love to dance.
The first bit of advice I ever received from my master Asahara Yuzo was imparted to me with decided seriousness through a huge smile. It was maybe our first time ever meeting, in the hallway of Kyoto’s plaster academy. He said this: If you plaster while imagining Japanese Noh dancing, your wall will be beautiful.
Naito-san, the currently retired plasterer who is friends all over the world with Japanese-style carpenters that he has worked with over his many decades, lovingly recalls that people call him the Danshingu Purastaaman (aka “Dancing Plasterman”). See his smooth moves here.
Kyle Holzhueter, a serious practitioner of sakan work in Japan and teacher around the world, says this about this video of Kusumi Akira found online: “Notice his efficient movement and almost dance like quality.”
This craft is so hard. I find myself really struggling every day to get to where I need to be just to accomplish something better than the last time. I know I’m so far from being anywhere near the skill level required to do even a basic “nakanuri” brown coat finish. Word has it that opportunity is coming up here soon. I’m nervous.
I’m really nervous because last week I needed to do what I was doing better than I was doing it in less than half the time it was taking me. My practice boards are varying sizes. There’s one certain section that, according to my mentor, should be finished through two passes within half an hour, and even that is pushing time limits if you want to beat the moisture loss, your plaster’s water being sucked away by the substrate while simultaneously evaporating into thin air.
I am stoked to report that even with Golden Week giving me a break, yesterday I got two passes done on that frame in 35 minutes. But it’s not pretty. Still… It took me 55 minutes the time before.
How did I get there?
It took this wall to tell me: Dance.
Telling me Dance. Telling me I’ll get there by letting the trowel tell me what’s going on with the wall, by letting my dance partner tell me what I need to do to make the right, sure, accurate moves that bring out the beauty. Alternating pressure and grazes at just the right rhythm, moving quick and slick so we don’t wear each other out. No tension. Easing.
Give thanks I’ve still got lots of hours in the studio before I hit the dance floor. I need all the practice I can get.