Japanese Earthen Plaster Exchange – Bringing the Outdoors In

By Emily Reynolds

Early in 2015, I created the Japanese Earthen Plaster Exchange (JEPE) and placed it under the fiscal sponsorship of an arts non-profit, Fractured Atlas. My aim was to access foundations to help a few of us raise money to train in Japan’s earthen plastering tradition, so we could bring those skills home, and share them on the internet. Thanks to Kyle Holzhueter’s consistent articles, you are aware of an enduring depth of knowledge regarding earth plasters in Japan. JEPE exists to broaden the bridge of interest and access to this craft, for the benefit of all beings.

Angela Francis and I are on our way to participate in JEPE’s first project, “Training Trainers in Japan.” Though I failed to gain the support of either Japanese or environmentally oriented foundations, through work-savings, and the generosity of family and friends, we have finagled enough money to show immigration that we can support ourselves as we train. The restriction from earning wages while in the country on a Cultural Studies Visa has been an excruciating detail. Two-years (me) and six months (Angela) is a really long time to live in a cash-rich nation without earning money. We had another team mate, Wolfgang Kahler, who is based in Portland, and, sadly, financials caused us to lose the opportunity for him to come along. Though Angela and I are set to go, I continue to look for significant donations that will not only help us live (and keep us out of debt), but will provide us with tools (yey tools!), recording equipment, and technology to efficiently upload our findings, to share with you.

My personal wish is that we can use the skills learned in Japan, bring them together with skills that have been learned in all parts of the world, and make them practical to modern application. That includes fostering a workforce that is familiar with current building scenarios of every type, which can bring earthen plasters and wall systems to common use. Angela has a strong calling to learn from an earth building culture where the structure’s longevity is at the core of the craft. She aims to “share their techniques so they can be used together with local practices to improve the quality and durability of future creations in every landscape.”

One constant thought is to collaborate in establishing an earthen plastering academy. This would include a plaster lab, where various combinations of building materials and scenarios could be tested, finding replicable results that are made public. Please do join this conversation.

We will be doing our best to be thorough in our reports to you. We want to receive questions while we are there. Please keep track of us through www.thejepe.org . This site is where we will link Youtube videos, articles, and provide a public Q&A forum.

May JEPE serve a broadening, wonderful relationship between the living Japanese earthen plastering tradition and earth building practitioners around the world.

With admiration for all traditional and innovative earth building methods, I focus on sharing the Japanese traditional system, in hopes that their approach to the work translates around the world, lending ideas that foster great integrity, safety and, above all, beauty in life, through bringing the outdoors in – Emily Reynolds

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