What is unique to a country’s culture? How might immigration impact it? The story behind the enchanting Jardin de Silice illustrates how a change of country can have a positive cultural impact for the migrant and their adopted community.
I first glimpsed the garden while walking along the main street of Val David, a village in the Laurentides area of Québèc. Its unusual vine and branch covered gazebo beckoning above a thick cedar wall. Visible only enough to spark curiosity.
Serendipitously, when back in Val David several weeks later to attend the 1001 Pots Exhibition, I learned the garden belongs to the founder of the exhibition, Kinya Ishikawa and his wife, Marie-Andrée Benoit. The garden was open to visitors during the show.
What makes the Jardin de Silice a hybrid of cultures? To me, it embodies the Japanese and Québecois aesthetics of its creators.
Born in Japan, Kinya Ishikawa came North America in 1969 to compete in the Lake Placid Bobsleigh World Cup. Curious to learn more about North American culture, he decided not to return to Japan after the race. Eventually, landing in Montréal, Québec, Canada, he found a job at a pottery studio, where he took an interest in and began to explore pottery making.
Kinya Ishikawa’s artistic and entrepreneurial talents led him to open a pottery studio in Boucherville, Québec, Canada. Galleries in North America and Japan soon displayed his work. Awarded a Québec Arts Council grant in 1984, he spent a year practising his craft in Japan.
In 1989, after relocating his studio to Val David, he invited 50 artisans to take part in the first 1001 Pots Exhibition. The exhibition, now one of the largest annual pottery shows in North America, attracts about 200,000 visitors each year.
Helped by artists and artisans, Kinwa Ishikawa created the Jardin de Silice as a gathering space for and a tribute to the community of potters he helps bring together through the 1001 Pots Exhibition.
As you enter the Jardin de Silice, you pass under a delicate figurine who tenderly watches over the courtyard. Lanterns hang from the roof beams. Vines twist themselves over the twig and metal roof.
Ahead, fragrant branches burn inside a rustic clay oven. Through openings in pottery-filled walls, you catch views of lush ferns and giant Butterbur. Metal figures floating in the clouds and other metal sculptures lounging about add to the enchantment.
The Japanese concept of meigakure (to hide and reveal) is evident throughout the space with its exterior fence, window-like openings in the interior walls, scattered alcoves and rooms and the high cedar hedge enclosing the property.
The inner garden doors, create a symbolic division between the busy public areas and the peaceful inner garden. The division reminds you to leave your worries outside.
The dry garden, with its carefully placed rocks and pebbled grounds is reminiscent of Japanese temple gardens. Yet, the garden gazebo is laid out like a church. If you stand at a magical spot at the back of the property, the gazebo’s roof line captures the outline of a nearby church steeple.
A small circular room, reminiscent of a chapel, opens off the side of the main structure. As I stood in this room, the sun broke through a large cloud. The sun’s rays passing over the sculptural roof cast a dream-catcher like shadow across the rusty steel walls.
Would Kinya be a potter today if had returned to Japan in 1969? I imagine the disciplined-nature of Japan’s apprenticeship process, one which demands pottery students master basic tasks such as sweeping the floor and weighing clay before being permitted to do creative work, may deter those who thrive on learning through discovery and experimentation. However, Kinya Ishikawa finds the creative and inclusive culture of Québec a supportive environment in which to realize his passions and visions.
How fortunate for the 1001 Pots community of potters and the thousands of people who visit the show to see and collect the works art created by Kinya Ishikawa, Marie-Andrée Benoit and many other talented potters, Kinya made his way to a new country. How fortunate the country welcomed him to stay.
If you could freely move to another country, how do you imagine its culture would impact your life?