studio project one

Making Connection with Objects

Care and connection to an inanimate object shown here on IKEA commercial

How can one find value in and respect for inanimate objects? Is it by making connections?

When I was thinking about this I realized again that my upbringing in the Japanese school system, where I regularly participated in cleaning my classrooms, helped me develop connections and respect for objects. As I cleaned our desks with a wet rag that I would rinse and ring out, swept the classroom floor, cleaned the blackboard, etc… the act of cleaning these objects taught me social aspects of society while working together with my classmates, and also taught me how to have respect for things like chairs and desks. In western society, cleaning may just look like menial work, but I learned so much from it.

Shojiro Nakanishi stated, “School cleaning is perceived as an essential educational activity to support a student’s moral /spiritual growth. This growth is one of the three components: cognitive, physical, and moral/spiritual growth, of the ultimate goal of Japanese education which is the development of skills for an individual’s complete socialization” (Nakanishi, 1997). It is interesting to note that Nakanishi equated moral and spiritual as synonymous words. In Japan, morality is more than right and wrong, it comes from a deeper spiritual understanding of the value in everything.

Wanting to replicate my experience of cleaning in a classroom, and curious to find out if participating in similar exercises, could affect my classmates’ opinions of inanimate objects, I decided to conduct a simple cleaning exercise with my classmates. In a previous experiment that I detailed in my previous blog (December 13th, 2021,, when I asked participants to try to find a connection with objects through cleaning, the results were mostly unsuccessful; when reviewing why I realized that I perhaps needed to provide more guidance if the concept was completely foreign. I wondered if I needed to provide more guidance to participants who may not have the same cultural understanding as I did of the spiritual/moral nature of the cleaning.

I asked the class to wipe down their chairs. I started to hand out gloves and cleaning wipes without much explanation other than asking them to start wiping down the chair that they were sitting on. Then, shortly after they started, I asked each participant to think about what kind of things that the chair may have gone through, where any marks on their chair came from, who may have sat in the chair previously, and if the person who sat there before was having a good day or bad day…

Video clip from the exercise
Responses from the cleaning exercise – thank you, everyone!

What I observed from this exercise/what participants said:

  • Cleaning the chair helped them recall a memory.
  • Simple observation can lead to deeper observation and consideration.
  • A curiosity about other things is what causes us to want to know more about something.
  • Calm – a participant was able to experience this feeling as a result of interacting with the chair.
  • Developing an appreciation – without knowing, perhaps, we can be developing an appreciation for objects when we are looking closer at the details that make up the object.
  • No feelings, but… It was interesting that even though a participant said they have “no strong feelings”, there still seems to be an empathetic response in their following answer when they said they were imagining the chair being subjected to “dirty shoes standing on it”.
  • Appreciating the value ” ‘it’s a good chair”.
  • Focusing on the function of the chair can be the beginning of appreciation.
  • Some could feel something right away: “I can feel there’s a connection between the chair and me!”
  • Some were able to uncover a relationship with the chair through intentional action: “I have a relationship with it – how precious it is.”
  • Some participants were not feeling anything or observing very much, but even the fact they were making an observation that “chairs are quite clean in this school” could at least lead to an appreciation for others that maintain the chairs which deliver more perspective than previous to the exercise.

    All participants made at least one observation. For example, some observed it was clean; others observed there was paint on it. Relationships can’t take hold without noticing things and so I think even a simple observation can be the start of a new way of connecting to inanimate objects.

Mari Kondo has become popular in western culture through her “tidying up” methods. Westerners have started to understand her desire that we find and honour things that “bring us joy”. When she asks people to give things up to unclutter, she asks them to thank them for what they have provided before they get rid of the object(s). These methods of expressing appreciation for things help us understand value and interconnectivity (even clothing, buttons, and fabric will stay in the cycle of our ecosystem). It always starts somewhere.

“People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking. ”

Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Nakanishi, S. (1997). Gakko Soji: (school cleaning by students): The Japanese curriculum for socialization (dissertation).



one of my spheres waiting to be fired

In the fall 2022 semester, I was lucky enough to be in a ceramic class. Since last spring, I have done something reflective about myself, and the chance to be able to create something with my hands was something that I welcomed.
The prompt for the course was to create a vessel. After brainstorming, I arrived at the conclusion that I wanted to make a vessel related to my morning rituals. One of my morning rituals is to light incense every day when I wake up before I make tea.

Wedging my clay – process of mixing clay and removing air bubbles

Marking with branches and rocks.

Waiting to be bisque-fired

The five spheres I made represent my parents, my two brothers, and me. The different shapes or marks on the spheres represent the impermanence of life occurrences. Contrary to what spheres appear to be from a distance – the surface of the circular shape seems to go on and on smoothly with no obstacles- there are many ups and downs, obstacles, and unpredictable events. 

My rituals of lighting the incense during my morning routine started with my uncle’s death two years ago and took additional meaning and purpose nine months ago with the death of my brother. By lighting the incense, I feel like I am telling them that they are remembered. This action also helps me feel consoled for not being able to be close to them with the complicated situation caused by pandemic restrictions.

Five of us are no longer five, but I wanted to keep the usual five here. The blue sphere is my brother – his favourite colour.

I am surrounded by impermanence. We are all surrounded by impermanence.

I added a vessel to hold the vessel for the incense.