Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Japan - Day One

We were collected by our hosts for the week, Aida Chemicals who make Art Clay. Dice was to be our liaison, translator and brilliant “tour guide” for the week. Once at the factory we were given a tour around. Aida Chemicals have been recycling metals for many more years than they have been making silver, gold and now copper clays.

Above -the workshop where the new jewellery ideas are developed

They take waste from all types of industries such as photographic, dental and jewellery and they work with copper, silver, gold, platinum and palladium. One ton of solid photographic waste such as x-rays, slides and negatives yields around 1kg of silver. Huge incinerators burn up the waste and then the silver is extracted from remains, goes through various processes to refine its purity and eventually is melted and poured into 20kg ingots. The fluids from the photographic industry are also recycled by a method of electrolysis. It was fascinating to see all the different methods and to have the complete process explained to us. The quality control and checks are very rigorous all the way through to ensure that the end products meet the exacting standards required.

Below - silver being reclaimed and recycled

We were allowed to hold the 20kg bars of silver and also a 1kg bar of pure gold. A bit too heavy to manage to slip into the pocket as a souvenir! The actual process of turning the reclaimed precious metals into the Art Clay products that we all know and love is a closely guarded secret and in a separate part of the factory away from prying eyes!

Below - Emma Baird the Art Clay Guild UK chairman trying to do a runner with 80kg of silver!
Below - 1kg of gold in my hand - wow!

Above - group photo outside the Aida Chemicals factory

After the tour we headed off the Historic Park just near the factory. This beautiful park has old Japanese buildings and wonderful areas of gardens. The plum blossom was in full bloom and the cherry blossom was just about to start. The Japanese call this Sakura and it is a very celebrated time of year with blossom appearing in drinks, sweets and every type of merchandise you can think of. We had some lunch in the park cafe and our first taste of noodles which we were to have in many different ways during the week. The park also has a very good museum but having been sidetracked by the beauty of the gardens and with limited time I did not go round it.

The Beautiful Historic Park
The next stop was a trip around the Suntory brewery that makes lager style beer. The whole process of how they make the beer was explained and it was interesting to learn that the water for the beer comes from their own borehole under the factory and flows from the area around Mount Fuji. At the end of the tour a welcome glass of beer (or two) was offered and gave us time to have a sit for a while. From the factory we took the brewery bus service to the local station and a train back to Fuchu and the Art Clay Studio there.

The Art Clay studios in Japan are wonderful and made us all quite envious. This one was located on the 12th floor of a tower block and had two large teaching rooms with lovely views out. The central area had every Art Clay product out on display as well as cabinets full of made jewellery examples. There were pieces that we see in the Art Clay books and work by some of the master teachers in Japan. All truly inspiring.

Finally it was back to the hotel for a quick turnaround and then out for eating. Five of us went off to a tiny Tempura Restaurant that Dice had suggested and sampled Tempura prawns and of course some Sake.


  1. Wow! And that was just day one! Looks like it was an amazing experiance, will be hooked to hear more! :)

  2. A pleasure to read about Your trip and loving the photographs.