Nozomi Project: Making Jewelry from Broken Pottery in Ishinomaki, Japan (Beauty from Brokenness)

Nozomi Project logo

The Nozomi Project is a beacon of hope in the Ishinomaki region of Japan that makes jewelry from the broken dishes left by the tsunami.

On March 11th, 2011, a horrible tsunami hit the coast of Japan. If you were connected to the internet (or anywhere near a TV or radio), I guarantee you heard story after panicked story about the possible nuclear meltdown, destruction, and death. Most of the news focused on the former, ignoring the real people suffering from this horrible natural disaster.

Nozomi Project volunteer in Ishinomaki Japan making jewelry

And, as news does, the coverage of the Ishinomaki region of Japan eventually faded away. News moved onto the newer disasters, some celebrity had a baby, a new movie grossed millions in the box office, someone published a new book, and a building collapsed. That’s just how the media works.

Sometimes we forget there are real people behind each tragedy.

And there is a real way to help.

Enter Nozomi Project.

Nozomi Project Shards of Beauty making jewelry out of broken pottery and ceramics Ishinomaki Japan

What is the Nozomi Project?

Nozomi Project was created by a close friend and woman I have admired for years, Sue Takamoto (read her blog, here) in response to the devastation after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami.

Nozomi Project trains women in the Ishinomaki community how to make jewelry from all broken pottery left behind from the devastation of the tsunami and earthquake. It gives them a stable income (some are otherwise unable to get a job), dignity, and most importantly, hope. One third of the women in the Nozomi Project are single mothers; nearly all of them lost a close family member or friend in the tsunami.

Nozomi Project Shards of Beauty making jewelry out of broken pottery and ceramics Ishinomaki Japan

For bios on the Nozomi women, click here. Some of them will make you cry.

Why “Nozomi”?

Nozomi means “hope” in Japanese; this social enterprise is all about bringing hope to the people left behind.

When everyone else was fleeing the area in the wake of the tsunami, deeming it ‘unsalvageable,’ Nozomi moved in.  The Nozomi Project wants to show the women in Ishinomaki, who have lost their family, friends, houses, jobs, and possessions, that people still care. Nozomi Project wants to inspire hope.

Nozomi Project Shards of Beauty making jewelry out of broken pottery and ceramics Ishinomaki Japan

And me?

I think they’re doing a pretty good job.

If you want to browse through Nozomi necklaces, click here.

What do the Nozomi Project Women do?

Basically, they make jewelry from the broken pottery, cups, glasses, plates, and other ceramics left behind in the city. Two years after the tsunami and there is still broken ceramics imbedded in the soil (when I visited, I went around picking up ceramics in a plastic bag and dropping them off at the Nozomi Project headquarters – since I had nothing else to do).

Nozomi Project Shards of Beauty making jewelry out of broken pottery and ceramics Ishinomaki Japan

While they make Kimono accessories and beautiful note cards, their most famous project is the “Shards of Hope” product line (using the shards left behind from the tsunami).

Each of the Necklace lines is named after one of the loved ones the women lost, whether it be a child, husband, sister, or parent.

If you want to browse through Nozomi earrings, click here.

Nozomi Project Sue Takamoto Shards of Beauty making jewelry out of broken pottery and ceramics Ishinomaki Japan

How do they make Jewelry?

The brilliance behind the “Shards of Hope” line is the fact that each piece is original. After all, no two pieces of broken pottery are the same. Even if it came from the same bowl, for example, the pattern will be slightly different. So will the size.

Nozomi Project Sue Takamoto Shards of Beauty making jewelry out of broken pottery and ceramics Ishinomaki Japan

Nozomi Project women make their jewelry by:

  1. A woman shifts through the broken pottery until she finds something she likes. If she’s looking to make earrings, she will pick two pieces of pottery that look similar-ish, or will find a piece large enough that she can carve out a couple pairs of earrings (or a pair of earrings and matching necklaces. It’s all kind of free-form).
  2. Use an electric saw to cut the pottery, cave out the pieces they want to use, and smoothen the edges. This creates a lot of pottery dust, so the women have handy masks to keep their lungs and eyes safe.
    Nozomi Project Sue Takamoto Shards of Beauty making jewelry out of broken pottery and ceramics Ishinomaki Japan
  3. Another woman will use pottery glue to attach a “back” (either silver or gold) to the back of the pottery pieces.
  4. The ceramics dry for a couple days.
    Nozomi Project Shards of Beauty making jewelry out of broken pottery and ceramics Ishinomaki Japan
  5. Another woman will sketch out an idea for the necklace/earrings (or use a previous sketch).
  6. Another woman will thread the jewelry through a leather, silk, or thread claps, add “accessory beads” according to the design, and affix a clasp to the back.
  7. Another woman will take the completed jewelry and take it to a while table in the corner, where she will photograph the piece.
  8. Another woman will upload the photos on their Nozomi website (remember, each piece is different! So they all need their own pictures) and set the price.
  9. As soon as someone buys the necklace, it will disappear from the website (to prevent double-orders).
  10. A woman will find the necklace in the plastic storage containers off the side, write a sweet “thank you!” note, slip them into a package, and write the address. They ship worldwide.
    Nozomi Project Sue Takamoto Shards of Beauty making jewelry out of broken pottery and ceramics Ishinomaki Japan
  11. The package will be sent out with the next round of mail.
  12. You receive the gorgeous necklace or earrings you ordered. And you’re super happy, because not only is the jewelry gorgeous, but every time you wear it, you know that you just helped give someone hope.
Nozomi Project Cuff Link

Nozomi Project Cuff Link

If you want to browse through Nozomi matching earring and necklace sets, click here.

Why you should help them out:

Nozomi Project is a lot of things. It is a stable source of income to women – a rare thing in Ishinomaki. It is a chance to recycle broken pottery – creating beauty from brokenness. It is a therapeutic experience where women can come out in the open and talk about what happened during the tsunami with foreigners (since everyone in Ishinomaki went through the same thing, women find it difficult to share with other Ishinomaki women, since they all suffered ‘equally.’ They don’t want to sound ‘whiney.’ But when talking to foreigners, it is completely different).

Nozomi Project volunteer in Ishinomaki Japan making jewelry

But most importantly, Nozomi Project is a source of hope.

I believe in hope.

And if you do to, you should buy a couple pieces Nozomi Project jewelry and give it to your sister, your daughter, your mother, or your coworkers.

My very own pair of Nozomi Project earrings :)

My very own pair of Nozomi Project earrings :)

If you want to donate to the Nozomi Project, click here.

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

8 Comments on Nozomi Project: Making Jewelry from Broken Pottery in Ishinomaki, Japan (Beauty from Brokenness)

  1. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Are the pieces radioactive?

  3. Hello, I’m making mosaics out of broken dishes with a small group of volunteers, and am interested in collaborating with you. My group is called Peace by Piece, you can find us on facebook and also here: cherylokubo.wordpress.com
    I look forward to hearing from you!

    • Hi Cheryl,

      That sounds wonderful. I only volunteered once with the Nozomi Project, so I don’t have any “authority” in the group.
      I recommend finding the group on Facebook and sending a message. I hope you will be able to collaborate on something!

      Thanks
      Grace

      (PS, the mosaics the Peace by Piece group makes are gorgeous)

  4. Hahaha. Thanks honey. Get me earrings :)

  5. Beautiful!! I will buy some for your birthday :)

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