The Nozomi Project "Beauty from Brokenness"

 Photo courtesy of Nozomi Project

Photo courtesy of Nozomi Project

The Nozomi Project, translated “hope” from Japanese, is dedicated to bringing hope to women who are survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, Japan. Nozomi women are working in community to create one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry using broken pottery left in the wake of the tsunami. As each colorful shard is transformed into a beautiful treasure, so too lives are being filled with renewed dignity, beauty and hope for their future.

CWOW and The Nozomi Project

In the winter of 2013 Lorelei Verlee, CWOW founder, traveled to Ishinomaki, Japan to meet with the women of the Nozomi Project. The impact of one of the most devastating tsunamis in history is still evident everywhere from the still desolate school yard to the significant increase in the numbers of people without adequate housing and barely functioning infrastructure. Creative Women of the World has made a commitment to support these brave women as their lives are being transformed.

Tsunami survivors create beauty from brokenness!

Lorelei VerLee—  “Seventeen years of my childhood were spent in Japan and every summer we vacationed in a beach community near Sendai in northern Japan. I remember hearing my Japanese friend from that area talk about a time in the mid-50’s when a tsunami lifted up the house she lived in and moved it several feet over while she was in it! She was so scared but she and her family survived. How could we know that decades later in 2011 another tsunami would come that destroyed tens of thousands of homes and swept thousands of lives out to sea. My heart stopped when the 7.2 earthquake that shook for over five minutes was announced on our news. Part of my family still lived there but even though they were in Tokyo, hundreds of miles from the epicenter, they felt the unimaginable impact. Suddenly everyone knew Japan would never be the same. I found that to be true on my visit in January and February two years later. As kids we were used to frequent earthquakes and knew the rituals to follow but when you combine the magnitude of that earthquake along with the subsequent tsunami and radiation leaks, people felt extremely vulnerable and powerless. Every aftershock revived the tension closely held inside. Their culture does not lead them to express emotions easily.
On this trip I was able to visit Ishinomaki, one of the most severely devastated areas. On the way there I went right through Matsushima where the nuclear plants still have major radiation concerns. I drove by large areas of land with nothing but weeds where hundreds of homes had once stood. I saw the school where families had run for protection but it too was flooded by the ocean waters. The stench of rotting fish, people and garbage that lingered for months had dissipated but the spirit of the town carried a lot of pain.
In the midst of this disaster scene I was invited into a small art studio in a home where smiling Japanese women of all ages sat on their knees on the tatami floor around a low table. They were part of a cooperative named Nozomi, meaning “Hope” and whose motto is “beauty from brokenness”. Colorful, broken pottery shards had been salvaged from the rubble washed back up on shore and their skillful hands were creating beautiful pieces of jewelry from them. They began by grinding the edges of the shards to eliminate any sharp edges and carefully attached attractive bales or findings. I was amazed to watch them carefully match the colors of the shard with beads that they hand tied into place around a necklace. They looked for complementary designs and shapes for sets. They carefully chose the names of the designs in honor of someone who survived the tsunami or in memory of loved ones who did not. Then with each finished product they proudly signed an artisan card that they knew would connect them to a woman who would advocate for them around the world.
Creative Women of the World is delighted to partner with this amazing group of women. We want you to know their stories, not just of their tragedy but of their courage, their strength and their creativity. By purchasing their artwork you have the power to let them know they and their loved ones will not be forgotten.”