Private Lessons

Both our sons are happily building their lives in faraway places, so my husband, Neil and I try to make the best of our empty nest. We work hard and stay busy, but we still miss the activities of kids in our house.

One day early last summer, I saw a social media post in search of a host family for an artistic Japanese exchange student. That evening, Neil and I agreed; it would be fun to have a teenager in our home again, and this would be a nice exchange for our many blessings. I also hoped that my years of art training might affect this particular student in a meaningful way.

Kyoka arrived from Nagasaki in August, armed with a small sketchbook and a set of charcoal pencils. She is especially good at drawing and painting and wants to be a professional artist in Italy after graduating college.

Kyoka's Arrival

Since my art studio is in our home, Kyoka is able to observe and work alongside me whenever she has time. Essentially, I am available for private lessons whenever Kyoka is inspired to create!

Three days after arriving, Kyoka sketched a beautiful image of Gabriel, our white English Lab, who sleeps at her feet whenever she sits down. She captured this common sleeping pose of a Lab perfectly.

The Lab Sketch

Impressed by her drawing, I encouraged Kyoka to try her hand at sculpting “Gabe” in clay, which together she and I would cast in crystal. She has never worked with clay until now.

Wax of Lab

Pouring the Lab Mold

Breaking the Lab Mold

Cleaning the Lab

The resulting sculpture is so sweet and special that we decided to take a rubber mold of it, so I can reproduce it in a variety of colors. “Kyoka’s Lab” is available for purchase in clear and black, and only this one breed for now. Perhaps there will be others…

Kyoka's Labs

“Kyoka’s Lab” is 6″ x 5.5″ x 2.5″ and weighs 3.3 lbs. If you are interested in purchasing one of these DJR Glass sculptures, please contact me @ and specify color, or you can order directly from my store page The price is $182 and a percentage of each “Lab” purchase will go to its designer, Kyoka.

  • Love this story, and these pieces Donna! You and Kyoka are a great team. And Gabe is a perfect model!

    • Thank you so much Bev! This was a really fun post to write and we anticipate many more wonderful chapters in this story ❤️ Please stay tuned!

  • Oh what a wonderful story. You have given Kyoka an experience that will live with her forever. The labs are beautiful. So great to see the process again. Do take care. Maybe the boys will be home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

    • Thank you Mary, I hope so! We (okay, I 😉 have a plan to get her hooked on glass and go to the Toyama Institute for Art when she finishes high school!

      Yes, the boys and their ladies will all be home for a little time at Christmas! It’s never long enough though… Be well my lovely friend.

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