I love the beautiful contrasts in Akiko Hirai's Kohiki ware, it looks strong yet delicate and I was fascinated to learn that it is inspired by face powder. Two worlds collide - make-up and ceramics - I hadn't thought about glaze like that before. Trust me, Akiko's combination of white on black clay is difficult to pull off. It's a look that I've been trying to emulate recently and I've been far off the mark! Perhaps I can pass it off as adolescent experimentation? Akiko's work is available is several great shops and galleries, including The Cold Store, Maud & Mabel, and Mint, and I am delighted that she agreed to be next-up in my series of Q&A's with inspirational makers.
Tell us a little about what you make? I make tableware and large decorative jars that are inspired by antique storage jars. What materials do you use and why? I use coarse stoneware clay. I like the texture and feel of it. I also mix in very coarse grog which appears on the surface of the pots when thrown thinly. What techniques do you use and why? I use white slip on a dark body. It is called Kohiki ware. The direct translation from Japanese is ‘powder blown ware’, the metaphor of women wearing white powder make-up. It has the beauty of ‘whiteness’ but is less harsh than sharp cold white porcelain. That was my intial inspiration and I tested a few materials to create suitable ‘slips’ and then developed it in my own way. I also often use wood ash for the subtle colours and tones on the surface of my pots. How do you fire your work? Most of the pots are fired in my gas kiln for reduction firing to give a feeling of movement on the surface. What/who inspires you to make your work? Mostly antique pots. Some are wood fired and have lots of marks of ‘accidents’. I am also inspired by novels and poems. I like the idea of ‘reading between lines.’ I have been trying to apply this to my pots. How/where do you sell your pieces? Various galleries mostly in the UK, and a few retailers abroad. Please recommend a good book? Linda Bloomfield wrote several good glaze books. These are very practical and contain lots of useful information. I always recommend them to my students. Also, Besstatsu - Taiyo, a Japanese magazine. It no longer published but you can obtain back copies. The editor's selections are excellent and each issue features topics that are very interesting. It also contains many good photos so even you do not understand the Japanese language, you can enjoy looking at these. What are your plans/ideas for the future? I have signed up for the Elle decoration online shop. I have not produced enough work for it yet, but plan to be up and running on there in the near future. I also have solo shows at the New Ashgate Gallery, Oxford Ceramic Gallery, and Slader’s Yard up until March. Each gallery will have something unique and details are on my website. Will you be running any workshops this year? I am doing 3 days masterclass at the beginning of August at Maze Hill Pottery in Greenwich this summer. I am also teaching ceramics at Kensington and Chelsea College. I teach BTEC level 2 and 3 depending on the level of people starting from September. For enquiries or to be added to the waiting list, please email email@example.com
Thank you Akiko!