Akiko Hirai is a ceramicist making decorative artworks and tableware. Using Japanese pottery techniques to create contemporary ceramics, her forms are simple and satisfying, with deeply textured surfaces featuring calm, cool colours.
Akiko studied at The University of Westminster and Central St Martins. She is currently the Head of Ceramics at Kensington and Chelsea College. Her studio forms part of The Chocolate Factory N16 in Stoke Newington.
Akiko Hirai is a ceramicist making decorative artworks and tableware. Using Japanese pottery techniques to create contemporary ceramics, her forms are simple and satisfying, with deeply textured surfaces featuring calm, cool colours. Akiko studied at The University of Westminster and Central St Martins, and she is currently the Head of Ceramics at Kensington and Chelsea College. Her studio forms part of The Chocolate Factory N16 in Stoke Newington.
Akiko’s work is an exploration of contrast; the juxtaposition of coarse clay and translucent glaze. Her skillful manipulation of both is exposed to the alchemy of the kiln, ensuring that every piece is unique and celebrates imperfection and chance. Akiko throws each vessel on the wheel and often facets the surface before coating in glaze. In accordance with the Japanese tradition of Shibui, Akiko allows her clay to inform the firing process and embraces every irregularity and imperfection.
1. What motivates you to make?
The excitement that comes when I realise my imagination translates to reality, in real objects. Also, the feedback from an audience or the users of my work has motivated me greatly. I am very grateful for this.
2. What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
I think my work is a response to human senses. Each object I make has individual textures specific to that piece. I often look at my own urban environment and the everyday scenery which surrounds me, but I also love reading books. I like suggestive language which has various meanings, language that interacts with readers and changes in different contexts. I want my ceramic work to be like that.
3. What is your unique approach to your craft, and how have you honed your skills?
I often find beauty in the things that are not considered conventionally attractive. I emphasise, reorganise and present things in the way I see them, so that other people might also find charm in ugly beauties.
I do not use special techniques but I have a wide range of raw materials that possess potential for limitless exploration and continuations. I feel quite confident in how to use them and I think that is my strength
4. What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
I try not to be influenced by awards and collections. Of course, I am always very pleased when I receive an award, or my work is acquired by museums, but I try not to dwell on it – it’s not good for the ego.
I’m very proud that old customers keep coming back to collect my work, some for over 15 years. They are encouraging which makes me feel good about what I do. It gives me the courage to go on and make new work, and to experiment. I feel very lucky to have had lovely support for such a longtime.
5. What is your dream project?
This is my secret I am not sharing with other people, yet!
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