Interview with Akiko Hirai – UK based Craftswoman
By Mike Sullivan
Please introduce yourself and your background.
I make pottery in the UK, in London. I hold workshops in studios where artists work together, which isn’t that rare here.
Please tell us about your work.
I make ceramics for exhibitions and galleries in the UK and overseas. At first I started pottery because I liked the craftwork made using the process of powder sprayed pottery with wood-fired kiln, I started studying this process and currently I am working with this material and I am trying to make my work by taking advantage of the beautiful material itself.
Even now the influence of powder sprayed pottery with a wood-fired kiln is really strong.
How did the Akiko Hirai Ceramics brand start?
In 2003 I graduated from Central St. Martins Ceramic Design course. In the same year I worked independently in a studio called the Chocolate Factory No16 with a pottery sculptor friend. It doesn’t mean that I was setting up a brand, but I started to feel in my conscious Japanese aesthetics which hadn’t been noticeable inside me since I had been living abroad. I realised that there aren’t universal aesthetics which are created by culture and education. By thinking of this point in depth, and as it felt vague just to make things by thinking ‘I want to make something beautiful,’ I wondered to myself ‘where does beauty come from?’ and ‘what do I want to show?’ I feel that I came to understand these concepts.
For someone who wishes to take up this kind of career, what kind of advice would you give them?
I would say two things:
Stay calm and keep going.
Expect nothing, hope for the best.
Where do your ideas for your work come from? Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?
Mainly from books I have read, or from films or music. I learnt a lot in particular from types of places, moments when tension collapses, or the process of recovering your balance after collapsing.
How long does it take to design and make a particular work? Can you give a short summary of the processes that go into each one?
I can’t say how long it takes as it is by the accumulation of a variety of experimentation and experience that a particular piece is realised by me at any given point in time. I think that over a number of years I will continue to make pottery one by one, but maybe the production time for me is short.
What do traditional Japanese crafts mean to you?
I think it is something which is both wide ranging and deep in meaning.
Do you have any exhibitions or events coming up?
Please check my website and the event section of my CV.
Finally, any last words for anyone interested in Japanese crafts?
Japanese crafts are something which are very obsessive.