Akiko Hirai – Ceramic Artist

I was born in a town called Shizuoka in Japan. Famous for green tea, tangerine and Yamaha that produces motorcycles and musical instruments.

I started pottery at one of the FE colleges as a hobby when I came to England (I came to see my sister as she was studying photography in London).
During my first visit in England, I met a few potters and one of the potters I met suggested I go to university to continue to study pottery more seriously.

That is how I started. After the graduation from university, my friend and l were looking for a place where you can access a gas kiln.

As the colours of my pots can only be created by the fuel operated kilns, I have to be in a place where I can use gas kiln.
There are not many places in London, but luckily, the landlord of the Chocolate Factory Keith Ashley used to be a potter and had a gas kiln there.

He now has become a painter, but he has a great understanding of ceramics and created a nice environment for ceramic artists.
I have been happily working there since 2003.

There are many ceramists, jewellery designers, painters, typographers and graphic designers in the Chocolate Factory. It is a good mixture of artists: small, but a nice artists’ community.Hackney was not the safest place in London so when I moved there, things were affordable and many creative people were and are living in the area. So I loved and still love Hackney although it has changed quite a lot over the past years.

I love the ceramic materials, which can replicate the beauty of Mother Nature. I think this aesthetic is very Japanese.
I try not to control the material but let material change its shapes and colors by the environment.
I also respect the forms created by spontaneity, as it reflect my unconscious mind more.
Therefore the style of my work is very organic and natural. But not in a way you see nature in countryside as I have never lived in countryside in my life.
Some people describe it as honest work.

My inspiration comes from my daily life in relation to Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection, with the beauty of impermanence considered a holistic perfection of nature.

I used to teach pottery until 2015 but my work gets so busy and I cannot find time for regular teaching. So I occasionally teach short courses when I am asked.
I make sculptural pieces as well as domestic ware. Sculptural ones are relatively expensive, but one of the gallery sold one of those to the postman – a very unusual customer!


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