The ceramic artist Akiko Hirai’s Still Life bottles, feel like they have been lifted out of a Georgio Morandi painting. Her work is a cultural blend of both Japanese and British studio pottery traditions, resulting in asymmetrical, ‘imperfect’ organic forms. Akiko takes the ‘imperfect’ piece and tries to make perfection in her mind. She calls this ‘balance’. If it’s a good balance of imperfection she feels she is able to complete it in her mind. Recently she has been inspired by some impressionist paintings described in the exhibition guide as unfinished and therefore not considered ‘proper’ paintings at the beginning of this art movement. In the world of craft it was the connoisseurs, not the makers, who found beauty in the unpolished peasant craft work of Japan. These pieces were called ‘gete-mino’ translated as ‘badly made’ and were consequently considered second class artefacts. She is attracted to the unrefined quality of objects and in her work and she reveals great beauty in this ‘unpolished’ work.
Akiko tends to work with dark clay. The white glazes she uses act as a veil and give her work a feeling of stillness. She looks for contrast in the rawness of the dark textured clay and the purity the lighter glazes.
Having obtained a BA in ceramic design from Central St Martins in 2003, Akiko’s work has grown from strength to strength gaining her international acclaim. She was previously head of ceramics at Kensington & Chelsea College but due to the high demands for her work is now working full time in her ceramic studio in London.
Akiko’s work is sought after by collectors worldwide and is part of the permanent collection at the Keramikmuseum Westerwald (Westerwald Ceramic Museum), Germany.