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The Organic Aesthetics of Akiko Hirai

Hailing from Japan, London-based Akiko Hirai has been repeatedly heralded as one of ceramic’s most unique talents. Though initially she has studied cognitive psychology in Japan, her attention quickly shifted to immersing herself in traditional and nontraditional crafting of pottery and ceramic. She has since earned her degree in the field from Central St Martins and been shortlisted for the prestigious international Loewe Craft Prize in 2019.

Image courtesy of Akiko Hirai

Her ceramics echo the functions of workware while maintaining a shifting balance between primality and delicacy. Rough clay contrasts against translucent glazes in a way that allows both to speak in their own language. Natural elements inform her mutli-faceted designs and come forward in unexpected ways. Dozens of intentional divots overlap each other to mimic the feel of a flower in bloom. Striations run the length of squat white pots that evoke dried seeds. This fascination with the contrasts between the organic and intangible are present in every vessel she creates and carry themselves throughout her body of work. 

Of note are Akiko’s Kohiki ceramics. This technique, modeled after Korean Yi Dynasty Punch’ng wares, utilizes iron-rich clay covered with a white slip and then a translucent glaze. The end result is a finished ceramic with an organic and deeply satisfying surface flecked with white and brown nebulaic patterns.