Japanese designer Aki Yamaguchi tells us about her work, her beautiful porcelain pieces, her studio- Rinsengama and why art should be pursued for the sake of art alone. At 43, having over 25 years of experience, Aki San {as I dearly call her} now runs a successful studio out of Japan’s Saga Prefecture, a place where Arita style of pottery is said to have begun. Aki’s work is based on the “Arita” style of Japanese pottery made in the area around the town of Arita, in the former Hizen Province of northwestern Kyūshū. With several exhibitions on tow, you’d wander if she has a team but she still paints and creates each piece individually!

I met Aki on instagram while looking for Japanese designer sake cups and I have not been able to get enough of her work. What caught me is the delicate balance of traditional and whimsy. You know one of those times when something really sort of hits you and you just cannot get enough of it? I had a very similar thing with Rinsengama. And I had to know it all. As a person of design, I have been forever intrigued by Japanese art {with desperate attempts to go to Tokyo in my head} and I had to ask Aki Yamaguchi about all of this. It sounds pedestrian. I know. But often life’s greatest wants are not very well worded.

Also, I am sure there are people who know all about Japanese pottery but I think there is a lot to be known too. It’s not just figures and blue and white but representations of Japan. Everything in pottery means something and it’s never just about the overall look. Every province or prefecture has its quintessential pattern and you could tell an era of pottery simply by the glaze of it all! It’s not all that easy and home decor! So I thought I’ll ask Aki a bit about her designs and Japanese pottery in General, and in the process share her beautiful work with you here in India and abroad {2 people from Sweden and one from Norway as well!}

Give us a little insight on Japanese Designer pottery and the style you follow? The art, the ink, the technique

Japanese potteries are of various kinds. Each has their own style. And the regional differences are huge. Saga Prefecture, where I live, is the birth place of Arita-yaki(Arita ware) which is known all over the world. It also has a very long history. But pattern whise, Arita ware is an atmosphere design/ pattern. It’s all about the nature in general and it also shows from the colors we use, which are mainly blue, red, yellow, green. It is actually pretty brilliant if I say so myself. As an artist, I am however most drawn towards blue and traditional techniques. This blue called “gosu” in Japan which you’d know as cobalt oxide glaze.

As a Japanese Designer, what are some of your original designs that we can rightly call as “Rinsengama”

“My designs are Classics with modern. Japanese pottery can get very elaborate and overwhelming so keeping with modern times I wanted a line that perfectly fits the present life style.”

And it’s true of her designs. The form is very, very classic while modernity is achieved through function and patterns. You’ll find cutesy plates to tissue boxes, trinket bowls, sake cups, mugs, plates and egg cups. I absolutely love how she calls the trinket bowls as “Tiny Plate”. Haha, I love tiny plates.

What are some of your best/favourite works? Who has been your greatest inspiration when it comes to your work

My teacher. And him alone. Mr.Hisabe. He is little-known, but I believe he is the greatest potter in Japan.

{Thoughts in my head: Oh Japan! Why are you always so awesome?} While many at her place would throw names and references, she keeps it real and holds her teacher highest to anyone else in the world because essentially he is the one who taught her everything. This is one great thing about the Eastern culture. The love for their master is inspiring. Always have been. As for her favourite pieces, she shares an image which I think is totally legit.

If one wants to be a ceramic artist, where does one begin? What would you tell the budding artist as advice?What designs will we see nest in FY 17-18

“None. There is no advice from me. But if I must choose a word, “Take it easy and enjoy”. In 2018 I want to paint more pots. Possibly nature inspired ones.”

Haha, art for art’s sake and enjoy a bit in between. Yes. The very essence of good work is to enjoy it. Have fun with it. Often there are no rules to success you know. If you treat your work as work it’ll quickly become a deadpan drudgery. On the other hand if you go with it, enjoy the flow and keep creating, while having fun all the time, you will never know when you made it big. Sounds a bit preachy but trust me that’s the only way.

I’ll let you all know one thing though. She spoke so less in my questionnaire that if I showed it to you guys, you’d be like whoa! But I got every single bit of it. She has that great, positive vibe that tells it all. In her simplest of sentence I got my entire answer.

Now if someone took me to Japan, I could meet this awesome Japanese Designer in person and bask in some Arita ware and noodle bowl. For now, here’s a bit of Japan for you.

Until next time.

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