For our first film in a new series focusing on some of the world’s best emerging and established artist-makers, we take you inside the studio of Akiko Hirai in Hackney, London. Born in Shizuoka, Japan, Hirai makes sculptural vessels and functional ware using the Japanese tradition of allowing the properties of the clay to suggest how it should be fired.
At the heart of her work is a deep connection with the form of the moon jar, the white porcelain ware first developed in Korea. Hirai’s jars, made by layering clay and glaze until the surface is heavily textured, combine balance and imperfection, embracing irregularities and asymmetry. She has been inspired in particular by a white porcelain ‘full moon’ jar dating from the 18th century, in the collection of the British Museum, with ‘so many marks that people call it imperfect,’ she says, adding that in the spirit of that pot, her unselfconscious vessels trace her state of mind, ‘all the events that have happened.’
The full expression of the work comes about when her vessels are in daily use. ‘If it’s just an object to look at, you don’t often touch it,’ she says. ‘But if it’s like a cup or a bowl or something like that, you just use it every day and it becomes part of your life. So, when I hear or when I get that feedback from people and something like, ‘I only use your cup for my morning tea or coffee,’ that’s the best compliment.’
Make Hauser & Wirth is a dedicated space for contemporary making and the crafted object, with locations in Somerset UK and Southampton NY. Works by Akiko Hirai are included in ‘Within.Without,’ a presentation by Make Hauser & Wirth in Zurich, 28 October – 23 December 2022.