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House of Ceramics Exhibition

Designer Q&A with Reiko Kaneko

London Craft Week calls to attention exceptional craftsmanship, through a city-wide programme of exhibitions, demonstrations and maker-focused events. For this year’s edition, we’re teaming up with Reiko Kaneko, for an exhibition and series of demonstrations celebrating new and classic pieces.

As formally trained designer and self-taught ceramicist, Reiko has a unique practice. It is grounded in design principles, explored through craft and diversified by entrepreneurship. The resulting body of work, which spans from interior accessories to jewellery and lighting, demonstrates an exciting ideology which goes beyond material matter.

As we fire up for London Craft Week, we welcomed Reiko to share some of the thoughts and influences currently shaping her practice. A practice which, much like a journey, has seen her transport her workshop from East London to the potteries of Stoke on Trent, and translate her methodology into new materials and through new techniques.

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SCP's House of Ceramics

Describe the design principles that shape your practice. Have these changed in anyway?
Creating a community through one’s work, and taking pride in quality workmanship are things I admire more and more as design principles.

What are you seeing from other makers, that is influencing you?
Granby Workshop is a collective who repurpose waste from renovations and create home products focused around community. Based in Liverpool, their ram pressed plates, highlight how making “things” requires a broad support network of specialist knowledge. During this crowd sourced venture, they have come up against all sorts of issues that the experienced potters of Stoke-on-Trent have helped resolve. Problems might include the varying moisture content of different coloured clays being pressed together, which causes the wares to crack in the kiln, and numerous other manufacturing issues that can arise when scaling up production.

The members of the potter community, that Granby Workshop are working with, I’m sure, are only too happy to share their advice. Drawing upon their extensive experience working with clay, to problem solve and work though the collective’s varied and experimental production methods. This community-led approach, combined with their vision and their desire to push on, makes them inspiring to watch.

How has the potter community informed your own practice?
I feel similarly guided by the potters’ collective knowledge and experience within Stoke but also with Steve, the terracotta thrower who SCP introduced me to. And who I am working with for SCP’s House of Ceramics exhibition. Steve who specialises in throwing terracotta, has a wonderfully specific and deep knowledge. Similar to Stoke-on-Trent’s specialism in cast bone china.

Reiko Kaneko designs for SCP; terracotta plant pots, Orlando armchair and ottoman, terracotta tableware, Adderley pendant light.

What current trends are you seeing in ceramics?
Politics and political messages. East Fork pottery’s message on Instagram, is that pottery is political (#potteryispolitical). That idea is exciting, as ceramics has a long history of being political and principled. For example, our very own Josiah Wedgwood made beautifully crafted porcelain cameo’s that depicting a slave, with the slogan, “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?”. He gave them away to people supporting the abolition cause. The political potential of pots is huge if you’re passionate about something enough.

What have you learnt?
That the more I learn, the wider the gaps in my knowledge seem.

How do you reconcile design with consumerism?
Good question. It’s such a difficult one. I find it hard walking around trade shows and seeing the sheer amount of product in one space. I believe that as a business, you have more responsibility because of the sheer volume of things that you produce. I’ve always felt that pressure since witnessing my first trade show and I am currently working on that problem. But I think we all have to battle with this, individually as well as a collectively, as it’s so out of control.

What is the one thing that every home needs?
A place to cook and eat together.

How have your design principles influenced your home?
At the moment, I’m building a tiny bathroom and utility room into our house and doing little bits to the kitchen. We recently moved here and I’m battling with myself not add to landfill unnecessarily. But it’s weirdly hard to not rip it all out and replace it all with new materials.

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Reiko with Steve Harrold, the expert terracotta thrower who is responsible for hand-making Kaneko's SCP Terracotta Collection.

What kind of environment do you like working in?
I need sunlight and fresh air. A workshop with central heating would be nice.

What is important?
I’ve just been on maternity leave and have come back to work with renewed vigour and a fire in my belly. Having time away has really enabled that drive and excitement for my practice to come back, which is important to me. I’ve not felt like this in a long while to be honest. Aside from work, experiences are all shaped by people, so my belief is that those around you are important.

If you were asked to give the world a single piece of advice, what would it be?
I’m still searching for that one piece of advice the world could give me.

What next?
Tile murals and action painting.

What will we see in SCP’s House of Ceramics?
I’ve been experimenting with clay and glazes since 2012 when I finally got my own kiln. This exhibition shows some of my trials to understanding the different materials in clay that all have very different personalities.

Thank you to Reiko for taking the time to share these insights. SCP’s House of Ceramics exhibition will run 9-13 May at SCP East, alongside live throwing demonstrations. Learn more here.

Read the full designer biography here.
View the Reiko Kaneko Collection.

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Reiko Kaneko at her workshop in Stoke-on-Trent.