Akiko Hirai

Akiko Hirai is a renowned Japanese ceramicist based in London. She was born in Japan and studied ceramics at the University of Westminster and Central St Martins, London. She went on to teach ceramics at Kensington and Chelsea college between 2005 and 2015, acting as Head of the Department in her final years. In 2019, Hirai was shortlisted for the prestigious Loewe Craft Prize.

Hirai’s work is an exploration of contrast; the juxtaposition of coarse clay and translucent glaze. Chemical reactions between materials during the firing process then ensures every piece is completely unique. In accordance with the Japanese tradition of Shibui, Hirai allows her clay to inform the firing process and embraces every irregularity and imperfection. 

A Series of Written Work by the Artist:


You sometimes find a connection between two or more things that appear to be completely irrelevant.  We do not usually try to find these puzzles because they are hidden beyond our consciousness.  We do/can not see them as they do not exist, yet occasionally there are events that trigger that sense of connection. It is almost shocking when this sensation is awoken.

 When it happens, we call it “coincidence”. I believe these coincidences are lead by the incompleteness of the events. In the world of physics, everything moves towards a balanced form and completion, as does our state of mind. When you see something that is not “quite right”, your eyes automatically try to adjust it, to almost make it look right. How do we know the balance? But we do.
So we gather trivial information from our everyday life and store it in a corner of our head. It is so unimportant and small if it exists solely as a fact. However, when it becomes part of something, it all makes sense.

What is the connection between my work and this small piece of writing?  I try to put similar thoughts of mine into my ceramic pieces. They should not have a clear message as they are supposed to fit somewhere into the users’ mind.

White Ware

My preference of choosing types of clay when making white ware is the dark and coarse clay most of the time. The whiteness acts as a membrane or a veil. The hints of the true nature of the material appear slightly on the surface. Dark clay which consists of many impurities induces strong chemical changes in heat and the trace of events remains under the veil when it cools down. White, on the other hand, is more stable because of its purity. It is already settled and has a feeling of “stillness”.

Superficially my work appears to be quiet in white. It does not show the rawness of Mother Nature directly. A symbolic figure always looks more perfect than the actual person he/she is. Imagination and fantasy always reinforce the imperfection and achieve the perfection with its own originality. Therefore the completion of my work is done by the viewers. My work is a creation on its own.